Joseph Clement (13 June 1779 – 28 February 1844) was a British
engineer and industrialist, chiefly remembered as the maker of Charles
Babbage's first difference engine, between 1824 and 1833.
1.1 Early life
2.1 Involvement with Charles Babbage
2.2 Later years
5 External links
Joseph Clement was born on 13 June 1779 at Great Asby in Westmorland,
the son of a hand-loom weaver. Although he was taught to read and
write at the local school, he learned mechanics and natural history
from his father, Thomas, who had built himself a lathe. He worked,
first as a weaver, then as a slater, and learned metalwork from the
local blacksmith. With these skills, he built himself his own lathe,
on which he turned woodwind musical instruments, which he then learned
By 1805 he was making looms at a factory in Kirkby Stephen, then moved
first to Carlisle, then to
Glasgow where he learned draughtsmanship
from Peter Nicholson. By 1812 he was with Leys, Masson & Co. in
Aberdeen, where he attended lectures in natural philosophy at
In 1813, he moved to London, first working for Alexander Galloway
in Holborn. He soon left in search of wages more suiting his skills,
Joseph Bramah at Pimlico. Bramah doubled the wages Galloway
had paid and entered into a formal agreement with Clement for a term
of five years, dated 1 April 1814, making him chief draughtsman and
superintendent of Bramah's
Following Bramah's death, Clement took up a position as chief
draughtsman at Maudslay, Sons and Field, in Lambeth, where he played a
role in the design of the firm's early marine steam engines.
In 1817 he left Maudslay and Field to set up his own firm, encouraged
by the Duke of Northumberland, a frequent visitor to Maudslay's works.
Clement had managed to save the sum of £500 and took a small
workshop at 21 Prospect Place, Newington, where he set up in
business as a draughtsman and manufacturer of precision machinery.
In 1818 he was awarded the gold medal of the Society for the
Encouragement of Arts for his invention of a machine for marking
ellipses, inspired by the trammels used by carpenters.
Clement's main interest was the improvement of self-acting machine
tools, and especially lathes. He introduced various improvements in
the construction of lathes, being awarded the gold Isis medal of the
Society for the Encouragement of Arts
Society for the Encouragement of Arts in 1827 for his improved lathe
which was of unprecedented precision and accuracy. The next year he
added his self-adjusting centre chuck to the lathe, for which the
Society of Arts awarded him their silver medal.
The same year (1828), Clement began making fluted screw-cutting tap
and dies and urged the adoption of a standard system of screw
threads where every machine screw of a particular length should have a
set number of threads of a predetermined pitch and determined the
number of threads for each length. Joseph Whitworth, at that time one
of Clement's journeymen afterwards played a major role in such
standardisation, the Whitworth thread becoming a standard for machine
Regarding Clement's building of planers, Roe (1916) says,
Clement made his first planer in 1820 […]. Some years later he built
his "great planer," a remarkable machine from both a mechanical and a
financial standpoint. A very full description of it was given by Mr.
Varley in the "Transactions of the Society of Arts" in
London in 1832,
illustrated by a set of copper plates made from Clement's own
drawings. Clement's reputation of being the most expert draftsman of
his day is well borne out by these drawings. […] It was fitted with
centers and was used for planing circular, spiral and conical work as
well as flat work. It took in work 6 feet square and was hand-driven.
[…] For more than ten years it was the only one of its size and it
ran for many years night and day on jobbing work, its earnings forming
Clement's principal income.
Involvement with Charles Babbage
The recognised excellence of Clement's machine tools and his skill in
precision engineering led to him being employed by
Charles Babbage in
1823 to work on his project to design and build his mechanical
calculating device, the difference engine. The high prices of his
large precision tools led to a falling out with Babbage (at the time
workmen were allowed to keep any tools made by them in the course of
their work), but his skill and the quality of his products kept him in
employment for many years.
In later years, Clement returned to music and constructed an organ. He
died on 28 February 1844 at 31 St George's Road, Southwark. Although
he had never married, he had a daughter, Sarah Clement, by one Agnes
Esson from County Durham.
^ Roe 1916, pp. 57-58.
^ a b c Roe 1916, p. 58.
^ a b Roe 1916, p. 59.
^ Roe 1916, p. 10.
^ Roe 1916, p. 52.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Roe, Joseph Wickham (1916), English and American Tool Builders, New
Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, LCCN 16011753 .
Reprinted by McGraw-Hill, New York and London, 1926
(LCCN 27-24075); and by Lindsay Publications, Inc., Bradley,
Illinois, (ISBN 978-0-917914-73-7).
Swade, Doron (2001). The Cogwheel Brain. Abacus.
Pioneers of the Machine Tool In