James Hall Nasmyth (19 August 1808 – 7 May 1890) was a Scottish engineer and inventor famous for his development of the steam hammer. He was the co-founder of Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company manufacturers of machine tools. He retired at the age of 48, and moved to Penshurst, Kent where he developed his hobbies of astronomy and photography.
His father Alexander Nasmyth was a landscape and portrait painter in Edinburgh, where James was born. One of Alexander's hobbies was mechanics and he employed nearly all his spare time in his workshop where he encouraged his youngest son to work with him in all sorts of materials. James was sent to the Royal High School where he had as a friend, Jimmy Patterson, the son of a local iron founder. Being already interested in mechanics he spent much of his time at the foundry and there he gradually learned to work and turn in wood, brass, iron, and steel. In 1820 he left the High School and again made great use of his father's workshop where at the age of 17, he made his first steam engine.
From 1821 to 1826, Nasmyth regularly attended the Edinburgh School of Arts (today Heriot-Watt University, making him one of the first students of the institution). In 1828 he made a complete steam carriage that was capable of running a mile carrying 8 passengers. This accomplishment increased his desire to become a mechanical engineer. He had heard of the fame of Henry Maudslay's workshop and resolved to get employment there; unfortunately his father could not afford to place him as an apprentice at Maudslay's works. Nasmyth therefore decided instead to show Maudslay examples of his skills and produced a complete working model of a high-pressure steam engine, creating the working drawings and constructing the components himself...
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