Thomas Morton

Born in Mauchline, in 1783, the inventor and scientist, Thomas Morton is an important figure in the scientific development of south west Scotland. His invention of a barrel loom revolutionised carpet making and brought much prosperity to the area. The idea for this invention came to him after he was asked to mend a barrel organ and he recognised that the principle of the barrel with pins could be used to produce a pattern in the making of carpets. Morton was also Instrument Maker to Sir John Ross the Arctic Explorer.

Morton was a keen astronomer and built his own observatory, in 1818, in the town of  Kilmarnock; a seventy foot high square tower, in what became known as Morton Place. The tower was demolished in 1957.  Andrew Barclay, the locomotive builder, was a rival of Mortons in astronomy and this rivalry extended into business. 

Morton also made  Dumfries' Camera Obscura, for the  Dumfries and Maxwelltown Astronomical Society, as an instrument for observing sun-spots. It was installed on the 28th July 1836, and is the oldest and last, of the 'astronomical' obscuras still working in Britain, the others, like that in Edinburgh, are merely used to view the surrounding scenery. Morton had been elected, one year earlier, an honorary member of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts - no mean feat for the son of an Ayrshire bricklayer. He died in 1862. 

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