From a farming background in Cumbria, John Wilkinson's remarkable abilities and ambitions ensured his rise to pre-eminence among the gifted pioneers of the industrial revolution. His colleagues and friends were similarly talented characters, including James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood, Richard Crawshay and Thomas Telford.
Wilkinson achieved great leaps in the iron industry and munitions, including the first use of sound castings and accurate boring for cannon manufacture, but he was also influential in the development of steam railway engines, waterways, and copper refining, and worked extensively with lead and chemicals. But while Wilkinson's technological triumphs were admired by his contemporaries, his personal affairs were complicated and sometimes tragic. This well-informed and readable book, based on research by the author born of a fascination with Wilkinson after living at his family home, gives a unique insight into the character and thinking of the man Telford named `King of the Ironmasters'.