Cork Jacket

Title

Cork Jacket

Description

John Wilkinson, an English physician, obtained a patent for the first modern life jacket, made of cork, in 1765. He believed that the English, being such “a commercial and naval people,” should seek to prevent “those very frequent disasters” at sea by which their nation lost so many people and vessels. In the two books he published to promote his invention, Wilkinson invoked Enlightenment rationalism to demonstrate both the efficiency of the “cork-jacket” and the importance of saving lives.

By the eighteenth century, the belief that science could be used both to save lives and to preserve valuable ships and cargoes inspired interest in lifesaving devices and other innovations. Science was not an insular profession. Wilkinson numbered among his heroes pioneers such as Columbus, Galileo, Bacon, and also the anonymous tinkerer “who first placed the rudder at the stern of a ship.”

Creator

John Wilkinson

Source

John Wilkinson, Tutamen Nauticum: or, the Seaman’s Preservation from Shipwreck (London, 1763)

Date

1763

Contributor

Cynthia A. Kierner

Format

Drawing

Type

Still image

Coverage

1700-1799

Files

Cork jacket image.jpg

Citation

John Wilkinson, “Cork Jacket,” Disaster History Archive, accessed October 23, 2021, http://disasterhistoryarchive.cynthiakierner.org/items/show/8.

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