James Watt was a Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist who improved on Thomas Newcomen's 1712 Newcomen steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1776, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.
59 Facts About James Watt
James Watt realised that contemporary engine designs wasted a great deal of energy by repeatedly cooling and reheating the cylinder.
James Watt introduced a design enhancement, the separate condenser, which avoided this waste of energy and radically improved the power, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of steam engines.
James Watt attempted to commercialise his invention, but experienced great financial difficulties until he entered a partnership with Matthew Boulton in 1775.
The new firm of Boulton and James Watt was eventually highly successful and James Watt became a wealthy man.
James Watt's mother came from a distinguished family, was well educated and said to be of forceful character, while his father was a shipwright, ship owner and contractor, and served as the Greenock's chief baillie in 1751.
James Watt's parents were Presbyterians and strong Covenanters, but despite his religious upbringing he later became a deist.
James Watt's grandfather, Thomas James Watt, was a teacher of mathematics, surveying and navigation and baillie to the Baron of Cartsburn.
James Watt is said to have suffered prolonged bouts of ill-health as a child and from frequent headaches all his life.
When he was 18, James Watt's mother died and his father's health began to fail.
James Watt travelled to London and was able to obtain a period of training as an instrument maker for a year, then returned to Scotland, settling in the major commercial city of Glasgow, intent on setting up his own instrument-making business.
James Watt was still very young and, having not had a full apprenticeship, did not have the usual connections via a former master to establish himself as a journeyman instrument maker.
James Watt was saved from this impasse by the arrival from Jamaica of astronomical instruments bequeathed by Alexander MacFarlane to the University of Glasgow - instruments that required expert attention.
James Watt made and repaired brass reflecting quadrants, parallel rulers, scales, parts for telescopes, and barometers, among other things.
James Watt did not actually invent the steam engine, as the story implies, but dramatically improved the efficiency of the existing Newcomen engine by adding a separate condenser.
In trying to understand the thermodynamics of heat and steam, James Watt carried out many laboratory experiments and his diaries record that in conducting these, he used a kettle as a boiler to generate steam.
James Watt began to experiment with steam, though he had never seen an operating steam engine.
James Watt tried constructing a model; it failed to work satisfactorily, but he continued his experiments and began to read everything he could about the subject.
In 1763, James Watt was asked to repair a model Newcomen engine belonging to the university.
Roebuck lived at Kinneil House in Bo'ness, during which time James Watt worked at perfecting his steam engine in a cottage adjacent to the house.
The design was commercially successful, and for the next 5 years, James Watt was very busy installing more engines, mostly in Cornwall, for pumping water out of mines.
The field of application for the invention was greatly widened when Boulton urged James Watt to convert the reciprocating motion of the piston to produce rotational power for grinding, weaving and milling.
James Watt adamantly opposed this and they circumvented the patent by their sun and planet gear in 1781.
James Watt was forced to go to court to enforce his claims.
James Watt had erected about 20 engines without Boulton's and Watts' knowledge.
Boulton and James Watt never collected all that was owed them, but the disputes were all settled directly between the parties or through arbitration.
James Watt instead decided to try to physically transfer ink from the front of the original to the back of another sheet, moistened with a solvent, and pressed to the original.
James Watt started to develop the process in 1779, and made many experiments to formulate the ink, select the thin paper, to devise a method for wetting the special thin paper, and to make a press suitable for applying the correct pressure to effect the transfer.
Boulton and James Watt gave up their shares to their sons in 1794.
From an early age, James Watt was very interested in chemistry.
James Watt 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 James Watt returned to Britain, he began experiments along these lines with hopes of finding a commercially viable process.
James Watt discovered that a mixture of salt, manganese dioxide and sulphuric acid could produce chlorine, which Watt believed might be a cheaper method.
James Watt passed the chlorine into a weak solution of alkali, and obtained a turbid solution that appeared to have good bleaching properties.
James Watt soon communicated these results to James McGrigor, his father-in-law, who was a bleacher in Glasgow.
James Watt continued to experiment with various gases, but by 1797, the medical uses for the "factitious airs" had come to a dead end.
James Watt combined theoretical knowledge of science with the ability to apply it practically.
James Watt was greatly respected by other prominent men of the Industrial Revolution.
James Watt was an important member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, and was a much sought-after conversationalist and companion, always interested in expanding his horizons.
James Watt 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.
James Watt was a rather poor businessman, and especially hated bargaining and negotiating terms with those who sought to use the steam engine.
James Watt did most of his work at his home in Harper's Hill in Birmingham, while Boulton worked at the Soho Manufactory.
James Watt retired in 1800, the same year that his fundamental patent and partnership with Boulton expired.
James Watt continued to invent other things before and during his semi-retirement.
James Watt maintained his interest in civil engineering and was a consultant on several significant projects.
James Watt proposed, for example, a method for constructing a flexible pipe to be used for pumping water under the River Clyde at Glasgow.
James Watt died on 25 August 1819 at his home "Heathfield Hall" near Handsworth in Staffordshire at the age of 83.
James Watt immediately returned home but found that she had died and their child was stillborn.
James Watt was Initiated into Scottish Freemasonry in The Glasgow Royal Arch Lodge, No 77, in 1763.
James Watt became an important part of the firm and made many contributions to its success including important inventions of his own.
James Watt patented the application of the sun and planet gear to steam in 1781 and a steam locomotive in 1784, both of which have strong claims to have been invented by Murdoch.
The patent was never contested by Murdoch and Boulton and James Watt's firm continued to use the sun and planet gear in their rotative engines, even long after the patent for the crank expired in 1794.
The inclusion of James Watt is the second time that a Scot has featured on a Bank of England note.
James Watt was buried in the grounds of St Mary's Church, Handsworth, in Birmingham.
James Watt is additionally commemorated by statuary in George Square, Glasgow and Princes Street, Edinburgh, as well as others in Birmingham, where he is remembered by the Moonstones and a school is named in his honour.
The James Watt College has expanded from its original location to include campuses in Kilwinning, Finnart Street and The Waterfront in Greenock, and the Sports campus in Largs.
The University of Glasgow's Faculty of Engineering has its headquarters in the James Watt Building, which houses the department of Mechanical Engineering and the department of Aerospace Engineering.
The huge painting James Watt contemplating the steam engine by James Eckford Lauder is owned by the National Gallery of Scotland.
James Watt was the sole inventor listed on his 6 patents:.