1770 – 8-Legged Walking Wooden Horse – Edgeworth (Irish)

Richard Lovell Edgeworth (31 May 1744 – 13 June 1817) was an Anglo-Irish politician, writer and inventor.

Although most articles suggest Edgeworth invented the Caterpillar track, the description offered below is of another invention he called a Wooden Horse."   In order to step over a fence, the legs would have to be lifted quite high.  This would make the "wooden horse" quite a large contrivance. In 1910, some 140 years later, we see the first "walking platform", invented by an English engineer by the name Charles Guest Norris , which would fit the criteria set by Edgeworth.


The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed The World – Jenny Uglow 2002

MAGIC & MECHANICS p128-9
He was in some ways a younger version of Darwin: classically educated, socially at ease. Unlike Darwin, however, Edgeworth did not work. In Oxfordshire, reading in a desultory way for the Bar, he lived on an allowance from his father, played cards with the gentry and befriended other amateur inventors, such as the clergyman Humphry Gainsborough (brother to the artist), an expert in hydraulics who was working on improving the steam-engine. To fill his empty hours, Edgeworth piled scheme upon scheme. Many of his ideas were ahead of their time: to win a bet with the gamblers and racing men surrounding Delaval, he invented a crude telegraph system to carry news from Newmarket races to London, a system he returned to and improved over many years.
Among the 'various contrivances' he planned in the workshop behind his house were a 'sailing carriage' (a kind of go-cart with sails, highly disconcerting to travellers on the Reading road), a machine for cutting turnips; an umbrella for covering haystacks; a cart on rollers to protect road surfaces. For months he worked on a huge hollow wheel containing a barrel in which a man could stand, pushing it forward faster and faster by walking, like a mouse on a treadmill. This came to a cataclysmic end when some local boys launched it on a slope running down to a chalk pit: the wheel gathered speed, the boy inside jumped clear; the barrel vanished. Returning from London, 'to my no small disappointment', Edgeworth found his wheel at the bottom of the chalk pit 'broken into a thousand pieces'."
This was hardly rational mechanics. In fact many of Edgeworth's ideas have a touch of fantasy, a visionary, almost Gothic quality as if they came to him in a dream, like the giant wooden horse, which he still remembered fondly in his old age:
I was riding one day in a country, that was enclosed by walls of an uncommon height; and upon its being asserted, that it would be impossible for a person to leap such walls, I offered a wager to produce a wooden horse, that should carry me safely over the highest wall in the country. It struck me, that, if a machine were made with eight legs, four only of which should stand upon the ground at one time; if the remaining body were divided into two parts, sliding, or rather rolling, on cylinders, one of the parts, and the legs belonging to it, might in two efforts be projected over the wall by a person in the machine; and the legs belonging to this part might be let down to the ground, and then the other half of the machine might have its legs drawn up and be projected over the wall, and so on, alternately. This idea by degrees developed itself in my mind so as to make me perceive, that as one half of the machine was always a road for the other half, and that such a machine never rolled upon the ground, a carriage might be made which should carry a road for itself.'
Even after forty years of experiments and a hundred models, this never worked. But it was not all nonsense;
it looked forward to the caterpillar track, the tank and the train. It is already certain', Edgeworth added, 'that a carriage moving on an iron rail-way may be drawn with a fourth part of the force requisite to draw it upon a common road.'


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This entry was posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2010 at 12:01 am and is filed under Walking Machines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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