The Complete Guide to the TOEFL TEST passage4
Until the late 1700`s, metal could not be turned on a lathe (to make it uniformly smooth and round) because a machinist could not guide the cutting tool evenly (by hand against the turning piece). This problem was solved by the toolmaker David Wilkinson (of Pawtucket, Rhode Island). In 1798 he invented a machine tool in which the cutter was clamped onto a moveable slide (that could be advanced precisely, by hand crank, parallel to the work).
The slide rest lathe, (as it came to be called,) allowed the machinist to turn large pieces of metal very quickly and precisely. It permitted the manufacture of machine parts (that are so uniform) that they can be used interchangeably. Many people regard the slide rest lathe as one of the most important developments (in the production of machine tools). Woodworking, metalworking, toolmaking, and manufacturing were all revolutionized. Without this tool, mass production would not have been possible.