Who Invented the Steam Engine: James Watt (1736-1819) was the inventor of the steam engine in 1769. This invention enabled the creation and expansion of the railroad and revolutionized transportation.
If the contributions of others of the geniuses were decisive for introducing new concepts that, in their practical application, altered the course of history, the one of this Scottish engineer and inventor was the direct and immediate cause of a whole Revolution: the Industrial one of the XVIII and XIX centuries.
Who Invented the Steam Engine?
His steam engine, patented in 1769, had an important role to move essential devices and mechanisms in the nascent industry -pumps and engines in all kinds of factories- and was the foundation of the steam locomotive and, consequently, the railroad, without which the world we know today would never have existed.
Although purely Watt did not “invent” such the machine of which there are antecedents as remote as the eolipile of Heron of Alexandria, in the first century- he was the creator of the first perfected ingenuity of this type that had lots of useful applications.
It was based on the machine designed in 1712 by the blacksmith Thomas Newcomen, who had been using since then to pump water in the coal and tin mines of Cornwall. Watt perfected it by integrating into the machinery a separate capacitor that avoided the loss of energy and increased power, as well as a rotary motor that expanded its possibilities of use.
James Watt studied mechanical engineering in London, after which he settled in Glasgow and devoted himself for years to the sale of mathematical instruments (rules, squads, compasses …) that he himself designed and manufactured.
His friendship with Joseph Black, introducer of the concept of latent heat, put him in contact with the Newcomen machines and soon he realized the great amount of energy that was wasted.
Watt spent years trying to solve the issue and in 1766 he managed to create a capacitor model separate from the cylinder; consequently, in 1768 he gave birth to his steam engine, whose success made him a wealthy businessman and earned him an entry in 1785 into the prestigious Royal Society.
The steam engine opened the way
A few years after the death of Newton, England took the first steps towards the Industrial Revolution, the greatest economic and social change since the Neolithic Revolution.
Its pillars were liberalism and the right of ownership over land, industrial means and goods produced. This property right was extended to the inventors, who could patent new machines that facilitated the advance of industrialism.
And among those advances stood out the steam engine, devised by James Watt in 1769, a device that drove the railroad and gave wings to a spectacular technological, economic, and social change that shaped the world we know today.
Watt designed his machine while working as an appliance repairman in the Physics Department of the University of Edinburgh. Later, he developed an articulated arm that could perform rotating movements, which announced the arrival of machines capable of moving all kinds of mechanisms. With his capitalist partner Matthew Boulton, Watt maintained a monopoly on the construction of all kinds of steam artifacts for half a century.
His invention allowed extracting coal and power looms and facilitated the construction of locomotives and steamships, new means that revolutionized transportation systems in the nineteenth century.
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