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John Roebuck FRS (1718 – 17 July 1794) was an English inventor and industrialist who played an important role in the Industrial Revolution and who is known for developing the industrial-scale manufacture of sulphuric acid.

Contents

1 Life and work 2 Honours and affiliations 3 See also 4 References 5 Further reading

Life and work[edit] John Roebuck was born at Sheffield, where his father had a prosperous manufacturing business. After attending Sheffield
Sheffield
Grammar School and Dr. Philip Doddridge's academy at Northampton, Roebuck studied medicine at Edinburgh, where he developed a taste for chemistry from the lectures of William Cullen
William Cullen
and Joseph Black. He finally graduated M.D. at the University of Leiden
University of Leiden
in 1742. Roebuck started medical practice at Birmingham, but devoted much of his time to chemistry, especially its practical applications. Among the most important of his early achievements in this field was the introduction, in 1746, of leaden condensing chambers for the manufacture of sulphuric acid.[1][2] Together with Samuel Garbett, in 1749 he built a factory at Prestonpans, in Scotland, for the production of the acid, and for some years they enjoyed a monopoly. Having omitted to take out patents, Roebuck's was unable to prevent others from making use of his methods as they eventually became known. Roebuck next became involved in the manufacture of iron, and in 1759 founded the Carron Company
Carron Company
ironworks at Carron, Stirlingshire
Stirlingshire
with Garbett and other partners (Ebenezer Roebuck, Thomas Roebuck, William Cadell, William Cadell and Benjamin Roebuck).[3] There he introduced various improvements in methods of production, including the conversion (patented in 1762) of cast iron into malleable iron "by the action of a hollow pit-coal fire" urged by a powerful artificial blast. Ebenezer was killed in 1771 in a "melancholy accident: While viewing the works, a huge piece of iron fell on this gentleman, which killed him on the ſpot" [4]. Roebuck's next enterprise was less successful. He leased a colliery at Bo'ness
Bo'ness
to supply coal to the Carron works, but in sinking for new seams he encountered such quantities of water that the Newcomen engine used was unable to keep the pit clear. Hearing of James Watt's engine, Roebuck contacted its inventor. This engine, then at an early stage of its development, also proved inadequate, but Roebuck became a strong believer in its future. In return for a two-thirds share in the invention he assisted Watt in perfecting its details by paying Watt's debts and by providing him with a place to work.[5] The workplace became known as James Watt's Cottage and was built in a secluded area of Kinneil House
Kinneil House
as Roebuck was worried about industrial espionage.[6] Roebuck's troubles at the colliery, aggravated by the failure of an attempt to manufacture alkali, brought him into financial difficulties, and he gave his share in Watt's engine to Matthew Boulton in return for the cancellation of a debt of £1200. Subsequently, though Roebuck had to give up his interest in the Bo'ness
Bo'ness
works, he continued to manage them and to reside at the neighbouring Kinneil House, where he occupied himself with farming on a considerable scale. In 1784, Roebuck obtained a pottery from the Cadell family where he pursued his interest in new technologies.[7] Roebuck died in 1794 and was buried at Carriden Churchyard in Bo'ness.[8] Honours and affiliations[edit]

1764 - Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Royal Society
of London

See also[edit]

Lead chamber process

References[edit]

^ Derry, Thomas Kingston; Williams, Trevor I. (1993). A Short History of Technology: From the Earliest Times to A.D. 1900. New York: Dover.  ^ Kiefer, David M. (2001). "Sulfuric Acid: Pumping Up the Volume". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2008-04-21.  ^ Famous Men and Carron Works: VII John Roebuck, M.D. Falkirk: Carron Company. 1931. p. 5.  ^ The Scots Magazine, vol. xxxiii, p. 558. ^ Smiles, Samuel (1878). Lives of the engineers : the steam-engine : Boulton and Watt. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. pp. 90–94.  ^ Carnegie, Andrew. James Watt
James Watt
(Famous Scots Series). Edinburgh: Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier. pp. 48–51.  ^ Gregory, Sydney (1992). Calatria: The Journal of the Falkirk Local History Society. John Roebuck: 18th Century Entrepreneur. 2. Falkirk. pp. 17–26.  ^ Salmon, Thomas James. " Bo'ness
Bo'ness
- Who's Who Historically". Retrieved 2008-04-22. 

Further reading[edit]

 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Roebuck, John". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.   "Roebuck, John (1718-1794)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

Attribution

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Roebuck, John". Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 450–451. 

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 972269

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