Amos Whitney (1832 – 1920)
A mechanical engineer and manufacturer, Amos Whitney was a distant cousin of cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney. He was born in Biddeford, Maine in 1832 and began apprenticing as a machinist when he was only 13 years old.
While working at Phoenix Iron Works, Amos met and befriended Francis Pratt. In 1860, he and Pratt co-founded Pratt & Whitney, which was designed to manufacture machine tools. They also manufactured tools to make sewing machines and gun making machinery for the Union Army during the Civil War.
In 1879, Pratt and Whitney financially-backed William A. Rogers, a professor of astronomy at Harvard College, and George M. Bond, a graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology, to develop a comparator guaranteeing absolutely correct measurements within one fifty-thousandth of an inch. Three years later, Pratt and Whitney had the Rogers‑Bond comparator, which was credited with rescuing mechanical science and the manufacturing industry from inconvenience. Ultimately, the comparator was instrumental in the mass production of precision interchangeable parts and played a significant role in the development of large-scale industrial manufacturing. In addition, Whitney was successful in leading a training program for apprentices.
Whitney retired from Pratt & Whitney in 1901 after the company was acquired by Niles‑Bement‑Pond Company. Amos Whitney died in Portland, Maine in 1920. In 2010, Pratt & Whitney celebrated its 150th anniversary.
NNDB.com. Amos Whitney. Accessed at http://www.nndb.com/people/435/000206814/ on August 30, 2010.
Pratt & Whitney. As the Years Passed, History Book 2. Accessed at http://www.prattandwhitney.com/pdfs/pratt_whitney_history_book2.pdf on August 30, 2010.
Wikipedia. Amos Whitney. Accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amos_Whitney on August 30, 2010.
Photo Credit: Amos Whitney, Public Domain