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Lived: 1765-1825

Eli Whitney was an American inventor who revolutionized industry throughout the United States. After graduating from Yale, Whitney moved south to pursue a career in teaching. When his teaching position fell through, Whitney was forced to find other means of supporting himself. Throughout the South, Whitney heard the dying gasps of the southern economy, as little industry had migrated there and no crop could yet produce the profits necessary to sustain the slave economy that had become ingrained in the South. Whitney set his inventive mind to solving the problem and his solution, the cotton gin, would turn what was previously considered a weed, green seed cotton, into one of the most valuable crops in United States. So simple was the design, though, that pirate copies of the machine were created before Whitney could secure the proper patents. Whitney was left profitless while the new abundance of cotton made millions for those that grew it. Whitney again sought a new path of prosperity and found it in interchangeability. Whitney's advances in the mechanization of production would have a profound effect of the shape industry would take with the imminent Industrial Revolution.