James Watt ( to ) | Archives of Soho | Birmingham City Council
Discover facts about the life of James Watt, the Scottish inventor and engineer In , Roebuck's interest was taken over by Matthew Boulton who owned an. He was educated at the Nonconformist academy run by John Hausted in Also in Boulton made the acquaintance of James Watt. Birmingham's College of Advanced Technology (CAT) became known as Matthew Boulton Technical College in , before turning into.
Places to visit Did you know? James Watt is featured on the largest silver medal coin in the World — the Europe Taler.
James Watt biography - Science Hall of Fame - National Library of Scotland
Watt represents the industrialisation of Europe and the age of technical innovation. James Watt Inventing the Watt steam engine, which converted steam back to water Developing a rotary engine which mechanised weaving, spinning and transport The term 'horsepower' The rev counter. James Watt was an inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements in steam engine technology drove the Industrial Revolution. Watt did not invent the steam engine.
Steam engines were already in existence, mainly being used to pump water out of mines. He made important changes to the design, increasing efficiency and making steam engines cheaper to run.
Early childhood James Watt was born in Greenock in He was not a healthy child and was educated at home for most of his early years. His father was a carpenter and shipwright who set himself up in business as a merchant and ship-owner. Watt liked to make models and repair nautical instruments in his father's workshop.James Watt's Genius: Boulton & Watt Rotative Beam Engine 1788
Engineering work in Scotland In Watt went to London to be an apprentice scientific instrument maker. He was a quick learner and mastered his craft in one year. First engines Main articles: Watt steam engineWatt's linkageand Watt's curve Inthe first engines were installed and working in commercial enterprises. These first engines were used to power pumps and produced only reciprocating motion to move the pump rods at the bottom of the shaft.
The design was commercially successful, and for the next five years Watt was very busy installing more engines, mostly in Cornwall for pumping water out of mines. These early engines were not manufactured by Boulton and Watt, but were made by others according to drawings made by Watt, who served in the role of consulting engineer. The erection of the engine and its shakedown was supervised by Watt, at first, and then by men in the firm's employ.
These were large machines. Boulton and Watt charged an annual payment, equal to one third of the value of the coal saved in comparison to a Newcomen engine performing the same work. The field of application for the invention was greatly widened when Boulton urged Watt to convert the reciprocating motion of the piston to produce rotational power for grinding, weaving and milling.
Although a crank seemed the obvious solution to the conversion Watt and Boulton were stymied by a patent for this, whose holder, James Pickardand associates proposed to cross-license the external condenser.
Watt adamantly opposed this and they circumvented the patent by their sun and planet gear in Over the next six years, he made a number of other improvements and modifications to the steam engine. A double acting engine, in which the steam acted alternately on the two sides of the piston was one.
He described methods for working the steam "expansively" i. A compound engine, which connected two or more engines was described. Two more patents were granted for these in and Numerous other improvements that made for easier manufacture and installation were continually implemented.
One of these included the use of the steam indicator which produced an informative plot of the pressure in the cylinder against its volume, which he kept as a trade secret. Another important invention, one which Watt was most proud of, was the parallel motion which was essential in double-acting engines as it produced the straight line motion required for the cylinder rod and pump, from the connected rocking beam, whose end moves in a circular arc. This was patented in A throttle valve to control the power of the engine, and a centrifugal governorpatented in to keep it from "running away" were very important.
These improvements taken together produced an engine which was up to five times as efficient in its use of fuel as the Newcomen engine. By he had started making engines of his own design, but which contained a separate condenser, and so infringed Watt's patents.
Others began to modify Newcomen engines by adding a condenser, and the mine owners in Cornwall became convinced that Watt's patent could not be enforced. They started to withhold payments due to Boulton and Watt, which by had fallen.
James Watt (1736 - 1819)
Watt was forced to go to court to enforce his claims. The jury found for Watt, but the question of whether or not the original specification of the patent was valid was left to another trial. In the meantime, injunctions were issued against the infringers, forcing their payments of the royalties to be placed in escrow. The trial on determining the validity of the specifications which was held in the following year was inconclusive, but the injunctions remained in force and the infringers, except for Jonathan Hornblower, all began to settle their cases.
Hornblower was soon brought to trial and the verdict of the four judges in was decisively in favour of Watt. Their friend John Wilkinson, who had solved the problem of boring an accurate cylinder, was a particularly grievous case. He had erected about twenty engines without Boulton's and Watts' knowledge.
They finally agreed to settle the infringement in These trials were extremely costly in both money and time, but ultimately were successful for the firm. Circa Before there was no good method for making copies of letters or drawings. The only method sometimes used was a mechanical one using linked multiple pens.
