Thomas Brown Jordan

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Thomas Brown Jordan
Born (1807-10-24)24 October 1807
Died 31 May 1890(1890-05-31) (aged 82)
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Sarah, née Dunn
Parent(s) Thomas Jordan
Engineering career
Discipline Mining engineering, instrument making, electro-metallurgy, mechanical engineering
Institutions Museum of Practical Geology, Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, Society of Arts
Awards Isis Medal

Thomas Brown Jordan (24 October 1807 – 31 May 1890) was a British inventor and engineer.

Birth and beginnings[edit]

Born at Bristol on 24 October 1807,[1] he was the son of Thomas Jordan (a Quaker engineer),[1] and began life as an artist.[2]

Move to Cornwall[edit]

When barely twenty he moved to Falmouth. While painting there and at Penzance he made the acquaintance of Robert Were Fox the Younger, in whose physical researches he took the greatest interest, as well as becoming drawing master to Fox's son, Barclay.[1][3]


R.W.Fox's influence led him to relinquish painting and to set up as a mathematical instrument maker in Falmouth, where he effected improvements in the miners' dial,[4] and had some share in the construction of Fox's improved dipping-needle. In 1838 Jordan devised an instrument for recording by photography the variations of the barometric column, and he shortly afterwards invented a declination magnetograph and a self-recording actinometer.[2] His pioneering use of photography in meteorology was acknowledged by both Charles Wheatstone and Sir John Herschel.[1] For some years subsequent to 1839 he held the post of secretary of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.[2][5]

Sir Henry de la Beche, when engaged on the geological survey of Cornwall, made Jordan's acquaintance, and secured his appointment in 1840 as first keeper of mining records, with charge of plans, sections, and models. Jordan took a great interest in electro-metallurgy during the early years of its development, and in 1841 he made an egg-cup of electro-deposited copper, plated with silver outside and gold inside, which was considered a model of workmanship, and is now deposited in the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street, London.[2]

London move[edit]

Upon resigning his appointment as keeper of mining records in 1845, Jordan invented a highly ingenious process of carving by machinery, and set up works at Lambeth for carrying into effect the invention, for which in 1847 he received the gold Isis medal from the Society of Arts,[2] and in the same year he was elected a Fellow of the Society.[1] The wood-carving machinery was subsequently exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the products were extensively used in the decoration of the House of Lords.[2]

Later on Jordan started work as a mechanical engineer, first at Manchester, then at Glasgow, where he devised a series of machines for the production of school slates. Shortly after 1870, however, he returned to London, and established himself as a mining engineer in conjunction with his son, Mr. Thomas Rowland Jordan. Jordan's last invention, patented in 1877, was a portable machine for boring blast-holes in rock.[2][6] He died in Bournemouth on 31 May 1890.[1]

Personal life and eventual death[edit]

Jordan married, in 1837, Sarah Dunn. They had eleven children. He died 1890-05-31. Mrs. Jordan survived him.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f McConnell 2004
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Seccombe 1892, p. 204
  3. ^ Barclay Fox's Journal makes it clear that Jordan was one of several young, talented tutors employed by R. W. Fox to educate his three children and their friend Cavendish Wall. The first drawing lesson was in 28 Ninth Month (September) 1832 (page 41). Barclay records Jordan's exhibit at the annual Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Exhibition in Ninth Month, 1832 (Fox 1979, pp. 96,97): the "galvano-motive machine" and in 1839 (Fox 1979, p. 147), his lecture on his new "photogenic inventions". The Fox family of Falmouth were the major force in developing the arts, sciences and technology in Falmouth. Anna Maria Fox, Barclay's older sister became a talented amateur artist and promoter of the practical arts and painting. However, his younger sister, Caroline Fox, has no mention of Jordan in the edited extracts of her Journal, published in 1972. Both Jordan's father and the Fox family were Quakers. McConnell, in the ODNB, suggests that Jordan may have separated from that faith when he married a non-Quaker (McConnell 2004).
  4. ^ Miner's dial or mine dial – An underground surveying instrument for measuring and setting out angles and determining magnetic north (Hacettepe University Department of Mining Engineering).
  5. ^ He was succeeded by Robert Hunt.
  6. ^ The Times, Thursday, 29 November 1877, p.6, col F, "A new rock drill" (reports a demonstration of the machine).


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