James Watt (Greenock, Scotland 19 January 1736 – Handsworth, England, 25 August 1819).
Scientist, Inventor and Mechanical Engineer of Scottish origin, renowned for having invented the steam-based engine, which served as an impetus to the first Industrial Revolution, which took England and the world, earning it worthy of its entry into the Royal Society in 1785.
His invention initiated a new chapter in the field of the production of goods and services, which gave rise to the industrialized world.
He was born into a very prosperous family. His father had served as treasurer and magistrate of Greenok, dedicating himself to the shipbuilding and house building industry, in which he quickly gained renown.
James Watt enjoyed a well-to-do childhood. He was educated at home by private instructors, while spending long days in his father’s workshops, where from an early age he demonstrated manual skill, dismantling some of his toys, and using his pieces to make others.
However, his father’s business suffered considerable losses that ended his inheritance. James had to give up his refined life, and choose a trade in order to work and earn his livelihood. His father’s health deteriorated markedly, while his mother died when he was 17.
In 1755, Janes Watt decided to move to London to seek his fortune. After 12 days on horseback, he arrived in the capital of England, in order to make his way with the elaboration of mathematical metal instruments. However, after a year in London, Watt became seriously ill, having to return to Glasgow.
Starts as a mechanical technician
He tried to make his way in his homeland, but – despite being the only manufacturer of such instruments – the Hammermen Guild, by which metal workers were governed, forbade him from working, arguing that Watt had not served enough time as an apprentice, although the same character of innovation of his instruments meant that there was no one with whom he could be hired as an apprentice.
He had to give up the idea of his business. He survived thanks to the private contracting of his services by university professors, who required him to repair his academic instruments. He was also in charge of repairing all kinds of appliances and machines.
In 1764, James Watt was hired to fix a Newcomen engine, a steam-based machine whose model was used throughout the country to pump water from mines. During the repair, Watt considered the machine system to be extremely inefficient, and decided to perfect it.
He thought long as to solve the loss of steam, in order to increase the power of the machine, until one day he concluded that the reason was the existence of a single chamber, where condensation also occurred.
In May 1765, he decided to create a separate chamber, creating his first great invention: the separate capacitor. Some time later, he met inventor Jhon Roebuck, who suggested that he build an engine that included the new system discovered by him. In 1768 they teamed up to begin making steam-based engines, patenting their idea in 1769.
Life as an entrepreneur
In 1775, Roebuck retired, giving way to Matthew Boulton, owner of an engineering company. Together they began to manufacture steam engines, becoming the most important company in the region, receiving hundreds of applications from all sectors of the industry, including paper, flour and cotton factories. In 1785, both James Watt and his partner, Matthew Boulton, were recognized by the Royal Society.
By 1790, James Watt was a wealthy businessman. In 1800, together with Boulton they retired, giving the company to their children. However, Watt’s son, Gregory Watt, died only four years later. However, James Watt decided to remain in retirement, working on developing his research and his profession as an inventor, producing other types of inventions, including the rotary motor, steam indicator and double traction engine.
On August 19, 1819, James Watt died, aged 83. His body rests next to that of his partner Matthew Boulton. In 1882, the watt (both mechanical and electrical energy unit) was named after me. His invention contributed to the emergence of the industrial age, which dramatically changed the world known to man until the 19th century, which is why James Watt is considered one of the most influential men in history.
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July 27, 2019