Ray’s Favorite Inventor

The First Inventor to Receive a Patent?

Filippo Brunelleschi – 1377-1446 – trained as a goldsmith in Florence, is principally known for his eventual work as a structural engineer and architect. At the end of the 13th century a decision was made by the governing body of Florence to construct a new cathedral – Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction commenced in the mid 1300s after instructions to the architect to incorporate a great octagon to support a dome. By the early 1400s the cathedral had been built but lacked its dome. No one had been found to construct a dome or cupola on the octagon that did not require some from of interior centering structure to support the dome.

A competition was held which was won by Brunelleschi who created a model to display his proposed design. The design consisted of an inner cupola shell and an outer cupola shell to preserve the inner shell from the weather. The empty space between the shells contained stairs to provide access to all parts between the cupolas. The outer shell was constructed using masonry.

The cupola was constructed between the years 1419 and 1434 and still stands as a famous piece of architecture. (see photograph).

Ray's Favorite Inventor

Filippo Brunelleschi died in 1446 and was buried in the cathedral with the following words written below a marble likeness of Filippo on an inner wall of the cathedral:

“How Filippo the architect excelled in invention is shown not only by the shell of this famous temple but also by various machines that he invented with divine genius.”

Brunelleschi is credited with numerous inventions involving machinery he developed in the process of building the cupola, including cranes, hoists, a screw actuated reversing clutch and a screw-controlled load positioner.

Brunelleschi is believed to be the first person to receive the grant of a monopoly (the forerunner of a patent of invention). It was granted by the city-state of Florence for the invention of a cargo ship which Brunelleschi designed for the purpose of transporting marble for his structures from the north of Italy down the Arno River into Florence. The “patent” is believed to read as follows:

“The Magnificent and Powerful Lords, Lords Magistrate and Standard Bearer of Justice,
Considering that the admirable Filippo Brunelleschi, a man of the most perspicacious intellect, industry and invention, a citizen of Florence, has invented some machine or kind of ship, by means of which he thinks he can easily, at any time, bring in any merchandise and load on the river Arno and on any other river or water, for less money than usual, and with several other benefits to merchants and others, and that he refuses to make such machine available to the public, in order that the fruit of his genius and skill may not be reaped by another without his will and consent; and that, if he enjoyed some prerogative concerning this, he would open up what he is hiding and would disclose it to all;
And desiring that this matter, so withheld and hidden without fruit, shall be brought to light to be of profit to both said Filippo and our whole country and others, and that some privilege be created for said Filippo as hereinafter described, so that he may be animated more fervently to even higher pursuits and stimulated to more subtle investigations, they deliberated on 19 June 1421;

That no person alive, wherever born and of whatever status, dignity, quality and grade, shall dare or presume, within
three years next following from the day when the present provision has been approved in the Council of Florence, to commit any of the following acts on the river Arno, any other river, stagnant water, swamp, or water running or existing in the territory of Florence: to have, hold or use in any manner, be it newly invented or made in new form, a machine or ship or other instrument designed to import or ship or transport on water any merchandise or any things or goods, except such ship or machine or instrument as they may have used until now for similar operations, or to ship or transport, or to have shipped or transported, any merchandise or goods on ships, machines or instruments for water transport other than such as were familiar and usual until now, and further that any such new or newly shaped machine etc. shall be burned;

Provided however that the foregoing shall not be held to cover, and shall not apply to, any newly invented or newly shaped machine etc., designed to ship, transport or travel on water, which may be made by Filippo Brunelleschi or with his will and consent; also, that any merchandise, things or goods which may be shipped with such newly invented ships, within three years next following, shall be free from the imposition, requirement or levy of any new tax not previously imposed.”

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