Humphrey Gainsborough

Inventor, Deceased Person

1718 – 1776


Who was Humphrey Gainsborough?

Humphrey Gainsborough was a non-conformist minister, engineer and inventor.

Humphrey Gainsborough was pastor to the Independent Church in Henley-on-Thames, England. He was the brother of the artist Thomas Gainsborough. He invented the drill plough, winning a prize of £60 from the Royal Society for his efforts. He also invented the tide mill, which allowed a mill wheel to rotate in either direction, winning a £50 prize from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts in London. In addition, he designed a self-ventilating fish wagon.

Gainsborough designed Conway's Bridge, built in 1763 at Park Place close to Henley, an interesting rustic arched stone structure that still carries traffic on the road between Wargrave and Henley today. In 1768, he improved the slope on the road up the steep White Hill to the east of Henley, straightening it in the process.

In the 1760s, Gainsborough showed a model of a condensing steam engine to James Watt. Watt had been working independently on improvements to the Newcomen "atmospheric engine" and subsequently patented these in 1769. He perhaps included some of — and at least built on — Gainsborough's ideas. Gainsborough is thus probably less well-known than he might have been.

We need you!

Help us build the largest biographies collection on the web!

Lived in
  • Henley-on-Thames
Aug 23, 1776

on July 23, 2013


Use the citation below to add to a bibliography:


"Humphrey Gainsborough." STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 18 Jan. 2022. <>.

Discuss this Humphrey Gainsborough biography with the community: