John Kay, English inventor, mid-18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by Thomas Oldham Barlow, c 1862. John Kay (1704-1764) patented the flying shuttle in 1733, revolutionising the weaving industry. The fly shuttle speeded up the weaving proces (the shuttle no longer had to be laboriously pased by hand acros the loom) and made posible the weaving of broader cloth. Previously the width of the cloth was restricted by the span of the weaver's arms. Kay was mobbed by weavers who regarded his invention as a threat to their jobs and he left for France where he died in poverty.