Jordan, Thomas Brown (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

JORDAN, THOMAS BROWN (1807–1890), engineer, son of Thomas Jordan, was born at Bristol on 24 Oct. 1807, and began life as an artist. When barely twenty he migrated to Falmouth. While painting there and at Penzance he made the acquaintance of Robert Were Fox [q. v.], in whose physical researches he took the greatest interest. Fox's influence led him to relinquish painting and to set up as a mathematical instrument maker in Falmouth, where he effected improvements in the miners' dial, and had some share in the construction of Fox's improved dipping-needle. In 1838 Jordan devised an instrument for recording by photography the variations of the barometric column, and he shortly afterwards invented a declination magnetograph and a self-recording actinometer. For some years subsequent to 1839 he held the post of secretary of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic. Sir Henry de la Beche [q. v.], when engaged on the geological survey of Cornwall, made Jordan's acquaintance, and secured his appointment in 1840 as first keeper of mining records, with charge of plans, sections, and models. Jordan took a great interest in electro-metallurgy during the early years of its development, and in 1841 he made an egg-cup of electro-deposited copper, plated with silver outside and gold inside, which was considered a model of workmanship, and is now deposited in the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street, London. On resigning his appointment as keeper of mining records in 1845, Jordan invented a highly ingenious process of carving by machinery, and set up works at Lambeth for carrying into effect the invention, for which in 1847 he received the gold Isis medal from the Society of Arts. The wood-carving machinery was subsequently exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the products were extensively used in the decoration of the House of Lords.

Later on Jordan started work as a mechanical engineer, first at Manchester, then at Glasgow, where he devised a series of machines for the production of school slates. Shortly after 1870, however, he returned to London, and established himself as a mining engineer in conjunction with his son, Mr. Thomas Rowland Jordan, who still conducts the business. Jordan's last invention, patented in 1877, was a portable machine for boring blast-holes in rock (see Times, 29 Nov. 1877). He died in London on 30 May 1890.

Jordan married, in 1837, Sarah Dunn, by whom he had eleven children. Mrs. Jordan survived him.

[Times, 19 June 1890; Iron, 20 June 1890, p. 541; information kindly supplied by Thomas Rowland Jordan, esq.; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 280, iii. 1250, where a full list of Jordan's scientific papers is given.]

T. S.