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Top 10 Scottish Inventors.

Biography of James Watt Inventor of The Steam Engine

Inventor: James Watt

Most Famous Invention: The Steam Engine


           James Watt was born on January 19, 1736, in Greenock, Scotland.  .He was a sickly child, plagued by migraines and toothaches.  Because of these afflictions, he started school a little later than most and was taught at home.  When his family finally sent him to a regular elementary school he excelled in mathematics. 

          As he grew older, James Watt learned the art of carpentry from his father, who was a master carpenter who worked mainly in building ships.  It was while he was working as an assistant to his father, that James Watt learned about the navigation aids that were used on ships, such things as quadrants, compasses and telescopes, with which he became fascinated.


James Watt

James Watt

          When he became a teenager and began thinking seriously of a career, James Watt expressed a desire to become a manufacturer of these kind of instruments.  Since there was no opportunity in Greenock to learn such skills, at the age of eighteen, Watt left home and finally ended up in London, England, searching for an opportunity to apprentice himself to a master of ship instrument making.  He finally managed to get himself apprenticed to a man by the name of John Morgan, who agreed to take him on with a one year apprenticeship, provided most of his pay would be in learning the skill, along with a small amount of money.  This turned out to be a good relationship for both of them.

          Watt went to Glasgow where eventually the University of Glasgow, seeing his tremendous skills at his trade, invented a position at the university just for him, Mathematical Instrument Maker to the University and gave him his own workshop.  Watt also worked on manufacturing musical instruments and made real improvements on the instruments that were then in use at that time.

          When we think of James Watt we are apt to think immediately of him as the inventor of the steam engine.  This is not completely true.  The original steam engine was invented by a man by the name of Newcomen however it was James Watt who took Newcomen’s invention which had been deemed impractical in it’s present state and improved upon it so that it became of practical use.  It took Watt two years to find the right solution to improving the steam engine.  He was actually the inventor of the first practical steam engine if not the first steam engine.  It was officially invented and patented in 1769.

          James Watt died in 1819, having lived to see his invention a tremendous success.


James Watt's steam engine

James Watt's steam engine

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