1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Maxim, Sir Hiram Stevens

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MAXIM, SIR HIRAM STEVENS (1840–  ), Anglo-American engineer and inventor, was born at Sangerville, Maine, U.S.A., on the 5th of February 1840. After serving an apprenticeship with a coachbuilder, he entered the machine works of his uncle, Levi Stevens, at Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1864, and four years later he became a draughtsman in the Novelty Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company in New York City. About this period he produced several inventions connected with illumination by gas; and from 1877 he was one of the numerous inventors who were trying to solve the problem of making an efficient and durable incandescent electric lamp, in this connexion introducing the widely-used process of treating the carbon filaments by heating them in an atmosphere of hydrocarbon vapour. In 1880 he came to Europe, and soon began to devote himself to the construction of a machine-gun which should be automatically loaded and fired by the energy of the recoil (see Machine-Gun). In order to realize the full usefulness of the weapon, which was first exhibited in an underground range at Hatton Garden, London, in 1884, he felt the necessity of employing a smokeless powder, and accordingly he devised maximite, a mixture of trinitrocellulose, nitroglycerine and castor oil, which was patented in 1889. He also undertook to make a flying machine, and after numerous preliminary experiments constructed an apparatus which was tried at Bexley Heath, Kent, in 1894. (See Flight.) Having been naturalized as a British subject, he was knighted in 1901. His younger brother, Hudson Maxim (b. 1853), took out numerous patents in connexion with explosives.