Fascinating facts about James Watt
and his improvements to the steam engine in 1769.
AT A GLANCE:
James Watt's improvements in 1769 and 1784 to the steam engine
converted a machine of limited use, to one of efficiency and many
applications. It was the foremost energy source in the emerging
Industrial Revolution, and greatly multiplied its productive capacity.
Watt was a creative genius who radically transformed the world from an
agricultural society into an industrial one. Through Watt’s invention of
the first practical steam engine, our modern world eventually moved from
a 90% rural basis to a 90% urban basis.
WHERE TO FIND
HOW IT WORKS
DID YOU KNOW?
||January 19, 1736, in
||August 19, 1819 in
engine improvements in 1769
that converts the heat energy of pressurized steam into mechanical
energy, especially one in which steam drives a piston in a closed
1754: Learned the trade of
mathematical-instrument making in London before returning to Glasgow
1763: Repaired a Newcomen steam engine, started him thinking about ways
to improve the engine.
1767 Iinvented an attachment that adapted telescopes for use in
measurement of distances
1769: Patented separate condensing chamber for steam engine.
1774: Started a business with Matthew Boulton to manufacture his
improved Watt steam engine.
1781: Converted reciprocal engine motion to rotary motion.
1782: Invented double-acting engine.
1784: Patented a steam locomotive.
1788: Adapted centrifugal governor for use on the steam engine.
CAP: Watt, James Watt, Thomas Savery, Thomas Newcome, Matthew Boulton,
John Roebuck, ARY, steam engine, Newcomen's engine, watt, horsepower, industrial revolution,
SIP, history, biography, inventor, invention.
Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer, renowned for his
improvements of the steam engine. Watt was born on January 19, 1736, in Greenock,
Scotland. He worked as a mathematical-instrument maker from the age of 19 and soon became
interested in improving the steam engines, invented by the English engineers Thomas Savery
and Thomas Newcomen, which were used at the time to pump water from mines.
determined the properties of steam, especially the relation of its density to its
temperature and pressure, and designed a separate condensing chamber for the steam engine
that prevented enormous losses of steam in the cylinder and enhanced the vacuum
conditions. Watt's first patent, in 1769, covered this device and other improvements on
Newcomen's engine, such as steam-jacketing, oil lubrication, and insulation of the
cylinder in order to maintain the high temperatures necessary for maximum efficiency.
At this time, Watt was the partner of the British inventor John Roebuck, who had
financed his researches. In 1775, however, Roebuck's interest was taken over by British
manufacturer Matthew Boulton, owner of the Soho Engineering Works at Birmingham, and he
and Watt began the manufacture of steam engines. Watt continued his research and patented
several other important inventions, including the rotary engine for driving various types
of machinery; the double-action engine, in which steam is admitted alternately into both
ends of the cylinder; and the steam indicator, which records the steam pressure in the
engine. He retired from the firm in 1800 and thereafter devoted himself entirely to
The misconception that Watt was the actual inventor of the steam engine arose from the
fundamental nature of his contributions to its development. The centrifugal or flyball
governor, which he invented in 1788, and which automatically regulated the speed of an
engine, is of particular interest today. It embodies the feedback principle of a
servomechanism, linking output to input, which is the basic concept of automation. The
electrical unit, the watt, was named in his honor. Watt was also a renowned civil
engineer, making several surveys of canal routes. He invented, in 1767, an attachment that
adapted telescopes for use in measurement of distances. Watt coined the term horsepower.
Watt died in Heathfield, England, on August 19, 1819.
By the time he died, he'd changed history and was the most honored
engineer who had ever lived.
Energy History from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
History of Mechanical Inventions
by Abbott Payson Usher / Paperback: 450 pages / Dover Pub.; Rev. ed edition (1988)
This completely revised and updated classic explores
the importance of technological innovation in the cultural and economic
history of the West. Specific topics include development of technology of
textile manufacture from primitive times, water wheels and wind mills,
development of clocks and watches, invention of printing, machine tools and
The History of Science and Technology
by Bryan Bunch, Alexander Hellemans / Hardcover: 768 pages / Houghton Mifflin Company; (2004)
Highly browsable yet richly detailed, expertly researched and indexed,
The History of Science and Technology is the perfect desktop reference
for both the science novice and the technologically advanced reader
The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture
by John H. Lienhard / Paperback: 272 pages / Oxford University Press, USA
(December 4, 2003)
Based on episodes from Lienhard's widely
broadcast public radio series, this intriguing set of essays begins with a
simple premise: more than we care to admit, our lives are shaped by
James Watt (1736-1819)
James Watt (1736-1819
A Scottish instrument maker, mechanical engineer and inventor, who
contributed to the Industrial Revolution with his improvements of the steam
engine. A student ThinkQuest project.
