Birthday: December 23, 1732
Died At Age: 59
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Sir Richard Arkwright, The Father of the Industrial Revolution
Born in: Preston, Lancashire
Famous as: Inventor
Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Biggins, Patience Holt
children: Richard Arkwright junior, Susanna Arkwright
Died on: August 3, 1792
place of death: Cromford
discoveries/inventions: Spinning Frame, Water Frame
Sir Richard Arkwright was an 18th century English inventor and industrialist known as 'the Father of the Industrial Revolution'. He was a leading entrepreneur and is credited to be the creator of the modern factory system which enabled the large scale economical production of standardized components. A very creative inventor, he invented the spinning frame and a rotary carding engine that transformed raw cotton into cotton lap. However, it was his development of the modern factory system that made his name immortal in the annals of history. Born as the youngest child in a large family, he grew up in poverty. His father, a tailor, was so poor that he could not even afford to send Richard to school. After learning to read and write from a cousin, he apprenticed with a barber and started making a living as a wig-maker. In his career as a wig-maker he came into contact with many weavers and spinners and eventually entered the textile business. He became a successful businessman and devised a method for mass-producing yarn which greatly improved the efficiency of the production process and improved profitability. Over a period of time he established textile mills in several locations and died a very wealthy man
Childhood & Early Life
Richard Arkwright was born in Preston, Lancashire, England on 23 December 1732. His father, Thomas, was a tailor and a Preston Guild burgess, and his mother’s name was Sarah. Richard was the youngest of 13 children.
His family was a humble one and his parents did not have enough money to send him to school, so he learnt to read and write from a cousin.
As a young man he was apprenticed to a barber in a nearby town.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
He embarked on a career as a barber and wig-maker. He was an intelligent and hard working young man and soon set up his own shop at Churchgate in Bolton in the early 1750s.
Blessed with a creative bent of mind, he invented a waterproof dye for use on a type of fashionable wigs called ‘periwigs’. Over a period of time he expanded his business and he travelled across the country buying human hair for use in the manufacture of wigs.
He came into contact with weavers and spinners in his profession as a wig-maker and when the market for his wigs started declining he decided to enter the textile business.
In the 1760s he became fascinated with spinning machineries and began the construction of his first machine—a mechanical device for spinning cotton thread. Working along with a clockmaker, John Kay, he worked on the spinning machine and finally patented the spinning frame in 1769.
Even though he had invented the spinning frame, there were still several problems involved in the process of spinning that needed to be addressed. The raw cotton had to be prepared by a hand process and the spinning frame had to be made suitable for practical wide-spread use to be commercially viable.
Arkwright started making improvements to a carding machine that Lewis Paul had invented in 1748. He then developed a new carding engine which converted raw cotton buds into a continuous skein of cotton fibers which could then be spun into yarn, and got a patent for this invention in 1775.
He needed more capital to put his invention to practical use and found partners in Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, who were wealthy hosiery manufacturers open to experimentation. Working together, the three men built the world's first water-powered mill at Cromford in 1771.
He invested more money in his machines and mechanized all the preparatory and spinning processes. Eventually he went on to develop mills in which the whole process of yarn manufacture was carried on by a single machine. This coupled with division of labor greatly improved the efficiency of the production process.
His inventions and entrepreneurial skills helped to completely mechanize the process of thread manufacture, and all the operations involved in the process could now be coordinated and carried out under one roof. This was the precursor to what was to become the “factory system”.
He became a very successful businessman and established factories in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire and Scotland. He was an aggressive entrepreneur and a difficult man to work with. He was also known for his insensitive treatment of the workers in his factory.
Richard Arkwright is best known as 'the Father of the Industrial Revolution'. He is credited to have devised a method of mass-production that not only increased the efficiency of machines, but also standardized products, and enabled the manufacturers to earn increased profits.
Awards & Achievements
Richard Arkwright was knighted in 1786 in recognition of his achievements.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1755 he married Patience Holt and they had a son the same year. Unfortunately his wife died in 1756.
A few years later he married Margaret Biggins in 1761. They had three children of whom only one survived to adulthood.
He died on 3 August 1792, at the age of 59. He was a wealthy man at the time of his death, with factories in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire and Scotland, and a fortune of £500,000.