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Richard Roberts (22 April 1789 – 11 March 1864) was a British engineer whose development of high-precision machine tools contributed to the birth of production engineering and mass production.
Roberts was born at Llanymynech, on the border between England and Wales. He was the son of William Roberts, a shoemaker, who also kept the New Bridge tollgate. Roberts was educated by the parish priest, and early found employment with a boatman on the Ellesmere Canal and later at the local limestone quarries. He received some instruction in drawing from Robert Bough, a road surveyor, who was working under Thomas Telford.
Roberts then found employment as a pattern-maker at Bradley Iron works, Staffordshire, and, probably in 1813, moved to a supervisory position in the pattern shop of the Horsely Iron works, Tipton. He had gained skills in turning, wheel-wrighting and the repair of mill work. He was drawn for the militia and to avoid this made for Liverpool, but finding no work there shifted to Manchester, where he found work as a turner for a cabinet-maker. He then moved to Salford working at lathe- and tool-making. Because the militia was still seeking him, he walked to London, where he found employment with Henry Maudslay as a fitter and turner.