Science Projects And Inventions


Before American Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884) invented the reaper, crops were tediously gathered by hand, usually with the aid of a hand-swung scythe. Often landowners were limited by what they could reap in the fall rather than by the size of their land or the amount of seed that could be sown in the spring,

McCormick's father had started to work on the design of a "reaper," a horsedrawn machine that could automatically cut and bundle corn, but he was unsuccessful and passed his researches over to his son. Cyrus McCormick's reaper design of 1831 had a frame that he would place over himself and his horse to stabilize the contraption while its large, mechanical, armlike cutters would cut the crop.

McCormick was not happy with his first design and delayed obtaining a patent until 1834, when a rival reaper inventor appeared in Maryland. However, the reaper did not catch on, even when McCormick had improved its weight, efficiency, and reliability, and even added an ability to bundle. Farmers were wary of change, and there were almost no sales in a decade.

Eventually, however, the demand became so great that manufacturing had to move from McCormick's blacksmith shop to a factory in Chicago. The inventor grasped the international market by winning the most prestigious prize at the industrial exhibition at Crystal Palace, London, in 1851. At first the British laughed at his clumsy machine, but when they saw how efficiently it could cut crops, many rushed to place orders with the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company.

Many decades later, improvements to the reaper and the addition of first steam power and then an engine led to the modern combine harvester, which revolutionized farming in the twentieth century. 


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