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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Whitney, Asa

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WHITNEY, Asa, American inventor and manufacturer: b. Townsend, Mass., 1 Dec. 1791; d. Philadelphia, 4 June 1874. As a boy he worked at the blacksmith's trade, also became a machinist, and afterward manufactured machinery in Vermont and at Brownsville, N. Y. In 1830 he was appointed master machinist of the Mohawk and Hudson railroad shops, and three years later became superintendent of the road. In 1839-41 he was a State canal commissioner in New York, and in 1842 removed to Philadelphia, where he entered into partnership with Matthew Baldwin in the building of locomotives. In 1847 he perfected a process for annealing cast-iron carwheels, and began to manufacture them extensively. By his further improvements in carwheels, etc., he did much to increase the convenience and safety of railroad service and travel. He left $50,000 to the University of Pennsylvania to found a chair of dynamical engineering.