Eli Whitney (December 8, 1765 - January 8, 1825) was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South. Whitney's invention made upland short cotton into a profitable crop, which strengthened the economic foundation of slavery in the United States (regardless of whether Whitney intended that or not). Despite the social and economic impact of his invention, Whitney lost many profits in legal battles over patent infringement for the cotton gin. Thereafter, he turned his attention into securing contracts with the government in the manufacture of muskets for the newly formed continental army. He continued making arms and inventing until his death in 1825. Whitney was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, on December 8, 1765, the eldest child of Eli Whitney Sr., a prosperous farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Fay of Westborough. Although the younger Eli, born in 1765, could technically be called a Junior, history has never known him as such. He was famous during his lifetime and afterward by the name Eli Whitney. His son, born in 1820, also named Eli, was well known during his lifetime and afterward by the name "Eli Whitney, Jr."
Contributions by Gzuckier, TeaDrinker, and Noisy.