1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Murdock, William

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MURDOCK, WILLIAM (1754-1839), British inventor, was born near the village of Auchinleck in Ayrshire on the 21st of August 1754. His father, John Murdoch (as the name is spelt in Scotland), was a millwright and a miller, and William was brought up in the same occupation. In 1777 he entered the employment of Boulton & Watt in the Soho works at Birmingham, and about two years afterwards he was sent to Cornwall to superintend the fitting of Watt's engines. It is said that while staying at Redruth he carried a series of experiments in the distillation of coal so far that in 1792 he was able to light his cottage and offices with gas, but the evidence is not conclusive. However, after his return to Birmingham about 1799, he made such progress in the discovery of practical methods for making, storing and purifying gas that in 1802 a portion of the exterior of the Soho factory was lighted with in celebration of the peace of Amiens, and in the following year it was brought into use for the interior. Murdock was also the inventor of important improvements in the steam-engine. He was the first to devise an oscillating engine, of which he made a model about 1784; in 1786 he was busy—somewhat to the annoyance of both Boulton and Watt—with a steam carriage or road locomotive; and in 1799 he invented the long D slide valve. He is also believed have been the real deviser of the sun and planet motion patented by Watt in 1781. In addition his ingenuity was directed to the utilization of compressed air, and in 1803 he constructed a steam gun. He retired from business in 1830, and died at Soho on the 15th of November 1839.

At the celebration of the centenary of gas lighting in 1892, a bust of Murdock was unveiled by Lord Kelvin in the Wallace Monument, Stirling, and there is also a bust of him by Sir F. L. Chantrey at Handsworth Church, where he was buried. His "Account of the Application of Gas from Coal for Economic Purposes" appeared in the Phil.Trans. for 1808.