Watt's Perfect Engine : Steam and the Age of Invention
by Ben Marsden / Hardcover: 224 pages / Columbia University Press (January
This book reveals how James Watt -- inventor of the separate-condenser steam
engine -- became an icon fit for an age of industry and invention. Watt has
become synonymous with the spirit of invention, while his last name has long
been immortalized as the very measurement of power.
Master of the Steam Engine
by Anna Sproule / School & Library Binding: 64 pages / Blackbirch Marketing;
Contains vital biographical information with a chronology, glossary, bibliography,
indes, and web sites for additional information. Interesting text with illustrations.
Steam: A History of the Stationary Steam Engine
by Richard L. Hills / Paperback: 356 pages Cambridge University Press; Reprint
This is the first comprehensive history of the steam engine in fifty years. It
follows the development of reciprocating steam engines, from their earliest forms to the
beginning of the twentieth century when they were replaced by steam turbines.
ON THE WEB:
James Watt by Andrew Carnegie
Electronic text of this historic document.
Steam Engine Invention
This site consists of 48 pages concerning the men and the events which led
to the steam engine invention. In addition to a brief explanation, each
chapter has animations, diagrams and pictures which describe each steam
Biography of James Watt
In 1754 Watt went to Glasgow, Scotland and became
acquainted with Robert Dick through a relative who worked at the
University of Glasgow. Robert Dick, a University scientist, was
impressed with Watt's basic skills at instrument making, but recognized
the need for special training. By Carl Lira.
James Watt College
James Watt College of Further and Higher Education is the largest college in Scotland and
one of the most progressive and dynamic colleges in the country.
By 1790 Watt was a wealthy man, having received £76 000 (English pounds) in royalties on
his patents in eleven years. Article presented by the BBC.
of Our Ingenuity
WATT'S TIME OF ASHES
Episode 922. by John H. Lienhard.
Available in text or audio.
Dictionary of Units of Measurement
The dictionary has become a kind of interactive resource. It grows slowly
and steadily, mostly through suggestions from readers and my efforts to
answer questions posed by readers.
The watt (W), the SI unit of power,
honors James Watt (1736-1819), the British engineer who built the first
practical steam engines. Presented by
Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
WHERE TO FIND:
Midwest Model VI Steam Engine Kit - Wood
eHobbies / Model
- MID 0980 - 980 /
ASIN: B0006N6OQA / Less than
Constructed of brass and copper components, the Model VI Steam Engine Kit
will run for 10 15 minutes using 'sterno' for fuel. Intended for
intermediate level modelers, this kit requires some soldering experience and
is not recommended for young modelers
WORDS OF WISDOM:
"There is a small steam engine in his brain
which not only sets the cerebral mass in motion, but keeps the owner in hot
water." - Anonymous, New York Weekly Mirror (July 5, 1845).
HOW IT WORKS:
animated version of the final Watt engine worked in 1778, and it
consumed 1/3 of the steam that the Newcomen engine used. POP-UP ADS.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The electrical unit, the watt, was
named in his honor.
- Watt was the first person who coined
the term horsepower.
- There are 4 colleges named after him
in Scotland, James Watt College in Kilwinning (North Ayrshire Campus)
and Greenock (2 in Greenock, Finnart Campus and Waterfront Campus) and
a campus in Largs.
- There are over 50 roads or streets
named after him, in the UK.
Through Watt’s invention of
the first practical steam engine, our modern world eventually moved
from a 90% rural basis to a 90% urban basis.
trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Sources in BOLD Type.
page revised September 12, 2006.
Berners-Lee's invention has revolutionized the world like nothing
The invention of the Internet,
should be classed with the greatest events of the 20th Century.
The Aero Sport All-Terrain Bed
with Dual Power Pump is the perfect addition to any camping trip or weekend
book, is the perfect desktop reference for both the science novice and the
technologically advanced reader alike.
CELEBRATE WITH US
Help us improve!