Josiah Wedgwood (12 July 1730 – 3 January 1795) was an English potter and entrepreneur. He founded the Wedgwood company. He is credited with the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery; "it was by intensifying the division of labour that Wedgwood brought about the reduction of cost which enabled his pottery to find markets in all parts of Britain, and also of Europe and America." The renewed classical enthusiasms of the late 1760s and early 1770s were of major importance to his sales promotion. His expensive goods were in much demand from the nobility, while he used emulation effects to market cheaper sets to the rest of society. Every new invention that Wedgwood produced – green glaze, creamware, black basalt and jasper – was quickly copied. Having once achieved perfection in production, he achieved perfection in sales and distribution. His showrooms in London gave the public the chance to see his complete range of tableware.
Meeting the demands of the consumer revolution and growth in wealth of the middle classes that helped drive the Industrial Revolution in Britain, Wedgwood is credited as the inventor of modern marketing. He pioneered direct mail, money back guarantees, travelling salesmen, carrying pattern boxes for display, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, and illustrated catalogues.
A prominent abolitionist, Wedgwood is remembered too for his "Am I Not a Man And a Brother?" anti-slavery medallion. He was a member of the Darwin–Wedgwood family, and he was the grandfather of Charles and Emma Darwin.
Born in Burslem, Staffordshire, the eleventh and last child of potter Thomas Wedgwood (d. 1739) and Mary Wedgwood (née Stringer; d. 1766), Josiah was raised within a family of English Dissenters, he was the grandson of a Unitarian minister and was an active Unitarian. By the age of nine, he was proving himself to be a skilled potter. He survived a childhood bout of smallpox to serve as an apprentice potter under his eldest brother Thomas Wedgwood IV. Smallpox left Josiah with a permanently weakened knee, which made him unable to work the foot pedal of a potter's wheel. As a result, he concentrated from an early age on designing pottery and then making it with the input of other potters. The pottery created in his father's and brother's business was inexpensive and low quality, black and mottled in color.
In his early twenties, Wedgwood began working with the most renowned English pottery-maker of his day, Thomas Whieldon, who eventually became his business partner in 1754. Wedgwood also began to study the new science of chemistry, seeking to understand the materials science of fire, clay, and minerals and to develop better clays and glazes for potter-making. Following an accident in 1762, Wedgwood met Joseph Priestley, another Dissenter and a chemist who gave Wedgwood advice on chemistry. Wedgwood's experimentation with a wide variety of techniques coincided with the burgeoning of the nearby industrial city of Manchester. Inspired, Wedgwood leased the Ivy Works in the town of Burslem. From 1768 to 1780 he partnered with Thomas Bentley, a potter of sophistication and astute taste. Over the course of the next decade, his experimentation (and a considerable injection of capital from his marriage to a richly endowed distant cousin) transformed the sleepy artisan works into the first true pottery factory.
In January 1764 Wedgwood married Sarah Wedgwood (1734–1815), his third cousin. They had eight children:
Wedgwood was keenly interested in the scientific advances of his day and it was this interest that underpinned his adoption of its approach and methods to revolutionize the quality of his pottery. His unique glazes began to distinguish his wares from anything else on the market.