The Cotton gin is a machine invented in 1793 purportedly by American Eli Whitney (granted a patent on March 14, 1794) to mechanize the production of cotton fiber. The machine quickly and easily separates the cotton fibers from the seedpods and the sometimes sticky seeds. It uses a combination of a wire screen and small wire hooks to pull the cotton through the screen, while brushes continuously remove the loose cotton lint to prevent jams.
The traditional account of Whitney's invention of the gin tells of his being inspired by the sight of a cat clawing a chicken through the slatted walls of its coop and retrieving a paw full of feathers.
There exists controversy over whether the idea of the cotton gin and its constituent elements can rightly be attributed to Eli Whitney; unresolved is whether or not Catherine Littlefield Greene should be credited with the invention of the cotton gin, or at least its inception.
It is known that she associated with Eli Whitney (along with other historical figures such as George and Martha Washington). Additional credence is lent by the fact that women were not allowed patents in American antiquity.
Small cotton gins were hand-powered; larger ones were harnessed to horses or water wheels.
The cotton gin revolutionized the cotton-growing industry because it vastly increased the quantity of cotton that could be processed in a day. This made the widespread raising of cotton profitable in the American South, and is often considered to have greatly increased the demand for slave labor.
The word gin in "cotton gin" is unrelated to the drink called gin; it is related to the word engine and means "device".
To learn more about the cotton gin you can read books on the subject. Try the Cotton Gin Books at Amazon for a start.