James Watt – Introducing the Concept of Horsepower
James Watt (January 19, 1736 – August 25, 1819), a Scottish inventor and engineer whose improvements to the Newcomen’s Steam Machine represent fundamental changes that led to the first industrial revolution in both his native United Kingdom and in to the whole world.
Working on the development of instruments at the University of Glasgow, Watt was interested in the technology of steam engines. He realized that the existing steam engines were constructed in such a way that they lose a lot of energy, rapid cooling and re-heating of the cylinder. Watt has introduced new significant constructive solutions, creating a separate steam capacitor, which reduces energy dissipation, improves power, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of steam engines. Then he mechanically adjusted his steam engine to perform rotational movement, which expanded its use, not only for pumping water as it was previously intended. Watt has thus laid the groundwork for its further improvement and use, to drive the first factory steam engines, steam locomotives, steamers and agricultural steam engines. In 1769 he patented his steam engine, and then he tried to commercialize his invention, entering into business cooperation with Matthew Bolton in 1775. The new Bolton and Vat company was very successful, which ultimately brought him a little wealth. Retired, the Vat continued to develop new inventions, but none was significant as his work on a steam engine. He died in his 83 years. James Watt is today considered one of the most influential figures in the history of mankind.
He developed and introduced the concept of horsepower, and the international SI force unit, Watt, was named after him.
James Watt was born January 19, 1736 to a local shipbuilder and shipowner, and his wife Agnes.His parents were religious Christians, but despite that he became deist.
Watt acquired elementary education at home, and later attended a gymnasium in Greenock. During his studies, he showed a gift in mathematics as well as for manual production of mechanical devices, while foreign languages such as Latin and Greek were not much interested.
When he was eighteen, his mother died, and his father seriously damaged his health, after which his business began to collapse. Because of this, Watt was sent to London in 1754 to learn the craft of measuring instruments. After a year and with a trained craftsman, he returns to Glasgow with the intention of opening a workshop for the production of instruments. He was able to produce small things from brass, octane – an astronomical-navigational instrument, parallel ruler for navigation by drawing on a maritime chart, parts of a telescope, a barometer, and so on. However, the Glasgow Association of Artists prohibited him from work.
At this crucial moment, Watt receives a call from the University of Glasgow to come and perform certain repairs to newly arrived astronomical instruments. After successfully completing the job, the professors offered him to open a workshop within the University, which, among other things, would supervise and repair new instruments for the astronomical observatory. To open the workshop, Watt was supported by three professors from whom he was first, John Robinson (1739-1805), physicists, researchers and encyclopedian, second chemist Joseph Blake (1728-1999), who was celebrated with the discovery of carbon dioxide, latent and specific heat, and the third was Adam Smith (1723-1790), a philosopher and key figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. These last two will later become Watt’s good friends.
At first, the Watt worked on maintaining and repairing scientific instruments used at the university, assisted during their demonstration, and expanded production with the production of numerous octanes. In 1759, he received an invitation for business cooperation by architect and local entrepreneur John Craig to start serial production, which would include the production of musical instruments and toys. This partnership lasted for six years, and sixteen employees were hired. Craig died in 1765, and one of the employees, Alex Gardner, eventually took over and continued the job. This company existed until the middle of the 20th century.
In 1764, Watt married Margaret Miller with whom he had five children, three of whom died early. Margaret died in childbirth in 1772. In 1777, Watt married again, this time with Anne McGregor, the daughter of a master and color producer in Glasgow. He had two children with Anne.
In 1776, the first steam engines were built and put into operation in commercial enterprises. These first machines were used for pumping water and produced only reciprocating movement to drive the pump rod from the bottom of the window. The constructive solution was successful on the market, and in the next five years, Watt was very busy installing machines, mainly in the mining area of Cornwall for pumping water from the mine. These first machines were not manufactured by Bolton and Watt, but by others according to Watt’s plans and drawings, which had the role of adviser during the construction and their installation.
The construction of the machines and their testing were initially supervised by the Watt, and later they were taken over by the company’s employees. They were large machines, for the first time, they had a cylinder with a diameter of some 127 cm (50 inches) and a total height of 7.31 meters (24 feet), and it was necessary to build a dedicated building in which it would be placed .
The field of application of the steam engine was extensively expanded when Bolton requested Watt to convert the reciprocating movement of the piston into the production of rotational power for grinding, weaving and milling. Although it seemed that even the largest staffers would find a solution to this change, Watt and Bolton were refused to patronize the machine for that purpose, because patent holder was James Picard, who proposed to cross patents for a separate condenser of steam.
In the next six years, the Watt has produced a number of other improvements and improvements to the steam engine. He found a way to make the piston push the pair in both directions. Instead of using the weight of the air to push the piston down, he took it by making the pair himself and that part of the job in that way the piston was moving down and up with steam. It was a two-way cylinder. For these inventions, he was granted two more patents in 1781 and 1782. He also had numerous improvements regarding the easier production and assembly of steam engines. One of his inventions, which he was most prominent, was parallel motion, which is essential for two-way steam engines. This machine needed a new solid mechanism for connecting pistons with the beam. Watt solved this problem, and the invention was patented in 1784. The wad dispensed the connected levers, which led to the piston rod moving in the upright position. In addition, the Watt applied a centrifugal regulator that patented in 1788 and invented a pressure gauge, patented in 1790. All these improvements taken together lead to the fact that Watt produced a steam engine that is up to five times more efficient in using solid fuel than a Newcomen’s steam engine.
Watt retired in 1800, when his business cooperation agreement with Bolton expired. The famous partnership between fathers was transferred to their sons, Matt Robinson Bolton and James Wade Jr..
Watt continued to work on other inventions. He opened a small workshop where he invented several types of machines for copying sculptures and medallions, which worked very well, but never patented them. One of the first skeletons he produced was a small statue of his friend, Professor Adam Smith. Watt and his other wife, Ana, then had more time to relax, spending frequent trips in France and Germany.
He died on August 25, 1819, at his estate near Birmingham, in his 83rd year. He was buried on September 2 of the same year.