John Kay

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Kay, John (1704–c.1780). Engineer and inventor. Born in 1704 near Bury (Lancs.), Kay patented his flying-shuttle for a loom in 1733. It produced a great speeding-up in the process of weaving. Kay experienced considerable difficulty in exploiting his invention. His house was destroyed in 1753 by a mob, concerned about unemployment in the industry, while the Leeds manufacturers banded together to indemnify each other against legal proceedings to enforce Kay's patent. Kay took refuge in France, where he tried to carry on, but died in obscurity.

J. A. Cannon

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John Kay, 1704–64, English inventor. He patented (1733) the fly shuttle, operated by pulling a cord that drove the shuttle to either side, freeing one hand of the weaver to press home the weft. Workers in the weaving industry who regarded Kay's invention as a threat to their jobs mobbed Kay and destroyed his model. Various factory owners duplicated his device but managed not to pay him a royalty. Kay went to France, resumed his work, and tried unsuccessfully to win recognition in England. Although he was the inventor of one of the most important principles of modern mechanical weaving, he died in poverty.