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La rivoluzione industriale

La testimonianza di Cartwright sull'invenzione del telaio

Il testo qui riprodotto è la descrizione che lo stesso Cartrwright fece anni dopo del modo in cui concepì l'idea di realizzare un telaio meccanico. È possibile che i ricordi di Cartrwright si mescolino con il topos letterario della discussione tra amici come punto di partenza per una invenzione o una decisione (si pensi per esempio alla Epistola al lettore con cui si apre il Saggio sull'intelletto umano di Locke), e certamente il testo non fornisce indicazioni chiare su come Cartrwright abbia individuato i problemi tecnici e li abbia risolti.

È chiarissimo però il concetto base: se una operazione complessa può essere scomposta in una serie di operazioni semplici, e se è possibile far eseguire a una macchina queste operazioni in sequenza, allora il risultato finale sarà identico all'operazione iniziale che si voleva riprodurre.

Il testo è tratto da Richard Guest Compendious History of the Cotton Manufacture (Manchester 1823), pp. 44-48.

Testo originale

Happening to be at Matlock, in the summer of 1784, I fell in company with some gentlemen of Manchester, when the conversation turned on Arkwright's spinning machinery. One of the company observed, that as soon as Arkwright's patent expired, so many mills would be erected, and so much cotton spun, that hands never could be found to weave it. To this observation I replied that Arkwright must then set his wits to work to invent a weaving mill. This brought on a conversation on the subject, in which the Manchester gentlemen unanimously agreed that the thing was impracticable; and in defence of their opinion, they adduced arguments which I certainly was incompetent to answer or even to comprehend, being totally ignorant of the subject, having never at that time seen a person weave. I controverted, however, the impracticability of the thing, by remarking that there had lately been exhibited in London, an automaton figure, which played at chess. Now you will not assert, gentlemen, said I, that it is more difficult to construct a machine that shall weave, than one which shall make all the variety of moves which are required in that complicated game.
Some little time afterwards, a particular circumstance recalling this conversation to my mind, it struck me, that, as in plain weaving, according to the conception I then had of the business, there could only be three movements, which were to follow each other in succession, there would be little difficulty in producing and repeating them. Full of these ideas, I immediately employed a carpenter and smith to carry them into effect. As soon as the machine was finished, I got a weaver to put in the warp, which was of such materials as sail cloth is usually made of. To my great delight, a piece of cloth, such as it was, was the produce.
As I had never before turned my thoughts to any thing mechanical, either in theory or practice, nor had ever seen a loom at work, or knew any thing of its construction, you will readily suppose that my first Loom must have been a most rude piece of machinery.

"The warp was placed perpendicularly, the reed fell with a force of at least half an hundred weight, and the springs which threw the shuttle were strong enough to have thrown a Congreve rocket. In short, it required the strength of two powerful men to work the machine at a slow rate, and only for a short time. Conceiving in my great simplicity, that I had accomplished all that was required, I then secured what I thought a most valuable property, by a patent, 4th April, 1785. This being done, I then condescended to see how other people wove; and you will guess my astonishment, when I compared their easy modes of operation with mine. Availing myself, however, of what I then saw, I made a Loom in its general principles, nearly as they are now made. But it was not till the year 1787, that I completed my invention, when I took out my last weaving patent, August 1st, of that year.

Vai a

Richard Guest, Compendious History of the Cotton Manufacture   Una delle fonti on line del testo di Guest citato (Fordham University)
 Richard Guest, Compendious History of Cotton Manufacture  Il link porta alle scansioni delle pagine corrispondenti dell'edizione originale
 Richard Guest, Compendious History of Cotton Manufacture  Il link porta al testo completo su Google Books

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