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Monday, November 11, 2013

Who Was First?

There are some things in the world that can be definitely be laid to the feet of one creator in one specific place.  However that isn't always the case.  Even for things that had a great impact on how we live our lives.

One such item is the use of interchangeable parts to assemble objects.  I have read that clocks were made with such parts as early as 1720.  But that appeared to be the limit of their use.  Then in the late 1700's the gunsmith Honore Blanc in France decided that's how he would put his guns together.
In 1790 he had a demonstration to show the feasibility of the process.  He put the parts of 1,000 guns in boxes and selected parts at random from each box to assemble the guns.  They all worked.  Thomas Jefferson was there at the time and Blanc impressed him so much he wrote the American Secretary of War to describe the process.

Blanc went on to make approximately 10,000 guns for Napoleon.

Meanwhile in America Eli Whitney (of the cotton gin fame) also had a demonstration to show his prowess with the technique.  This won him a contract to produce 4,000 guns for the military.  However he may have not have used truly interchangeable parts and it took him about 4 years to deliver.

Meanwhile in 1806 in France the government decided interchangeability was not proper.  It seems someone thought if workers were not a part of the whole process, then the work was not harmonious.  It would not be allowed.  Some thought the real reason was that it allowed just about anyone to produce items, and thus reduced the power of the government to control manufacturing.  

The throwback to the previous method was so thorough that in later years when Whitney finally got the process right, most of the French had no memory of Blanc's prior work and Whitney became recognized as the originator of the process for guns.  However the discovery of Jefferson's letter regarding Blanc would appear to put the credit back where it belongs.

Human nature is still at work today, and will rear its ugly head from time to time as there is always someone ready to take the credit for others inventions.  Tsk tsk tsk. 

But wherever credit lands and whomever it illuminates, new inventions will go forward.  The human mind will not sit still and be satisfied that all has been found, all has been invented, all creativity has been used.


  1. I am always amazed at inventions and tip my hat to inventors.
    Sometimes, those who deserve the credit do not get it.
    I think it is wrong for someone to take credit for something he/she did not do.
    It takes a while, but things usually come out in the wash....right? :))

  2. This seems to have happened so many times, where one person had the idea, and another took the credit for it.