Murray's Hypocycloidal Engine

Last updated
Murray's Hypocycloidal Engine

Thinktank - Iron Foundry Engine 2.jpg

The engine at Thinktank
Type Hypocycloidal
Designer Matthew Murray
Maker Fenton, Murray and Wood
Date 1805 (1805)
Country of origin England
Former operator
Cylinders 1
Collection Birmingham Museums Trust
Location Thinktank, Digbeth, Birmingham, England
Accession no. 1961S01437.00001
The engine in motion

Murray's Hypocycloidal Engine, now in Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, England, was made around 1805 [1] and is the world's third-oldest working steam engine [2] and the oldest working engine with a hypocycloidal gear. [lower-alpha 1]

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum Science museum

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum is a science museum in Birmingham, England. Opened in 2001, it is part of Birmingham Museums Trust and is located within the Millennium Point complex on Curzon Street, Digbeth.

Steam engine Heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid

A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid. The steam engine uses the force produced by steam pressure to push a piston back and forth inside a cylinder. This pushing force is transformed, by a connecting rod and flywheel, into rotational force for work. The term "steam engine" is generally applied only to reciprocating engines as just described, not to the steam turbine.



Designed by Matthew Murray, and made by Fenton, Murray and Wood of Holbeck, Leeds, it is one of only two of the type to survive; [3] the other is located at The Henry Ford, Michigan, United States. [4]

Matthew Murray British engineer

Matthew Murray was an English steam engine and machine tool manufacturer, who designed and built the first commercially viable steam locomotive, the twin cylinder Salamanca in 1812. He was an innovative designer in many fields, including steam engines, machine tools and machinery for the textile industry.

Holbeck inner city area of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England

Holbeck is an inner city area of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It begins on the southern edge of Leeds city centre and mainly lies in the LS11 postcode district. The M1 and M621 motorways used to end/begin in Holbeck. Now the M621 is the only motorway that passes through the area since the end of the M1 moved to Hook Moor near Aberford. Since large parts of Holbeck have been vacated in preparation for the regeneration of the area, the district has in large parts suffered from a population exodus. Holbeck had a population of 5,505 in 2011. The district currently falls within the Beeston and Holbeck ward of Leeds City Council.

The Henry Ford museum of history in Dearborn, Michigan, USA

The Henry Ford is a large indoor and outdoor history museum complex and a National Historic Landmark in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, United States. The museum collection contains the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln's chair from Ford's Theatre, Thomas Edison's laboratory, the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop, the Rosa Parks bus, and many other historical exhibits. It is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the United States and is visited by over 1.7 million people each year. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 as Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1981 as "Edison Institute".

The single-cylinder engine was used by John Bradley & Co of Stourbridge from 1805 until 1931, and by N. Hingley & Sons Ltd of Netherton from 1931 until 1961, when it was acquired by Birmingham City Council for their science museum. [5]

John Bradley & Co was a company established in 1800 by John Bradley at Stourbridge in the West Midlands area of England. The company developed into a large industrial concern with furnaces, ironworks and mines. Under James Foster, John Bradley's half brother, it was instrumental in bringing the first commercial steam locomotive into the Midlands area in 1829. The firm stayed under family control until the early years of the 20th century when first the mining (1913) and then the ironworks (1919) were sold off. Part of the business continued to trade under the name John Bradley & Co. (Stourbridge) Ltd until after the Second World War.

Stourbridge town in the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley, in the West Midlands of England

Stourbridge is a market town in the West Midlands county of England. Situated on the River Stour, it was the centre of British glass making during the Industrial Revolution. The 2011 UK census recorded the town's population as 63,298. Conservative MP Margot James has held the Stourbridge parliamentary constituency since 2010.

N. Hingley & Sons Ltd was a firm that originated in the Black Country region of the United Kingdom. It was founded by Noah Hingley (1796-1877) who started making chain near the village of Cradley. The firm moved to Netherton around 1852 where large scale chain and anchor manufacturing works were set up on the Dudley No.2 canal. One of the most famous products of the firm was the anchor of the RMS Titanic which on completion in 1911 was drawn through the streets of Netherton on a waggon drawn by 20 shire horses.

Murray patented the hypocycloidal arrangement in 1802. [3]

Patent set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee so that he has a temporary monopoly

A patent is a form of intellectual property. A patent gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, and importing an invention for a limited period of time, usually twenty years. The patent rights are granted in exchange for an enabling public disclosure of the invention. In most countries patent rights fall under civil law and the patent holder needs to sue someone infringing the patent in order to enforce his or her rights. In some industries patents are an essential form of competitive advantage; in others they are irrelevant.

See also

Birmingham Museums Trust is the largest independent charitable trust of museums in the United Kingdom. It runs nine museum sites across the city of Birmingham, including Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) and Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, with a total of more than 1.1 million visits per year.

Smethwick Engine Boulton & Watt steam engine

The Smethwick Engine is a Watt steam engine made by Boulton and Watt, which was installed near Birmingham, England, and was brought into service in May 1779. Now at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, it is the oldest working steam engine and the oldest working engine in the world.

