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The first modern recorded
The first modern recorded patent on ball bearings was awarded to Philip Vaughan, a British inventor and ironmaster who created the first design for a ball bearing in Carmarthen in 1794. His was the first modern ball-bearing design, with the ball running along a groove in the axle assembly.
Bearings have played a pivotal role in the nascent Industrial Revolution, allowing the new industrial machinery to operate efficiently. For example, they saw use for holding wheel and axle to greatly reduce friction over that of dragging an object by making the friction act over a shorter distance as the wheel turned.
The first plain and rolling-element bearings were wood closely followed by bronze. Over their history bearings have been made of many materials including ceramic, sapphire, glass, steel, bronze, other metals and plastic (e.g., nylon, polyoxymethylene, polytetrafluoroethylene, and UHMWPE) which are all used today.
Watch makers produce "jeweled" watches using sapphire plain bearings to reduce friction thus allowing more precise time keeping.
Even basic materials can have good durability. As examples, wooden bearings can still be seen today in old clocks or in water mills where the water provides cooling and lubrication.
Early Timken tapered roller bearing with notched rollers
The first patent for a radial style ball bearing was awarded to Jules Suriray, a Parisian bicycle mechanic, on 3 August 1869. The bearings were then fitted to the winning bicycle ridden by James Moore in the world's first bicycle road race, Paris-Rouen, in November 1869.
In 1883, Friedrich Fischer, founder of FAG, developed an approach for milling and grinding balls of equal size and exact roundness by means of a suitable production machine and formed the foundation for creation of an independent bearing industry.
Wingquist original patent of self-aligning ball bearing
The modern, self-aligning design of ball bearing is attributed to Sven Wingquist of the SKF ball-bearing manufacturer in 1907, when he was awarded Swedish patent No. 25406 on its design.
Henry Timken, a 19th-century visionary and innovator in carriage manufacturing, patented the tapered roller bearing in 1898. The following year he formed a company to produce his innovation. Over a century the company grew to make bearings of all types, including specialty steel and an array of related products and services.
Erich Franke invented and patented the wire race bearing in 1934. His focus was on a bearing design with a cross section as small as possible and which could be integrated into the enclosing design. After World War II he founded together with Gerhard Heydrich the company Franke & Heydrich KG (today Franke GmbH) to push the development and production of wire race bearings.
Richard Stribeck’s extensive research  on ball bearing steels identified the metallurgy of the commonly used 100Cr6 (AISI 52100)  showing coefficient of friction as a function of pressure.
Designed in 1968 and later patented in 1972, Bishop-Wisecarver's co-founder Bud Wisecarver created vee groove bearing guide wheels, a type of linear motion bearing consisting of both an external and internal 90-degree vee angle.[better source needed]
In the early 1980s, Pacific Bearing's founder, Robert Schroeder, invented the first bi-material plain bearing which was size interchangeable with linear ball bearings. This bearing had a metal shell (aluminum, steel or stainless steel) and a layer of Teflon-based material connected by a thin adhesive layer.
Today ball and roller bearings are used in many applications which include a rotating component. Examples include ultra high speed bearings in dental drills, aerospace bearings in the Mars Rover, gearbox and wheel bearings on automobiles, flexure bearings in optical alignment systems, bicycle wheel hubs, and air bearings used in Coordinate-measuring machines.
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