James Watt is an Eighteenth Century engineer chiefly remembered for pioneering work on steam power
When and Where was he Born?
19th January 1736. Greenock, Strathclyde, Scotland.
James Watt was the son of the Treasurer and Magistrate of Greenock, who was also a successful ship and house builder.
By his mother then local grammar school. Glasgow University.
Chronology/Biography of James Watt:
1753: Goes to Glasgow to become a maker of mathematical instruments.
1755: Watt moves to London to try and become an apprentice to an instrument maker.
1757: Returns to Glasgow where he works as an instrument maker at the University.
1759: Watt opens a shop in Saltmarket, Glasgow selling instruments and toys.
1764: He repairs a non-working model of the Newcomen steam engine which developed his interest in steam.
1765: He fits the Newcomen Engine with a separate condenser unit to increase its power.
1767: Watt employed as a surveyor for the Forth and Clyde Canal.
1768: Builds a prototype of his new improved stream engine with his partner John Roebuck.
1769: Patented “A New Invented Method of Lessening the Consumption of Steam and Fuel in Fire Engines.
1772: Partnership with Roebuck broke up.
1774: Watt left Scotland for Birmingham.
1775: Entered into a new partnership this time with Matthew Boulton of Birmingham whom he had already been introduced to by William Small.
1776: Boulton and Watt build two new steam engines.
1781: Watt invented a rotary motion device to be fitted to his engine.
1782: Took out a patent on a double acting engine where the piston both pushes and pulls.
1783: The unit of Horse Power was experimentally calculated by Watt and his name was later to be used as a unit of power.
1784: Although he described steam locomotion in one of his Patents he dissuaded William Murdock from investigating this further.
1785: Both Boulton and Watt were elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of London.
1786: Watt invented the centrifugal governor which automated the speed of an engine for the first time.
1790: Watt invented a reliable pressure gauge for his engines.
1796: Richard Trevithick visits the Soho Foundry.
1800: Retires from the Boulton and Watt company but pursues other interests.
- 1764: To his cousin Margaret Miller (died 1773).
- 1776: To Ann MacGregor.
Places of Interest:
Soho House, Handsworth
Birmingham Central Library, Archives Department
Statue of Watt outside old Central Library (now removed due to building works)
When and Where did he Die?
25th August 1819. Heathfield House, Handsworth, Birmingham, England.
Age at Death:
Site of Grave:
St. Mary’s Church, Handsworth, Birmingham, England.