Eli Whitney was born on December 8th, 1765 in Massachusetts. His father was a successful farmer and his mother helped on the farm too, until she died in 1777 when Whitney was just 11. After his mother’s death, Whitney was put in charge of a nail manufacturing operation. He traded throughout the American Revolutionary War. Whitney was also hard working at school and went to Yale with the treat of becoming a lawyer. However, he became short of money, and instead of becoming a lawyer, Whitney went travelling across the United States. He arrived in Georgia, where he met Phineas Miller, a plantation manager.
Whitney was an inventor at heart, and when he visited the cotton plantations he realised the need for an improved machine for processing cotton. He developed the cotton gin. The cotton gin was a machine that could quickly separate cotton fibers from seeds in order to create cotton items such as clothing and linens. Before the invention of the cotton gin, cotton production and processing was a very slow process, requiring lots of hard manual work. The machine helped to boost productivity and increased cotton usage. The cotton gin helped to increase production of cotton in the United States, and made cotton into a profitable crop. The machine helped to strengthen the US’ economy, and laid the foundations for the slave trade. As such, he is often viewed as one of the main inventors of the Industrial Revolution and was of particular importance to industrialization in the United States.
Although the cotton gin was very profitable and was a key invention of the industrial revolution, Whitney did not see many profits. This is because of patent battles that took place. Despite this, Whitney continued to invent. He manufactured arms and arms and developed a relationship with the United States Army. He also pioneered the interchangeable parts systems of production which was important for a number of processes. Whitney developed cancer, and died on January 8th, 1825 in Connecticut. He was just 59 years old. During his illness he invented a number of devices to ease his pain. However he did not manufacture or trade them, because he did not want to trade in ‘indelicate’ items.