Edward Thomas (1794–c.1850)

Edward Thomas was an engineer born in Bristol, England, who developed mechanical engineering companies in the Ruhr region, Saxony and Bohemia.

He left England probably when he was 21 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. He went first to the Pempelfort area of Düsseldorf. From there he went to Wetter in the Ruhr where he helped Friedrich Harkort to establish mechanical engineering workshops and build his first steam engines. He installed engines and spinning machinery in Saxony and Bohemia.

After ten years with Harkort, in 1829 Thomas began his own mechanical engineering business at Reichenberg in Bohemia – now the Czech city of Liberec. It was the first works for the construction of machinery in the region. With another Englishman, Thomas Bracegirdle from Leeds, in 1830 he began a works for making textile machinery.

He then set up his own business making textile machinery in 1835 at Prague, which supplied machines to a large proportion of the region’s factories. He diversified his business with the help of his brother, James Thomas. It became the largest mechanical engineering works in Bohemia, making boilers, waterwheels, pumps, hydraulic presses and in total 52 steam engines. He visited Belgium and Britain to learn the latest developments. In the late 1830s he built a state-of-the-art rolling mill for the ironworks at Stará Huť (Althütten in German). In the 1840s he was owner of the ironworks at Nové Hrady (Gratzen).

The date of his death is not known, but it may have been around 1850, when his business transferred to the engineering company Ruston and Evans.