Having been asked, a few days ago, " Who was the inventor of percussion caps ?" Our answer was " we cannot tell." On the very next day after this question was asked, we saw it stated, in a short article on the subject " Progress of Fire arms," in the " Philadelphia Ledger," that the Rev. Mr. Forsyth invented the percussion lock in 1807. This is nearly correct; we have been aware of it tor a number of years, as the Rev. Mr. Forsyth's patent has become a standard subject of reference in many of our patent law suits, and it we are not much mistaken—as we quote from memory—Judge Kane referred to it in the reasons given for his decision, in granting an injunction against the Barnum Planing Machine three yeajs ago. The alJusion to this clergyman's invention, puts us in remembrance of what clergymen have done in the line of invention. * The inventor of gunpowder was Constan-tine Anelzen, a monk of Friburg, and the Rev. Mr. Forsyth, a Presbyterian clergyman, invented the application of detonating powder to fire-arms ; thus two " men of peace " were confessedly war-like inventors, and their discoveries have had a most important effect on the destiny of nations. The Rev. Dr. Cart-wright, an Episcopal clergyman in England, was the inventor of the power loom, another invention which has produced most wonder-Tu'l resutfirirTSenefitting man, and whichlike the radical and republican doctrines of Major Cartwright—the divine's brother—has had a tendency to level the comforts of a large class upwards. The Rev. Enoch Burt, of Ct., a congregational clergyman, was the inventor some of the best improvements ever made on gingham and harness looms. The Rev. Dr. Nott, of Union College, N. Y,, a Presbyterian clergyman, is the inventor of a number of excellent improvements in stoves, and was the first to apply the waste heat of smelting furnaces to economical purposes—an invention which has been re-vamped abroad, and become famous, as a re-importation, within a few years. The Rev. R. Stirling, another Presbyterian clergyman, was the inventor of the Hot Air Engine, and the invention of balloons is ascribed to Francis Lana, a Jesuit. We have no doubt but the list of Reverend Inventors, could be extended to a considerable length, were we in possession of the means to explore into the occupations of those who have been granted patents in our country. What they have done in advancing the useful arts, affords an instructive lesson to those— and the number is not small—who entertain the opinion that none but practical men— meaning thereby "tradesmen" alone—have produced useful inventions. We are well acquainted with two clergymen, active pastors and excellent preachers, who spend many useful hours in mechanical pursuits, and who can plan and construct machinery and cabinet work with a skill equal to that of many reputable practising mechanicians.
This article was originally published with the title "Reverend Inventors" in Scientific American 8, 48, 381 (August 1853)