Field, Joshua 1786 - 1863

English; British

(1786- 1863) Civil and Mechanical Engineer

Joshua Field was born at Hackney, Middlesex in 1787 and in 1794 he was sent to Harlow boarding-school in Essex. In 1803 he began an engineering pupillage at Portsmouth Dockyard under Simon Goodrich, as a draughtsman in the office of Sir Samuel Bentham, and later transferred to the Admiralty at Whitehall. Block-making machinery for the dockyard at Portsmouth was then being made at Henry Maudslay's workshop in Margaret Street, off Oxford Street, London, and when Maudslay requested a naval draughtsman for the work, Field was sent there in 1804.

In 1810 Field moved with Maudslay to new works at Lambeth and in 1812 he became partner of the firm H. Maudslay & Co. The firm's name changed to Maudslay, Son and Field in 1822, they specialised in making marine engines, stationary steam engines of various patterns, machinery for flour, sugar, and rice mills and saw mills, equipment for minting coins, machine tools, waterworks pumping machinery, railway locomotives, and fixed haulage engines for railway inclines. It made the tunnelling shield for M. I. Brunel's Thames Tunnel. The first set of ships' machinery the firm built was for the Thames vessel the Richmond (1813), and its first naval contract was for HMS Lightning (1825).

In 1816 Field was one of the founders of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and he served as vice-president in 1837 and president in 1848 and 1849. He delivered a number of papers at the institution, and in 1821 spent several months making a tour of engineering works in the midlands. Field's illustrated diary of the trip has survived. In 1862 he became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. As a consultant engineer, Field advised the Atlantic Telegraph Company when laying the Trans-Atlantic cable.

He advised Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the machinery for his steamships, and was one of the committee appointed to deal with the metropolitan local committees of the Great Exhibition. He patented in 1824 a method of reducing the concentration of salt in marine boilers, but this was superseded later by the widespread introduction of the surface condenser.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 3 March 1836 and was also a member of the Society of Arts. Field died at his residence, Balham Hill House, London, on 11 August 1863, and was buried at Norwood cemetery on 18 August.