Matthew Robinson Boulton

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Matthew Robinson Boulton medal struck at the Soho Foundry, Smethwick, West Midlands, England, c. 1803.

Matthew Robinson Boulton (8 August 1770 – 16 May 1842)[1] was an English manufacturer, a pioneer of management, the son of Matthew Boulton and the father of Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, who first patented the aileron. He was responsible with James Watt Jr. for the management of the Soho Foundry.[2]

Matthew Robinson Boulton was mainly involved in the initial planning of the Foundry, with James Watt Jr. being more concerned with daily management and organisation.[3]

Later life[edit]

Boulton's father, Matthew, became seriously ill in 1809.[4] He died at Soho House on 17 August 1809.[4] He was buried in the graveyard of St. Mary's Church, Handsworth, in Birmingham – the church was later extended over the site of his grave. Inside the church, on the north wall of the sanctuary, is a large marble monument to his father, commissioned by his son Boulton, sculpted by the sculptor John Flaxman. It includes a marble bust of Boulton, set in a circular opening above two putti, one holding an engraving of the Soho Manufactory.

The Boulton family lived in Birmingham, England, but his son Matthew Piers Watt Boulton likely moved to Oxfordshire after selling his grandfather's estate in 1850.[5]

Family connection to aviation works[edit]

Boulton's son, Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, was named after his grandfather, Matthew Boulton, as well as his grandfather's close associate, James Watt and his great-grandmother's family, the Piers. Boulton and Watt had perfected the steam engine during the 1770s which soon set off the Industrial Revolution in England, and later the rest of the world.

In 1868, long before the advent of powered aircraft, his son Matthew Piers Watt Boulton patented the first aileron used for the lateral control of airplanes.[6][7][8][9] Boulton's British patent, No. 392 of 1868, issued about 35 years before ailerons were 'reinvented' in France, became forgotten and lost from sight until after the flight control device was in general use.[5][Note 1] If the Boulton patent had been revealed at the time of the Wright Brothers' legal filings, they may not have been able to claim priority of invention for the lateral control of airplanes.[10]

Besides his son's connection to a basic flight control component, the aileron, the family name may be associated with the well known British firm that provided wartime aircraft production under the name of Boulton Paul Aircraft.

Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd was a British aircraft manufacturer that was created in 1934, although its start in aircraft manufacturing began earlier in 1914, and lasted until 1961. The company mainly built and modified aircraft under contract to other manufacturers, but had a few notable designs of its own, such as the Boulton Paul Defiant.

The company's origins date back to a Norwich ironmonger's shop founded in 1797. William Staples Boulton joined the Norfolk ironworks firm of Moore & Barnard in 1844. By 1870 William had been elevated to a partner and the firm was renamed to Barnard & Boulton, later becoming Boulton & Paul Ltd. The latter firm began its construction engineering division in 1905.[11] In the early 1900s, Boulton & Paul was a successful general manufacturing firm, also starting in aircraft production in 1914/1915. The aircraft manufacturing division was spun off from the main construction business in 1934, subsequently moving to Wolverhampton.



  1. ^ Aviation historian C.H. Gibbs-Smith wrote that the aileron was " of the most remarkable inventions... of aeronautical history, which was immediately lost sight of".[6]


  1. ^ Matthew Robinson Boulton, Grace's Guide - British Industrial History, retrieved 2012-09-16 
  2. ^ Williams 1995, p. 5
  3. ^ Williams 1995, p. 7
  4. ^ a b Uglow 2002, p. 495.
  5. ^ a b Yoon, Joe. M. P. W. Boulton and the Aileron,, July 20, 2003.
  6. ^ a b Crouch, Tom. Oldies and Oddities: Where Do Ailerons Come From?, Air & Space magazine, September 2009.
  7. ^ F. Alexander Magoun & Eric Hodgins. A History of Aircraft, Whittlesey House, 1931, p.308.
  8. ^ Yoon, Joe. Origins of Control Surfaces,, November 17, 2002.
  9. ^ Charles Harvard Gibbs-Smith. Aviation: An Historical Survey From Its Origins To The End Of The Second World War, Science Museum, 2000, p.54, ISBN 1-900747-52-9, ISBN 978-1-900747-52-3.
  10. ^ Gibbs-Smith, C.H. Correspondence: The First Aileron, U.K.: Flight Magazine, 1956, pp. 598. Retrieved from, January 2011.
  11. ^ Brew, Alec. Boulton Paul Aircraft, Tempus, 2001.