Sun and planet gear

The sun and planet gear is a method of converting reciprocating motion to rotary motion and was used in the first rotative beam engines.


  1. The oldest working engine, the Smethwick Engine, and the second oldest, the Whitbread Engine, are beam engines, and neither uses a hypocycloidal gear.

Related Research Articles

Watt steam engine

The Watt steam engine, alternatively known as the Boulton and Watt steam engine, was the first practical steam engine and was one of the driving forces of the industrial revolution. James Watt developed the design sporadically from 1763 to 1775 with support from Matthew Boulton. Watt's design saved significantly more fuel compared to earlier designs that they were licensed based on the amount of fuel they would save. Watt never ceased developing the steam engine, introducing double-acting designs and various systems for taking off rotary power. Watt's design became synonymous with steam engines, and it was many years before significantly new designs began to replace the basic Watt design.

Soho Foundry

Soho Foundry is a factory created in 1795 by Matthew Boulton and James Watt and their sons Matthew Robinson Boulton and James Watt Jr. at Smethwick, West Midlands, England, for the manufacture of steam engines. Now owned by Avery Weigh-Tronix, it is used for the manufacture of weighing machines.

Boulton & Watt was an early British engineering and manufacturing firm in the business of designing and making marine and stationary steam engines. Founded in the English West Midlands around Birmingham in 1775 as a partnership between the English manufacturer Matthew Boulton and the Scottish engineer James Watt, the firm had a major role in the Industrial Revolution and grew to be a major producer of steam engines in the 19th century.

Soho Manufactory

The Soho Manufactory was an early factory which pioneered mass production on the assembly line principle, in Soho, Birmingham, England, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It operated from 1766–1848 and was demolished in 1863.

Beam engine

A beam engine is a type of steam engine where a pivoted overhead beam is used to apply the force from a vertical piston to a vertical connecting rod. This configuration, with the engine directly driving a pump, was first used by Thomas Newcomen around 1705 to remove water from mines in Cornwall. The efficiency of the engines was improved by engineers including James Watt who added a separate condenser, Jonathan Hornblower and Arthur Woolf who compounded the cylinders, and William McNaught (Glasgow) who devised a method of compounding an existing engine. Beam engines were first used to pump water out of mines or into canals, but could be used to pump water to supplement the flow for a waterwheel powering a mill.

Crossness Pumping Station 19th century pumping station in London

The Crossness Pumping Station is a former sewage pumping station designed by the Metropolitan Board of Works's chief engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and architect Charles Henry Driver at the eastern end of the Southern Outfall Sewer and the Ridgeway path in the London Borough of Bexley. Constructed between 1859 and 1865 by William Webster, as part of Bazalgette's redevelopment of the London sewerage system, it features spectacular ornamental cast ironwork, that Nikolaus Pevsner described as "a masterpiece of engineering – a Victorian cathedral of ironwork".

Elkington Silver Electroplating Works

The Elkington Silver Electroplating Works was a building on Newhall Street in Birmingham, England. It later housed the Birmingham science museum Museum of Science and Industry until the creation of Thinktank.

Bolton Steam Museum

Bolton Steam Museum is a museum in Bolton, Greater Manchester, England, which houses a variety of preserved steam engines. Based in the cotton store of the former Atlas Mill in Mornington Road, it is owned and run by the Northern Mill Engine Society (NMES).

Whitbread Engine

The Whitbread Engine preserved in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, built in 1785, is one of the first rotative steam engines ever built, and is the oldest surviving. A rotative engine is a type of beam engine where the reciprocating motion of the beam is converted to rotary motion, producing a continuous power source suitable for driving machinery.

<i>Old Bess</i> (beam engine)

Old Bess is an early beam engine built by the partnership of Boulton and Watt. The engine was constructed in 1777 and worked until 1848.

A water-returning engine was an early form of stationary steam engine, developed at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 18th century. The first beam engines did not generate power by rotating a shaft but were developed as water pumps, mostly for draining mines. By coupling this pump with a water wheel, they could be used to drive machinery.

Six-column beam engine

Six-column beam engines are a type of beam engine, where the beam's central pivot is supported on a cast-iron frame or 'bedstead', supported on six iron columns.

Lap Engine Watt engine, now in the Science Museum, London

The Lap Engine is a beam engine designed by James Watt, built by Boulton and Watt in 1788. It is now preserved at the Science Museum, London.

Lanchester petrol-electric car Prototype hybrid automobile

The Lanchester petrol-electric car is a protype motor vehicle, designed in 1927 by Frederick W. Lanchester of the Lanchester Motor Company in his workshop in Birmingham, England. It is now on display in Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.


  1. Reyburn, Ross (2 December 2000). "Full steam ahead; Some of Birmingham's most impressive artefacts are on the move". Birmingham Post . Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  2. "Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum". Automuseums. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Matthew Murray's elegant design". Birmingham Stories. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  4. "Hypocycloidal Pumping Engine". Stationary Steam. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  5. Birmingham Museums Trust catalogue, accession number: 1961S01437.00001