Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, Philip

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TAYLOR, PHILIP (1786–1870), civil engineer, was fourth son of John Taylor (1750–1826) [q. v.], hymn-writer of Norwich. He was brother of Richard Taylor [q. v.] and Edward Taylor [q. v.] and of Sarah, wife of John Austin (1790–1859) [q. v.] Born in 1786, he was educated at Dr. Houghton's school in Norwich, and was sent to study surgery under Dr. Harness at Tavistock; but, having a horror of witnessing or causing pain, he returned to Norwich, where he joined a Mr. Chambers in business as a druggist. There he invented wooden pillboxes, making the first specimens by a small lathe turned by a pet spit-dog. In 1813 he married Sarah, daughter of Robert Fitch, surgeon, of Ipswich. In 1815 he removed to the neighbourhood of London, to be a partner in the chemical works of his brother John at Stratford. He resided in the adjoining parish of Bromley, and his visitors included Macadam, Nasmyth, Ricardo, Maudslay, Stephenson, Faraday, Charles MacIntosh (of waterproof fame), Brunel, Wollaston, Rennie, and Wheatstone, as well as eminent foreigners like Humboldt, Gay-Lussac, Arago, and Jean-Baptiste Say. He invented a method of lighting public and private buildings by oil-gas, in connection with which he at a later date took out a patent on 15 June 1824 for an apparatus for producing gas from various substances (No. 4975). Covent Garden Theatre, Mile End Road, the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg, and Bristol were lighted by his process; but oil-gas had soon to yield to the cheaper coal-gas, though it continued in use at New York till 1828. On 25 May 1816 and 15 Jan. 1818 he obtained patents for applying high-pressure steam in evaporating processes (Nos. 4032, 4197). In 1822 he went to Paris in the hope of introducing oil-gas, but found that coal-gas had forestalled it. On 3 July 1824 he took out a patent for a horizontal steam engine (No. 4983). He assisted Brunel in 1821 in his financial difficulties, and was a director of the Thames Tunnel Company. In 1825 he became connected with the British Iron Company and took out a patent for making iron (No. 5244). Involved in its ruin, he went in 1828 to Paris, founded engineering works, and patented the hot-blast process in the manufacture of iron, which Neilson and MacIntosh simultaneously patented in London; but the validity of the Paris patent was disputed, and was not established till 1832, just before its expiration. In 1834 he submitted to Louis-Philippe a scheme for supplying Paris with water by a tunnel from the Marne to a hill at Ivry, just as he had previously proposed for London a nine-mile tunnel to Hampstead Hill; but nothing came of it. In 1834 he erected machinery for a flour-mill at Marseilles, and became a partner in the business, which, however, under protectionist pressure, was soon deprived of the privilege of grinding in bond. Taylor thereupon, with his sons Philip Meadows and Robert, founded engineering works at Marseilles, and in 1845 he bought a shipbuilding yard at La Seyne, near Toulon, which became a large and flourishing concern. From 1847 to 1852 he resided at San Pier d'Arena, near Genoa, where the Sardinian government had invited him to establish works; but the political troubles induced him to return to Marseilles. The loss of four of his eight children having affected his health, he disposed of his business in 1855 to the Compagnie des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée. ‘Papa Taylor,’ as he was called, was very popular with his workmen. He died at St. Marguerite, near Marseilles, on 1 July 1870. He prided himself on having taken part in the first steamboat trip at sea, on having seen the start of the first steam-engine, and on having witnessed at Somerset House Wheatstone's first electric telegraph experiments. He contributed in 1819 to the ‘Quarterly Journal of Science,’ and in 1822 to the ‘Philosophical Magazine.’ He was a member of the French Legion of Honour and the Sardinian order of SS. Maurice and Lazarus.

His brother, John Taylor (1779–1863), mining engineer, was born at Norwich on 22 Aug. 1779. In 1798 he became manager of Wheal Friendship mine at Tavistock. In 1812 he set up as a chemical manufacturer at Stratford in Essex, and in 1819 was founder of the consolidated mines at Gwennap. He was also mineral agent to the Duke of Devonshire and to the commissioners of Greenwich Hospital. In 1807 he was elected a fellow of the Geological Society, and acted as treasurer from 1816 to 1844. In 1825 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and was one of the founders of the British Association on 26 June 1832, holding the office of treasurer till September 1861. He was one of the founders of University College, London, to which he acted as treasurer for many years. Taylor died in London on 5 April 1863. He was the author of ‘Statements concerning the Profits of Mining in England’ (London, 1825, 8vo), edited ‘Records of Mining’ in 1829, and contributed numerous articles to various scientific journals (Proc. of Royal Soc. vol. xiii. p. v; Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub.)

[Information from the family; Philip M. Taylor's Memoir of the Taylor Family, privately printed, 1886; Mrs. Ross's Three Generations of Englishwomen; Marseilles newspapers, July 1870; Philosophical Magazine, January 1800, p. 357.]

J. G. A.