Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology

By Lance Day; Ian McNeil | Go to book overview

E

Eads, James Buchanan

b. 23 May 1820 Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

d. 8 March 1887 Nassau, Bahamas


American bridge-builder and hydraulic engineer.

The son of an immigrant merchant, he was educated at the local school, leaving at the age of 13 to take on various jobs, eventually becoming a purser on a Mississippi steamboat. He was struck by the number of wrecks lying in the river; he devised a diving bell and, at the age of 22, set up in business as a salvage engineer. So successful was he at this venture that he was able to retire in three years' time and set up the first glassworks west of the Ohio River. This, however, was a failure and in 1848 he returned to the business of salvage on the Ohio River. He was so successful that he was able to retire permanently in 1857. From the start of the American Civil War in 1861 he recommended to President Lincoln that he should obtain a fleet of armour-plated, steam-powered gunboats to operate on the western rivers. He built seven of these himself, later building or converting a further eighteen. After the end of the war he obtained the contract to design and build a bridge over the Mississippi at St Louis. In this he made use of his considerable knowledge of the river-bed currents. He built a bridge with a 500 ft (150 m) centre span and a clearance of 50 ft (15 m) that was completed in 1874. The three spans are, respectively, 502 ft, 520 ft and 502 ft (153 m, 158 m and 153 m), each being spanned by an arch. The Mississippi river is subject to great changes, both seasonal and irregular, with a range of over 41 ft (12.5 m) between low and high water and a velocity varying from 4 ft (1.2 m) to 12 1/2 ft (3.8 m) per second. The Eads Bridge was completed in 1874 and in the following year Eads was commissioned to open one of the mouths of the Mississippi, for which he constructed a number of jetty traps. He was involved later in attempts to construct a ship railway across the isthmus of Panama. He had been suffering from indifferent health for some years, and this effort was too much for him. He died on 8 March 1887. He was the first American to be awarded the Royal Society of Arts' Albert Medal.


Principal Honours and Distinctions

Royal Society of Arts Albert Medal.


Further Reading
D.B. Steinman and S.R. Watson, 1941, Bridges and their Builders, New York: Dover Publications.
T.I. Williams, Biographical Dictionary of Science.

IMcN


Eastman, George

b. 12 July 1854 Waterville, New York, USA

d. 14 March 1932 Rochester, New York, USA


American industrialist and pioneer of popular photography.

The young Eastman was a clerk-bookkeeper in the Rochester Savings Bank when in 1877 he took up photography. Taking lessons in the wet-plate process, he became an enthusiastic amateur photographer. However, the cumbersome equipment and noxious chemicals used in the process proved an obstacle, as he said, 'It seemed to be that one ought to be able to carry less than a pack-horse load.' Then he came across an account of the new gelatine dry-plate process in the British Journal of Photography of March 1878. He experimented in coating glass plates with the new emulsions, and was soon so successful that he decided to go into commercial manufacture. He devised a machine to simplify the coating of the plates, and travelled to England in July 1879 to patent it. In April 1880 he prepared to begin manufacture in a rented building in Rochester, and contacted the leading American photographic supply house, E. & H.T. Anthony, offering them an option as agents. A local whip manufacturer, Henry A. Strong, invested $1,000 in the enterprise and the Eastman Dry Plate Company was formed on 1 January 1881. Still working at the Savings Bank, he ran the business

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