Joseph Saxton, an American inventor, born at Huntingdon, Pa., March 22, 1799, died in Washington, D. C, Oct. 26, 1873. In his youth he constructed a printing press and issued a small newspaper. At the age of 18 he went to Philadelphia, where he found employment with a watchmaker and afterward with an engraver. His first invention was a machine for cutting the teeth of chronometer wheels. Afterward he constructed the astronomical clock with compensating pendulum, now in the state house. In 1831-'7 he was in England, where he constructed a compound magnet which sustained a weight of 525 lbs.; a magnetic needle several feet in length with a mirror on its end, which exhibited for the first time by the movement of a reflected beam of light the daily and hourly variations of the magnetic force of the earth; the magneto-electric machine; the locomotive differential pulley; an apparatus for measuring the velocity of vessels; and a metal-ruling machine. On his return to Philadelphia he became connected with the mint, and constructed the large standard balances in use in all the United States mints and assay offices.
In 1843 he removed to Washington, where he superintended the construction of standard balances, weights, and measures, and of different portions of the apparatus used in the operations of the coast survey, and invented an automatic instrument for recording the height of the tides.