James Watt 1736 - 1819

Scottish; British
born in:
Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

1736 - James Watt was born in Greenock outside of Glasgow. He was a mechanical engineer and inventor. He made improvements in steam engine technology, increasing its efficiency and making steam engines cheaper to run.

In 1755, Watt moved to London for a year to work as an apprentice to a scientific instrument maker. He returned to Glasgow in 1757 at age 19 and set up his own mathematical-instrument making business. He was employed on the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Caledonian Canal and was involved with the deepening of Scottish rivers including the Clyde and the Forth.

In 1767, after repairing a model of a Newcomen steam engine, Watt could see how much steam was wasted in the design. He began work on improving the Newcomen steam engine to make it more efficient by using a separate chamber to condense steam without cooling the rest of the engine. He patented his design in 1769. It was called, 'A New Invented Method of Lessening the Consumption of Steam and Fuel in Fire Engines.'

In 1774 Watt relocated to Birmingham and with backing from investor Matthew Boulton, Watt began to manufacture his improved steam engine design. The new design was a huge success and demand for the engines was high from paper mills, flour mills, cottom mills, iron mills, distilleries, canals and waterworks. His invention contributed significantly to the Industrial Revolution.

Watt had other inventions as well including the rotary engine and a steam locomotive.

Watt was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1785) and Edinburgh (1784).

1754 - arrived in Glasgow. 1755 - arrived in London. 1756 - returned to Scotland. 1763 - acquired a financial interest in the Delftfield Pottery Company in Glasgow. 1760s - began experiments on the force of steam in a Papin's digester. 1768 - meets Boulton. 1769 - involved in survey of River Clyde and patented his steam engine design. 1785 - patented a smoke-consuming furnace. 1800 - retired. Father of James Watt (1769-1848)