Inventor: James Watt
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.
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.
Watt's steam engine