Watt, James 1736-1819
James Watt is most famous for his invention of the separate condenser for steam engines, which made steam power safer, more productive and much more efficient. Initially Watt was employed as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow. In 1769 he was given a steam engine to repair and set about improving its design. A key moment was when Watt went into partnership with Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), a Birmingham engineer and manufacturer. Their partnership lasted from 1775 to 1800 and produced the steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution. They both became very rich because a patent issued in 1755 prevented anyone else competing with them until 1800, when the patent expired. Developments during this time included solving the problem of converting the linear motion of a steam engine to a rotary one to power machinery, coining the term ‘horsepower’ as a measure, and the printing press for copying engineering drawings.
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