The Cotton Gin

The Cotton Gin

The Cotton Gin

The Cotton Gin


Cotton—and the cotton gin. Familiar terms we rarely think twice about.

Cotton is all around us. Our body touches it daily. We wear it, sit on it, walk on it, sleep on it, shelter under it. The list of things made out of it goes on and on: jeans, dresses, shirts, blouses, socks, stockings, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, carpets, rope, nets, tents, bandages, towels, tea bags, uniforms.

The word cotton seems to have originated from the Arabic word gur - ton . What is it? To be technical for a moment, cotton is [one of a variety of plants of the genus Gossypium , belonging to the malvaceae family, native to most tropical countries.] It's a shrubby plant, and in the Tropics can grow as high as twenty feet (six meters). When it is cultivated, however, it may be only a foot (thirty centimeters) high.

As for the cotton gin (gin being short for engine), it is linked forever to the name Eli Whitney. When that young man left New England and headed south in 1792, he had no notion that within months he would invent a machine that would change the course of history.

For that achievement Whitney is listed among the great American inventors—Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Alva Edison …

This book looks into the world of Eli Whitney. It seeks to learn what he did and why he did it. And to explore his invention's profound and enduring significance, not only for America, but for the world beyond.

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