Born Dec 8 1765 - Died Jan 8 1825
Patent Number(s) Patented March 14, 1794
American inventor, pioneer, mechanical engineer, and manufacturer Eli Whitney is best remembered as the inventor of the cotton gin. He also affected the industrial development of the United States when, in manufacturing muskets for the government, he translated the concept of interchangeable parts into a manufacturing system, giving birth to the American mass-production concept. Whitney saw that a machine to clean the seed from cotton could make the South prosperous and make its inventor rich. He set to work at once and within days had drawn a sketch to explain his idea; 10 days later he constructed a crude model that separated fiber from seed.
After perfecting his machine he filed an application for a patent on June 20, 1793; in February 1794 he deposited a model at the Patent Office, and on March 14 he received his patent.
Whitney's gin brought the South prosperity, but the unwillingness of the planters to pay for its use and the ease with which the gin could be pirated put Whitney's company out of business by 1797.
When Congress refused to renew the patent, which expired in 1807, Whitney concluded that 'an invention can be so valuable as to be worthless to the inventor.' He never patented his later inventions, one of which was a milling machine. His genius as expressed in tools, machines, and technological ideas made the southern United States dominant in cotton production and the northern states a bastion of industry.
The cotton gin gave birth to the American mass-production concept
Born in Westboro, Massachusetts, Whitney decided in 1783 to get a college education. His own efforts were supplemented by his father's financial help, and after six years preparation he was admitted to Yale College, graduating in 1792.