Strange as it may seem, Whitney is considered one of the reasons for the Civil War in the US. Not he, to be more exact, but one of his inventions, the cotton separation machine, commonly known as the cotton gin. The machine made cotton much easier to process and increased the efficiency of cotton production in Southern US states. The cost effectiveness of slave ownership increased as well. Otherwise, according to scientists, slavery would have disappeared much earlier due to its inexpedience and there would have been no Civil War.
Whitney himself obtained no profit from the cotton gin, despite the legitimately obtained patent. The plantation owners could not care less about sophisticated laws and used the device at their own discretion and only for their own profit. The South brought no fame neither income to the inventor, and he went to the North, where he concluded a contract for the delivery of 10.000 muskets for the army – no less, no more! The lot took eight years to produce. At the same time, Eli Whitney introduced interchangeability of parts to the production process. It is hard to believe, but before Whitney, each musket was assembled individually, with each detail fitted to the rest. The engineer achieved a quality so high that each detail could be used in any musket. So, the next lot, of 15.000 muskets, was produced in two years. That is where rationalization can take you! In order to scale down the requirements to the workers’ qualification, Whitney invented the milling machine. It made work much easier, and the quality of parts became higher.