‘’Henry George "Harry" Ferguson was an Irish-born British engineer and inventor known for his development of the modern agricultural tractor’’
- (Anglo-agriparts.com, 2020).
Ferguson was an Irish/British inventor who is known for his invention of the Ferguson system, better known as the three-point linkage, which revolutionised the farming industry and led to the development of tractors we see today using that system.
In his early years Ferguson farmed alongside his father in Dromore county Down, Northern Ireland. Although leaving school at fourteen and being dedicated to the farm life Ferguson did not work well with his father and left to work in Belfast to work in his brother joes’ garage.
During his time working in Belfast Ferguson became interested in aviation and flight. One dream Ferguson developed was to build his own plane and fly it. The Ferguson brothers, Harry and Joe compiled information on planes and aviation in an effort to develop and produce their own aeroplane. In December of 1909 Fergusons dream became a reality Ferguson flew his monoplane and was the first Irishman to ever build and fly his own plane. This development of an aircraft could have developed into a successful business for the Fergusons, however, after only two years the brothers had a falling out leaving Harry to go it alone.
Following on from Fergusons interests in aviation he turned his interests to home, back to the farm. With an intention to change the way of farming and shape modern agricultural machines we see today.
Previously in farming, prior to Fergusons invention, implements to work the land were pulled by horse using chains and ropes, which led into machinery being pulled by mechanically propelled vehicles such as tractors. This was a time-consuming effort and transport of implements from farm to field labour intensive and slow.
In 1917 Ferguson developed a plough that could be attached to a Ford model T car, however this had little effect on farming as a car proved useless in field work. 1917 was also the year Ferguson met with Charles E. Sorensen where they came up with an idea to attach an implement to a tractor and make them one unit, opposed to bringing and implement to the field via trailer. This idea led to the development of a prototype, the three- point linkage, which would become Fergusons legacy. “85% of today's tractors incorporate the basic invention of one extraordinary man” (Ferguson-museum.co.uk, 2012). After the development of this new technology Ferguson presented it to the world, alongside Ford, attached to Fordson tractors in Cork and Dearborn.
In 1926 Ferguson developed a Hydraulically driven version of the three-point linkage and patented it. Ferguson was unsuccessful in striking a deal with Ford to factory produce Ford tractors and three-point linkages. Therefore, he joined with another company and made a duplex linkage system to work on these new machines.
“The 3-point linkage grew initially out of the Duplex Hitch which he had designed in the early 1920’s”
- (Ferguson-museum.co.uk, 2012).
Taking some time to develop his invention and refine it Ferguson presented his product once again to Ford in 1938, where he took his latest patent and applied it to Fords tractor creating the Ford Ferguson line of machines. We also saw at this time the development of the Ferguson TE20 which was a popular tractor for English farmers, similar to the Ford Ferguson which was aimed towards the American market.
Following the breakup of Ford Ferguson in 1947 Ferguson joined with Massey Harris Forming what is known today As Massey Ferguson. Massey Ferguson was and still is the farmers choice throughout Ireland and the UK. ‘’Harry Ferguson, the ‘Mad Mechanic’ who invented the modern tractor’’(The Irish Times, 2019).
Following on from Fergusons innovation of the three-point linkage Ferguson developed the four-wheel drive system which was another technology, way ahead of its time which revolutionised and shaped tractors of today. Four-wheel drive meant many things for tractors. It meant that the tractor could produce far more traction and was able to pull heavier implements through harder ground. It allowed the farmer to make the most of the horsepower his tractor could produce as well as travel on softer ground without getting stuck. This innovation can be seen being put to use in tractors worldwide today.’’ In general, a 4WD tractor is more stable and versatile because all 4 wheels are functional in pulling it forward. Assume yourself climbing a hill using all 4 limbs, same power but delivered through 4 traction points.’’ (Tractor Guru, 2019).
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Alone from tractors Ferguson had an input into the development of four-wheel drive cars. We saw him help develop a four-wheel drive F1 car, the first of its kind, the Ferguson P99 climax. This was the first four-wheel drive car ever as well as the first front engine mounted car to win the F1. ‘’ The biggest advantage of all-wheel drive systems is their superior traction. Since all four wheels are capable of propelling the vehicle forward, it can continue to drive even if one or two wheels lose traction due to slippery surfaces such as ice, snow or mud.’’ (Itstillruns.com, 2020).
We can see today how Fergusons inventions have shaped modern machinery, the majority of tractors we see on the roads today include a three-point linkage at the back and some even at the front. The majority of implements produced in farming are equipped to join to a three-point linkage also. Four-wheel drive is a common choice as it allows the farmers to complete tasks where they need traction and efficiency.
Overall Harry Ferguson shaped modern agriculture and without his innovations we would not see work carried out as easily as we do on modern farms today.
- Ferguson-museum.co.uk. (2012). 3-point linkage. 3-point tractor linkage. [online] Available at: http://www.ferguson-museum.co.uk/3_point.htm [Accessed 20 Feb. 2020].
- Anglo-agriparts.com. (2020). Ferguson Tractors | A Brief History | Vintage Tractors. [online] Available at: https://www.anglo-agriparts.com/ferguson-tractors-history [Accessed 24 Feb. 2020].
- The Irish Times. (2019). Harry Ferguson, the ‘Mad Mechanic’ who invented the modern tractor. [online] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/harry-ferguson-the-mad-mechanic-who-invented-the-modern-tractor-1.3804555 [Accessed 24 Feb. 2020].
- Tractor Guru. (2019). Benefits of 4WD tractors. [online] Available at: https://tractorguru.in/tractor-blog/benefits-of-4wd-tractors [Accessed 24 Feb. 2020].
- Itstillruns.com. (2020). [online] Available at: https://itstillruns.com/benefits-wheel-drive-5463557.html [Accessed 24 Feb. 2020].
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