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James Watt

James Watt (January 19, 1736 - August 19, 1819) was a Scottish mathematician and engineer.

He was born in Greenock[?], Scotland, and lived and worked in Birmingham.


  • 1754: Learnt the trade of mathematical-instrument making in Glasgow, where he set up a business.
  • 1757-1763: Mathematical-instrument maker to Hammermen's guild, Glasgow.
  • 1763-1764: Repaired a Newcomen steam engine, which started him thinking about ways to improve the engine.
  • 1767: Surveyor of Forth and Clyde canal.
  • 1774: Started a business in Soho, near Birmingham, with Matthew Boulton to manufacture his improved Watt steam engine.
  • 1784: Patented a steam locomotive.
  • 1800: Retired to Heathfield Hall near Birmingham.

Engineering Achievements Watt invented the centrifugal governor to regulate the speed of a steam engine.

Watt greatly helped the development of the embryonic steam engine into a viable and economic means of power generation. He realised that the Newcomen steam engine was wasting nearly three quarters of the steam energy in heating the piston and chamber. Watt developed a separate condenser chamber which significantly increased the efficiency. Further refinements made the steam engine his life's work.

He introduced a unit called the horsepower to compare the power output of steam engines, his version of the unit being equivalent to 550 foot-pounds per second (about 745.7 watts).

The SI unit of power, the watt, is named after him.

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