Left school barely able to read but persevered alone to achieve a general education. He developed a considerable mechanical skill, constructing models of the milling machinery employed locally for fulling, grinding, and papermaking. 1758 - his first publication, A System of Family Bookkeeping, with a Ready Ruled Book. 1762-1766 - ran a school in Manchester, teaching a range of commercial and polite subjects appropriate to the city's needs. 1766 - bought the apparatus of the itinerant lecturer William Griffis, gave up schoolmastering, advertised his lectures in various local papers, and took to the road. 1772 - patented the coelestina, a mechanical harpsichord producing continuous sound. 1781 - moved to London following a series of successful lectures in 1778-9. 1782 - published Epitome of Astronomy. 1785 - following a visit to Paris, he published his views on aspects of French life. 1786 - patented a method of thermo-ventilation. During his life, he was friendly with most of the eminent industrialists and scientists making up the Lunar Society, and dined with Matthew Boulton.