Eli Whitney (December 8, 1765 - January 8, 1825) was an American inventor who created the first cotton gin in 1793 (patented on March 14, 1794), which removed the seeds from cotton, which until that time was extremely labor intensive work.
Whitney invented the American System of manufacturing, and the assembly line, and was first to use them when he won a contract with the U.S. Government to create muskets. Whitney's concepts were later exploited by Henry Ford and others in manufacturing industry.
Born in Westboro, Massachusetts, he graduated from Yale College in 1792. While his ideas were innovative and useful, they were so easy to understand and reproduce that the concepts and designs were duplicated by others. Whitney's company that produced cotton gins went out of business in 1797.
He never patented his later inventions, one of which was a milling machine.