On This Day

James Watt

Inventor, Engineer and Chemist James Watt

Profession: Inventor, Engineer and Chemist


Biography: James Watt started his career making mathematical instruments in Glasgow. By 1757 he was working at the University of Glasgow. While working on a Newcomen steam engine Watt had the idea of a separate condenser that would vastly improve the steam engine's efficiency.

Entering into a partnership with British inventor John Roebuck, Watt built a test engine and filed for a patent. Birmingham industrialist Matthew Boulton latter took over Roebuck's interest and the two formed a successful company, building pumps for the mining industry.

Watt went on to make several improvements to his steam engine, invent a rotary motion, his sun-and-planet gear, and later a pressure gauge. The commercial engines that resulted were much in demand by paper and cotton mills and were to sit at the heart of the Industrial revolution.

The international standard unit of power, the watt, was named after James Watt in 1882.

Born: January 19, 1736
Birthplace: Greenock, Scotland, United Kingdom
Star Sign: Capricorn

Died: August 25, 1819 (aged 83)
Cause of Death: Natural causes

Historical Events

  • 1769-04-29 Scottish engineer James Watt's patent for a steam engine with a separate condenser enrolled (Patent 913)
  • 1782-02-23 Engineer James Watt's patent for a rotary motion for the steam engine (his sun-and-planet gear) is granted

Biographies and Sources