Watt at first experimented with improving this method, but soon gave up on this approach because it was so cumbersome. He instead decided to try to physically transfer some ink from the front of the original to the back of another sheet, moistened with a solvent, and pressed to the original.
The second sheet had to be thin, so that the ink could be seen through it when the copy was held up to the light, thus reproducing the original exactly. All of these required much experimentation, but he soon had enough success to patent the process a year later. Watt formed another partnership with Boulton who provided financing and James Keir to manage the business in a firm called James Watt and Co.
The perfection of the invention required much more development work before it could be routinely used by others, but this was carried out over the next few years. Boulton and Watt gave up their shares to their sons in Chemical experiments From an early age Watt was very interested in chemistry.
In latewhile in Paris, he witnessed an experiment by Berthollet in which he reacted hydrochloric acid with manganese dioxide to produce chlorine.
He had already found that an aqueous solution of chlorine could bleach textiles, and had published his findings, which aroused great interest among many potential rivals. When Watt returned to Britain, he began experiments along these lines with hopes of finding a commercially viable process.
He discovered that a mixture of salt, manganese dioxide and sulphuric acid could produce chlorine, which Watt believed might be a cheaper method. He passed the chlorine into a weak solution of alkali, and obtained a turbid solution that appeared to have good bleaching properties. He soon communicated these results to James McGrigor, his father-in-law, who was a bleacher in Glasgow. Otherwise he tried to keep his method a secret.
About this time Berthollet discovered the salt and sulphuric acid process, and published it so it became public knowledge. Many others began to experiment with improving the process, which still had many shortcomings, not the least of which was the problem of transporting the liquid product. Watt's rivals soon overtook him in developing the process, and he dropped out of the race. It was not untilwhen Charles Tennant patented a process for producing solid bleaching powder calcium hypochlorite that it became a commercial success.
By Watt had been chosen by Thomas Beddoes to manufacture apparatus to produce, clean and store gases for use in the new Pneumatic Institution at Hotwells in Bristol. Watt continued to experiment with various gases for several years, but by the medical uses for the "factitious airs" had come to a dead end.
Humphry Davy said of him "Those who consider James Watt only as a great practical mechanic form a very erroneous idea of his character; he was equally distinguished as a natural philosopher and a chemist, and his inventions demonstrate his profound knowledge of those sciences, and that peculiar characteristic of genius, the union of them for practical application". Watt was a prolific correspondent. During his years in Cornwallhe wrote long letters to Boulton several times per week. He was averse to publishing his results in, for example, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society however, and instead preferred to communicate his ideas in patents.
In a letter to William Small inWatt confessed that "he would rather face a loaded cannon than settle an account or make a bargain. His health was often poor. He was subject to frequent nervous headaches and depression. Soho Foundry At first the partnership made the drawing and specifications for the engines, and supervised the work to erect it on the customers property. They produced almost none of the parts themselves. Gradually the partners began to actually manufacture more and more of the parts, and by they purchased a property about a mile away from the Soho manufactory, on the banks of the Birmingham Canalto establish a new foundry for the manufacture of the engines.
Inthe year of Watt's retirement, the firm made a total of forty-one engines. Longtime firm engineer William Murdoch was soon made a partner and the firm prospered.
Watt continued to invent other things before and during his semi-retirement. Within his home in HandsworthStaffordshire, Watt made use of a garret room as a workshop, and it was here that he worked on many of his inventions. He maintained his interest in civil engineering and was a consultant on several significant projects.
He proposed, for example, a method for constructing a flexible pipe to be used for pumping water under the Clyde at Glasgow. In he took a trip on the paddle-steamer Cometa product of his inventions, to revisit his home town of Greenock.
The church has since been extended and his grave is now inside the church. Murdoch's contributions William Murdoch joined Boulton and Watt in At first he worked in the pattern shop in Soho, but soon he was erecting engines in Cornwall. He became an important part of the firm and made many contributions to its success.
A very able man, he made several important inventions on his own. John Griffiths, who wrote a biography  of him inhas argued that Watt's discouraging Murdoch from working with high pressure steam Watt rightly believed that boilers of the time would be unsafe on his steam road locomotive experiments delayed its development.
Murdoch was made a partner of the firm inwhere he remained until his retirement 20 years later at the age of Industrial revolution James Watt's improvements to the steam engine "converted it from a prime mover of marginal efficiency into the mechanical workhorse of the Industrial Revolution".
In inventing the locomotive, Watt and Stephenson were part inventors of time. In he was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburghand was elected as a member of the Batavian Society for Experimental Philosophyof Rotterdam in In he was elected to the elite group, the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers.