James Watt, one of the most well-known names of the Industrial Revolution, is credited with some of the most important ideas that lead to inventions of the modern age. He built the first steam engine that could be used for industrial purposes and helped develop engines that run on steam to be used for many different things.
1. Improvements on the Steam Engine
The Industrial Revolution was a time of great thinking and dramatic change in a short amount of time. While it wasn’t Watt who first invented the steam engine, he improved it to the point that it could actually be used in daily activities. Watt made improvements to the steam engine which made it much more versatile and gave it a much higher capacity.
2. Born in Greenock, Scotland
Watt was born in 1736 in Greenock, Scotland and lived there for many years. He worked as a mathematical instrument maker beginning when he was 19 years old and then started gaining interest in improving the steam engine. The steam engine was actually invented by Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen, but Watt made significant improvements to the engine.
3. First Patent
Watt started studying the properties of steam and realized that the current design of the steam engine was extremely inefficient and that lots of the energy from the steam was lost in the process. He determined that it would be better to have the steam condensed in a separate chamber from the cylinder. Watt’s first patent on this new design was awarded in 1769 and he became a legend soon after. His patent included providing ways to keep the internal parts of the engine very hot to ensure that the energy of the steam wasn’t lost in the process.
4. Partnering with John Roebuck
Watt worked as a partner with another British inventor, John Roebuck. Roebuck helped finance Watt’s efforts but soon lost interest in his work. Roebuck took more interest in Matthew Boulton, the owner of Soho Engineering Works.
5. Many Important Inventions
Watt patented the improved steam engine but was also the owner of patents on several other very important inventions. He also developed the rotary engine that was used in many different applications. His inventions included the double action engine which injected steam into both ends of the cylinder to make it more efficient. Watt retired from his position at his company and devoted himself entirely to researching after 1800.
6. The Watt
The watt, which is a common unit of measurement in electrical and mechanical power, was named after Watt. Most electrical devices used today have capacity measured in watts. This is particularly true of devices which emit sound.
7. Noted Civil Engineer
Watt was also a noted civil engineer. His contributions to making several surveys of canal routes were also very significant. His life was devoted to education and he was always looking for new ways to improve upon inventions that were already being used by other people. Despite the fact that he didn’t actually invent the steam engine, his contributions to the industry and to the Industrial Revolution were still very significant.
8. Sharing His Ideas
Watt was known to be very enthusiastic about inventing and was always excited to share the ideas he had with other people. He believed that everything could be improved upon. This is one of the most important ideas of entrepreneurship and Watt is considered one of the first true entrepreneurs.
9. Many Honors
Watts was given many honors in his life and was a very important public figure. He was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and also the Royal Society of London. He was also one of only 8 foreign associates admitted into the French Academy of Sciences.
10. Homage to Watt
Many monuments in Scotland remember and pay homage to Watt. The James Watt Memorial Library is in Greenock and several streets are also named after him.