Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology

By Lance Day; Ian McNeil | Go to book overview

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Nadar

See Tournachon, Gaspard Félix.


Napier, David

b. 1785 Scotland

d. 1873


Scottish engineer who devised printing machinery incorporating important improvements.

Born in Scotland, Napier moved to London to set up an engineering workshop in St Giles. In 1824 he was commissioned by Thomas Curson Hansard (1776-1833), who from 1803 began printing the debates in the Houses of Parliament, to make a perfecting press, i.e. one that printed on both sides of the paper. Known as the NayPeer, it was the first to incorporate grippers in order to improve register (the correct positioning of the paper on the inked type); the grippers took hold of a sheet of paper as it was fed on to the impression cylinder. Napier made several machines for Hansard, hand-powered at first but steam-powered from 1832. Napier did not patent the Nay-Peer, but in 1828 he took out a patent for a four-feeder press with a single impression cylinder, which had the then-usual 'stop and start' action while the bed carrying the inked type passed to and fro beneath it. To speed output, two years later Napier patented a press with two cylinders revolving in the same direction in place of the single-stop cylinder. Also in 1830, the firm of Napier and Son introduced an improved form of bed and platen press, which became the most popular of its kind; one remained in use at Oxford University Press into the twentieth century. Another invention of Napier's, in 1825, was an automatic inking device, with which turning the rounce or mechanism for moving the type bed under the platen activated inking rollers working on the type. Napier is credited with being the first to introduce the printing machine to Ireland, for the Dublin Evening Post. His cylinder machine was the first of its kind in North America, where it was seen by Hoe and others.


Further Reading
J. Moran, 1973, PrintingPresses, London: Faber & Faber (contains details of Napier's printing machines).

LRD


Napier (Neper), John

b. 1550 Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

d. 4 April 1617 Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland


Scottish mathematician and theological writer noted for his discovery of logarithms, a powerful aid to mathematical calculations.

Born into a family of Scottish landowners, at the early age of 13 years Napier went to the University of St Andrews in Fife, but he apparently left before taking his degree. An extreme Protestant, he was active in the struggles with the Roman Catholic Church and in 1594 he dedicated to James VI of Scotland his Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St John, an attempt to promote the Protestant case in the guise of a learned study. About this time, as well as being involved in the development of military equipment, he devoted much of his time to finding methods of simplifying the tedious calculations involved in astronomy. Eventually he realized that by representing numbers in terms of the power to which a 'base' number needed to be raised to produce them, it was possible to perform multiplication and division and to find roots, by the simpler processes of addition, substraction and integer division, respectively.

A description of the principle of his 'logarithms' (from the Gk. logos, reckoning, and arithmos, number), how he arrived at the idea and how they could be used was published in 1614 under the title Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio. Two years after his death his Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Constructio appeared, in which he explained how to calculate the logarithms of numbers and gave tables of them to eight significant figures, a novel feature being the use of the decimal point to distinguish

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Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • How to Use the Dictionary xiii
  • A 1
  • B 33
  • C 122
  • D 187
  • E 228
  • F 247
  • G 277
  • H 315
  • German Organic Chemist. 347
  • I 368
  • J 374
  • K 391
  • L 412
  • Bibliography 418
  • M 451
  • N 513
  • O 528
  • P 535
  • Q 582
  • R 583
  • S 619
  • T 689
  • U 721
  • V 722
  • W 734
  • X 778
  • Y 779
  • Z 785
  • Index by Subject Area 790
  • Index of Topics 808
  • Index of Names 823
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