James Watt was a Scottish mechanical engineer, inventor, and chemist who lived from 30 January 1736 (19 January 1736 OS) to 25 August 1819. In 1776, Watt created the Watt steam engine, which was a major contributor to the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.
Watt developed an interest in steam engine technology while working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow. He realized that modern engine designs frequently cooled and reheated the cylinder, wasting a significant amount of energy. The separate condenser, a design improvement made by Watt, prevented this energy wastage and significantly increased the power, efficacy, and affordability of steam engines. He eventually modified his engine to generate rotary motion, substantially expanding its application beyond water pumping.
Watt made an effort to sell his innovation, but ran into serious financial problems before forming a collaboration with Matthew Boulton in 1775. Watt finally got wealthy and the new firm of Boulton and Watt became very successful. Watt continued to create other innovations after retiring, although none were as significant as his work on the steam engine.
Childhood and Education
Agnes Muirhead (1703-1755) and James Watt (1698-1782) had five surviving children, the eldest of whom was James Watt, who was born on January 19, 1736 in Greenock, Renfrewshire. His father was a shipwright, ship owner, and contractor who worked as the Greenock's chief baillie in 1751. His mother hailed from a wealthy family, was educated, and was reputed to have a strong personality. One source of the Watt family's fortune was the trade in slaves and products made by slaves that Watt's father engaged in. Although Watt's parents were fervent Covenanters and Presbyterians, he later converted to deism.Thomas Watt (1642–1734), Watt's grandfather, was a math, surveying, and navigation teacher as well as the baillie to the Baron of Cartsburn.
After graduating from high school, Watt began working in the father's companies' workshops, where he displayed impressive dexterity and talent for building engineering models. Watt left Greenock to look for work as a manufacturer of mathematical instruments in Glasgow after his father's failed business efforts.
When Watt was 18 years old, his mother passed away and his father's health deteriorated. After traveling to London to receive a year's worth of training in instrument building (1755–1756), Watt returned to Scotland and settled in Glasgow, a major commercial hub, with the goal of starting his own instrument-making company. He was still extremely young and lacked the customary ties through a prior master to establish himself as a journeyman instrument maker because he hadn't served a full apprenticeship.
Watt and Kettle
According to a common myth, Watt was motivated to create the steam engine after observing a kettle boil. The steam caused the lid to raise, demonstrating to Watt the force of steam. This tale is presented in a variety of ways; in some, Watt is a small boy, in others, he is an older man, and in some, the kettle is his mother's, in others, his aunt's. Contrary to what the narrative suggests, Watt did not invent the steam engine; rather, he significantly increased the efficiency of the Newcomen engine by adding a separate condenser.
To someone who is unfamiliar with the ideas of heat and thermal efficiency, this is challenging to explain. The narrative appears to have been written, possibly by James Watt Jr., Watt's son, and it has survived because it is simple enough for kids to grasp and remember. This makes it comparable to Isaac Newton's tale of the falling apple and the discovery of gravity.
The tale of Watt and the kettle has a basis in reality, although being frequently written off as a fable. James Watt conducted numerous laboratory experiments in an effort to comprehend the thermodynamics of heat and steam, and his journals indicate that he often used a kettle as a boiler to produce steam.
The first engines were installed and operational in businesses in 1776. The sole motion created by these early engines, which were used to power pumps, was reciprocating motion, which was utilized to move the pump rods at the shaft's base. Since the design was profitable, Watt spent the following five years installing additional engines, largely in Cornwall, to pump water out of mines.
These early engines were not created by Boulton and Watt; rather, they were created by others using Watt's blueprints as a consultant engineer. Watt initially oversaw the construction of the engine and its shakedown, and then men employed by the company took over. These were sizable equipment. The first, for instance, necessitated the construction of a special building because it had a cylinder with a diameter of 50 inches and an overall height of roughly 24 feet. One-third of the value of the coal saved over using a Newcomen engine to complete the same work was charged annually by Boulton and Watt.
When Watt was persuaded by Boulton to use the piston's reciprocating motion to generate rotational power for milling, weaving, and grinding, the scope of the invention's potential applications was significantly expanded. Watt and Boulton were prevented from using a crank, which would have been the conversion's obvious answer, by a patent for it, whose holder, James Pickard and his companions, wanted to cross-license the external condenser. Watt vehemently disagreed with this, so in 1781 they used their sun and planet apparatus to get around the patent.
He continued to enhance and alter the steam engine over the following six years. One of these was a double-acting engine, in which the steam alternately worked on the two sides of the piston. He talked about how to use steam "expansively," or at pressures far higher than atmospheric. It was explained how a compound engine coupled two or more engines. These received two additional patents in 1781 and 1782. Other enhancements that facilitated simpler manufacturing and installation were continuously put into practice. He preserved one of these as a trade secret and used it to make an informative plot of the pressure in the cylinder against its volume.
In double-acting engines, the parallel motion linkage was a crucial invention that Watt was most pleased of. It provided the straight line motion needed for the cylinder rod and pump from the attached rocking beam, whose end moves in a circular arc. In 1784, this was patentable. It was crucial to have a centrifugal governor that was patented in 1788 to prevent the engine from "running away" as well as a throttle valve to manage the engine's power. Together, these advancements led to an engine that was up to five times more fuel efficient than the Newcomen engine.
Watt limited the use of high pressure steam — all of his engines used steam at close to atmospheric pressure — due to the risk of bursting boilers, which were still at an early stage of development, and the continued problems with leaks.