James Watt (1736-1819)

James Watt

1736 James Watt was born on the 19th of January, in Greenock, Scotland, United Kingdom, within a carpenter’s family. He was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements to the Newcomen steam engine were fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world. During his fruitful life, James Watt did many discoveries and boosted the move to introduce a new uniform system of weights and measures.

During school he was interested in Physics-Mathematics, having poor results to the other subjects. He would have liked to attend university, but the family could not afford this. After many hesitations, he decided to learn fine mechanics, a job that would not have exhausted him, as his health was not well.

1754 He started to learn at Glasgow optics and mechanics.

1755 After only one year of studying, he left to a manufacturer of mathematical instruments, Morgan, at London, where he learned a lot of things and was revealed by the precision and ability he did all his tasks.

1757 He received a place to University in Glasgow as a mechanic. There he found a well equipped Physics cabinet, fact that was a condition to continue his studies and do the experiences. The idea of steam engine started to concern Watt after the first two years spent to University, without results at the beginning.

1765 When he was asked to fix Newcomen’s type of steam engine, he not only repaired it, but also endeavoured to improve it. He noticed that the steam from car’s boiler was enough only for few moves of the key bugle, and then the car must have waited until the steam was formed in the boiler. He focused on this thing for few weeks and found the solution of the problem: steam must not be formed directly in the boiler, but separately, in other receptacle connected to the steam cylinder. Watt invented the capacitor by warming the cylinder at both valve ends, double-acting steam engine.

1769 Because of financial problems, Watt got associated with Dr. Roebuck. He got the patent for the “new way of reducing the consumption of steam and fuel in fire vehicles”, but the device built after the patent did not work. Not only the imperfection of gaskets from the ties between different parts of the machine was guilty, but also the material’s quality. Watt broke up with his partner who gave his share to manufacturer Boulton. Watt found out support to this man regarding his experiences and inventions, in a short time becoming his consociate to the new “Boulton and Watt” steam machines factory. Watt was working tirelessly to improve the invention that had offered so many disappointments.

1775 He succeeded to do the most important thing – steam cylinder which really worked so that the factory could have produced the first steam-engine and after a year other two. The machines were a real success and the factory was preparing for mass production.

1782 He added a fly-wheel to steam-engine.

1784 He also added a centrifugal throttle to steam-engine.

1785 His co-worker, Murdock, built a distributor for cylinder’s steam and so the evolution of the first steam-engine that could have been used was finished.

For his merits, towards the end of his life, Watt got much honour. The most important are represented by the fact that he was elected member of French Academy of Sciences, of Royal Society in London, Doctor Honoris Causa of University in Glasgow and so on. He married twice. During the first marriage he had five children and two during the last but these died early. Shortly before dying, he was given the noble title, but Watt refused. He remained faithful to his humble origin and to the creative worked his loved more than everything else.

1819 On the 19th of August he died, at Heathfield.

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