Tuesday, January 19, 2010

James Watt

'the most profound man of science, the most successful combiner of powers and calculator of numbers, as adapted to practical purposes' is how Walter Scott described James Watt.  Born on January 19, 1736, in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Watt showed an aptitude for mathematics and mechanics early in his life. 

Watt studied instrument making in London around 1754, then returned to Glasgow, intent on making this his career.  His application was blocked by the Glasgow Guild of Hammermen.  Instead, Watt gained employment at the University of Glasgow.  The University at one point (1763) asked him to fix a Newcomen engine, and while doing so, Watt employed a separate condenser to generate steam power.  The development of the Watt Steam Engine spurred the industrial revolution.

Development of Watt's invention was funded by his friend John Roebuck, who owned the Carron Iron Works.  Roebuck ran into financial difficulty in the early 1770's, and sold his interest in Watt's invention to Matthew Boulton of the Soho Works, who successfully developed Watt's engine.  Watt moved to Birmingham in 1774, working and living there for the next 45 years.

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