Leigh, Evan (DNB00)

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LEIGH, EVAN (1811–1876), inventor, born in 1811, was son of Peter Leigh, a cotton-spinner of Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. About 1851 he quitted the management of his father's business to become a manufacturer of machinery. Latterly he was also extensively engaged as a consulting engineer, and as an exporter of machinery. He established businesses at Manchester, Liverpool, and Boston, Massachusetts. He was the author of some useful inventions for the improvement of the machinery of cotton manufacture, and has a claim also to the invention of the twin-screw for steamers, for which he took out a patent in 1849. He could not persuade the government of the day or any of the shipbuilders to take it up, though he received a letter from the lords of the admiralty thanking him for the communication. The other best-known inventions of Leigh are the 'self-stripping' carding engine, the coupled mules 'with putting-up motion,' and the loose-boss top roller. He patented nineteen inventions in all between 1849 and 1870. In 1870 he published his plan for conveying railway trains across the Straits of Dover by means of a patent ship and landing-stage, and he gave an explanation of it at a conversazione of the Manchester Scientific and Mechanical Society, of which he was president. He died at Clarence House, Chorlton, near Manchester, on 2 Feb. 1876. His eldest surviving daughter, Mrs. Ada M. Lewis, was founder of the British and American Mission Home in Paris, which was opened in March 1876, and of which she is now (1892) lady president.

Leigh was a member of various scientific institutions, notably the Institute of Naval Architects and the Institute of Civil Engineers.

In 1871 he published a profusely illustrated work entitled 'The Science of Modern Cotton Spinning,' 2 vols. 4to, in which, as he stated in the preface, he gave the results of nearly half a century of practical experience of mills and mill machinery. The book is one of great authority both in Europe and America, and attained its fourth edition in 1877. Leigh was likewise author of many papers and pamphlets relating to mechanical works.

His portrait, by Captain Charles Mercier, was included in the collection of portraits of inventors at the South Kensington Museum.

[Times, 4 Feb. 1876, p. 5; Illustrated London News, 26 Feb. 1876, p. 196; Manchester Guardian, 4 Feb. 1876; Manchester Courier, 4 Feb. 1876; Woodcraft's Alphabetical Index of Patentees.]

G. G.