Cartwright was an English clergyman and inventor of the power loom, one of the key steps in the mechanisation of textile manufacture.
Edmund Cartwright was born on 24 April 1743 in Nottinghamshire, the son of a landowner. He was educated at Oxford University and began a career in the church, eventually becoming prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral from 1786 until his death.
In 1784, Cartwright visited Richard Arkwright's cotton-spinning mills at Cromford in Derbyshire and was inspired to construct a similar machine for weaving. His idea was scorned by many who thought that such a complicated procedure would be impossible to automate. Undeterred by these comments, and his complete inexperience in the field, he began work. The first power loom, patented in 1785, was extremely crude but improvements were made in subsequent versions. Cartwright now established a factory in Doncaster for his looms, but his ignorance of industry and commerce meant that the factory never became much more than a testing site for new inventions. In 1793, he went bankrupt and closed the factory. A Manchester company purchased 400 of his looms, but the factory was burnt down, probably in an arson attack - many handloom weavers rightly feared the impact power looms would have on their livelihoods.
Deeply in debt, Cartwright moved to London in 1796. Here he worked on other invention ideas, including interlocking bricks and incombustible floorboards, but none proved workable. In 1809, however, the House of Commons voted Cartwright £10,000 in recognition of national benefits of his power loom. Cartwright died on 30 October 1823.
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