Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Perkins, Angier March

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PERKINS, ANGIER MARCH (1799?–1881), engineer and inventor, second son of Jacob Perkins, was born at Newbury Port, Massachusetts, at the end of the last century. He came to England in 1827, and was for some time associated with his father in perfecting his method of engraving bank-notes, and of using steam under very high pressure. Following up the latter subject, Perkins introduced a method of warming buildings by means of hot water circulating through small closed pipes, which came into extensive use, and was the foundation of a large business carried on first in Harpur Street, and subsequently in Francis Street, now Seaford Street, Gray's Inn Road, London. The method was improved from time to time, the various modifications being embodied in patents granted in 1831 (No. 6146), 1839 (No. 8311), and 1841 (No. 9664). In 1843 he took out a patent (No. 9664) for the manufacture of iron by the use of superheated steam, which contained the germ of subsequent discoveries relating to the conversion of iron into steel and the elimination of phosphorus and sulphur from iron. The patent includes also a number of applications of superheated steam.

In later years the system of circulating water in closed pipes of small diameter, heated up to two thousand pounds per square inch of steam pressure, was applied to the heating of bakers' ovens. This has been extensively adopted: it possesses the advantage that the heat may be easily regulated. It was patented in 1851 (No. 13509), and subsequently much improved. He also took out a patent in 1851 (No. 13942) for railway axles and boxes.

He was elected an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in May 1840, but, begin of a somewhat retiring disposition, he seldom took part in the discussions. He died on 22 April 1881, at the age of eighty-one. His son Loftus is noticed separately.

[Memoir in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, vol. lxvii. pt. i.]

R. B. P.