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British Industrial History

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J. C. Fischer

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Johann Conrad Fischer (1773-1854) of Schaffhausen, Switzerland

The following information comes from 'J. C. Fischer and his Diary of Industrial England 1814-51' by W. O. Henderson, and mainly concerns Fischer's contacts with British scientists, engineers and industrialists.

Johann Conrad Fischer was an industrialist and a pioneer of high quality steel development and production on the Continent. He laid the foundations of the famous firm of Georg Fischer.

He had strong links with many of Britain's leading engineers and scientists in the first half of the 19th century, and kept detailed journals of his visits to Britain [1]

His father had been a journeyman coppersmith whose work had taken him to the Royal Gun Factory at Woolwich, working under Andrew Schalch. Johann also trained as a coppersmith and spent time working in Germany. He then travelled to Denmark and Sweden. In 1784 he went to London where he worked for the famous instrument maker Samuel Rhee. He returned home in 1795 to take over his father's business, which he went on to expand, diversifying into other lines of business. These lines included the development and production of special steels. He took samples with him when he visited England in 1814.

His 1814 visit took him to Edward Stammers, Samuel Fenn, Holtzapffel, Peter Dollond, and James Tringham.

1825-7 He visited London twice in 1825, calling first at the workshop of Joseph Egg, where Fischer's son Conrad had completed his training. He went to see John Martineau and Henry William Smith, and discussed the manufacture under licence of Fischer's nickel steel alloy. Fischer was impressed by various products of Taylor and Martineau. John Martineau obtained permission for Fischer to visit Marc Brunel's Battersea sawmills. This was a rare privilege, and Fischer was greatly impressed by what he saw. In October 1825 he saw the Thames Tunnel under construction. He paid another visit to Marc Brunel in 1827 during a hiatus in the work, and wrote that 'British will power coupled with Brunel's own genius and determination were such that no one was deterred by this great misfortune. In June 1825 he was admitted to the Regent's Park workshops of Jacob Perkins thanks to a letter of introduction from Michael Faraday, and in December 1826 Perkins' son showed him round the Fleet Street engraving works.

In October 1827 Fischer had made some steel in Martineau's plant, and took it to be forged at the London Steelworks of Thomson and Johnson near Vauxhall Bridge.

Friendship with Benjamin Gott and Sons

Fischer developed a lasting friendship with the Benjamin Gott and his family following his first visit to Leeds in September 1814. He was astonished at the size of Gott's Park Mill and its use of the most modern plant including carding machinery, hydraulic press, and gas generating plant. In 1816 one of Gott's sons stayed with Fischer in Schaffhausen, and two of Gott’s daughters and a son visited in 1824. Fischer returned to Leeds in 1825 and stayed at Armley Hall, and saw the extensions to Park Mill, and visited Armley Mill, which was then powered by three large iron waterwheels. In 1845 Fischer was the guest of John Gott.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'J. C. Fischer and his Diary of Industrial England 1814 - 1851' by W O Henderson, Frank Cass & Co., 1966