Joseph Rogers Brown and the Second Industrial Revolution

The second Industrial Revolution developed with the application of science to the process of mass production. Joseph Rogers Brown was a mechanical engineer and clock maker in Providence, Rhode Island in the mid-19th Century. He was arguably the father of the precision manufacturing machinery that allowed for the close manufacturing of metal tolerances that made mass production possible. In 1851 he developed an improvement on the Vernier Caliper that developed measurement of dimensions to ine thousands of an inch. The original and more primitive caliper was invented by Pierre Vernier in 1631 in France. The price for the Brown enhancement was so modest that ordinary machinists could afford them.

Brown went on to invent a dividing engine that marked graduations on measuring instruments. He improved the protractor. He invented a universal drilling machine in 1862 and a universal grinding machine in 1876. Brown’s contribution to the science of manufacturing led to the development of interchangeable parts and close metal tolerances that gave us ultimately the automobile industry and the rise of Henry Ford.


Gregory R. Piche’s new book, The Four Trials of Henry Ford, will be published on October 15, 2019. Pre-order:



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