The 1751 Machine that Made Everything


In this video I look at what I consider to be the world’s first modern lathe – Vaucanson’s 1751 all metal lathe.

If you want any of the historical photos I’m happy to share. They are all from the Library of Congress with edits to make them more attractive.



  1. Chùnsiâng


  2. David Gulley

    I honestly expected to see pages of comments on this video. It makes me sad to see that is not the case. Anyway, I agree with you that this machine has completely changed our lives, our world, and our future.

    As a historian and educator, I am often faced with the task of determining what to teach my students so they will understand our journey through time, with all its seemingly minor and inconsequential events, and be able to succeed on college entrance exams. (Unfortunately the two are, at best, only loosely connected.). I have watched several of your videos and appreciate the unique way you approach the subjects. Thanks for doing such an excellent job uncovering a machine that nearly all history books ignore, even though it was a major contributor to the industrial revolution and our modern way of life. In my opinion, Vaucanson’s impact on the industrial revolution is the equivalent of the Steve Jobs’ impact on communications. Keep up the great work!

  3. Pingback: The 1751 machine that made everything – #Logic Wins

  4. Ignacio Pinto

    This is really an excellent example of how science and Engineering have made life easier and better of all of us, we live in times of great problems but our life is easier because of these moderns artefacts, great video, and explication

  5. mike goldberg

    What I found most interesting was the graph used. The units were in 1990 dollars which is almost exactly doubled to 1000 dollars in 2019.
    What is not given is the source of the graph! What is the basis for the graph? Please respond!!!

    The interesting thing is that the 2019 number for the US is about $62,000/person. Think for a few moments about the difference between social policy between societies with income of 1k vs. 62k. At 1k each I can barely feed my family, at 62k each, I expect to help my fellow man. The difference in wealth is staggering and the basis for many social policy decisions.

  6. Will (Post author)

    It was sort of hidden, but in the description of the video is the graph source:

    Per Capita income data source: Angus Maddison “Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP 1-2008AD”

    I pulled all of the data into a spreadsheet and extrapolated the data between points until it was normalized at a year interval and plotted the graph.

    Thanks for watching!

  7. Paul C Whalen

    You are making really cool videos. Your insights and collections of observations are interesting, entertaining, and useful. I like to watch something that leaves me with something I didn’t know before. I’m normally not watching engineering videos.
    Yours combines economics, engineering, lathe working, the maker space and a good sense of humor.
    Keep going.


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