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John Wilkinson. Portrait of John Wilkinson (1728- 1808), British inventor and a pioneer in the use of iron. The son of a farmer, Wilkinson's family had acquired a forge in 1750. Wilkinson's skill led to the business expanding rapidly and by 1770 he was one of Britain's leading iron-makers. He became known as "Ironmad Wilkinson" for his production of a range of iron products, including boats, coins, coffins and sections for the first- ever iron bridge. Wilkinson invented a boring machine in 1774 which greatly increased the quality of manufacture of cannon barrels and steam engine cylinders. Wilkinson's fortune was wasted after his death on litigation by his heirs.
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