Who was James Watt
childhood and education:
James Watt was born on January 19, 1736, the son of a designer and carpenter in Greenock, a port town in western Scotland about forty kilometers from Glasgow. Although the family was not wealthy, it was intellectually shaped. Since James Watt suffered from illnesses again and again in his childhood, he was tutored most of the time by his parents at home. Even as a child, the future inventor showed a keen interest in the structure and functionality of everyday objects and devices, as well as in nature, and is said to have had a keen imagination. Originally James Watt intended to study medicine, but his parents could not grant him this wish because the financial means for a university education were lacking. Therefore, James Watt first tried to find an apprenticeship in Glasgow, but could not find a suitable job and moved to London. There he began an apprenticeship as a mechanic and instrument maker, but it bored him. Therefore, he broke it off prematurely after two years, which later prevented him from opening his own workshop when he returned to Glasgow. In 1775 he got a job as a craftsman at the University of Glasgow. There he worked in a small laboratory that had been made available to him on the university campus and made various instruments and objects such as compasses used by scientific staff. Due to his affable and amiable nature, he made many friendships with academics at the university, and his laboratory became a popular attraction among students.
Professional career and academic achievements:
James Watt spent over ten years as a university mechanic in Glasgow. During this time he was commissioned to carry out improvement work on the laboratory model of a steam engine. At that time, such devices were mainly used to drain the tunnels in coal mines with the help of a pumping system. In the course of his repair work on the machine developed by Thomas Newcomen, James Watt discovered that its limited functionality was due to an imbalance in the heat balance. He observed that most of the water vapor was being used to heat the cylinder migration and began to work on a solution to this problem. In order to be able to understand the writings of other inventors and scientists on heat theory, he learned several foreign languages such as German and French. After about a year of intensive study and experimentation with so-called steam jackets that surrounded the cylinder, James Watt developed a model based on the principle known today as the "Watt parallelogram" with a separate steam condenser that prevented the cylinder of the steam engine from moving constantly heated up and cooled down again and therefore almost completely used up the incoming water vapor. In 1765, James Watt met the inventor and successful entrepreneur Joe Roebuck, who had heard of his work. Roebuck suggested he give him technical and financial support in building his steam engine.
Then Watt gave up his job as a university mechanic and only worked temporarily as a surveyor in order to be able to concentrate more on his technical developments. In 1769 he applied for a patent for his steam engine with an improved steam jacket, more efficient vacuum conditions and a special oil device. However, since he did not have a regular income, he ran into financial difficulties. His financier John Roebuck also got into debt and had to file for bankruptcy with his company. The industrialist Matthew Boulton took over Roebuck's contract with Watt, but made the condition to extend the patent to 25 years. In 1775, the industrialist and inventor founded the company Boulton & Watt, which guaranteed Boulton two thirds of the profits from the new steam engine. Over the next few years, the two men not only enjoyed an extremely fruitful collaboration, but also a respectful friendship. Together they also successfully took action against various competing companies, which in turn employed engineers to further develop the steam engine.
During the serial production of his powerful steam engine, which consumed only 25 percent of the energy compared to Newcomen's design, James Watt developed a number of other technical devices and equipment, which he applied for patents over the next few years. Underneath was a rotary machine that could be used to drive various types of equipment. It was a steam engine that could introduce the steam on both sides of a cylinder with a double working stroke. This made it possible to build much more powerful machines, which a few years later revolutionized the textile industry. In the seventies of the 18th century, Watt also succeeded in inventing a steam indicator that could precisely measure the pressure inside the machines. In addition, he worked on a copying process that he presented to the public in 1781. This made it possible for the first time to make copies of sketches and drawings that technicians used in industry. In 1800, the patents on his steam engine expired, as had been agreed with Boulton since the takeover of Roebuck's company. James Watt then gradually withdrew from business life. At that time, almost a hundred textile mills in Great Britain and on the European continent were already equipped with the Watt steam engines produced by Boulton. His technical achievements led to major changes in the way goods were produced and earned him numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow and a membership of the Academy of Sciences in Paris. The respected engineer and businessman spent the last years of his life primarily with small technical developments that are hardly significant today. James Watt died on August 25, 1819 in Birmingham and was buried in S. Mary’s Church in Handsworth just outside the city. As early as 1825, a huge marble monument was made in his honor, which was placed in St. Paul's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Today a bronze bust in Westminster Abbey commemorates the engineer who was very important to the British economy.
James Watt, described by his contemporaries as a very humble and amiable person, was not only a popular entertainer during his time as a mechanic at the University of Glasgow, but also later received guests in his house with whom he spoke on various topics, including literature to have intelligent conversations. He and his boyhood love Margaret Miller had a loving marriage until her death in 1773. His wife did not survive the birth of their sixth child. After her death, he remarried in 1777. In 1800 he passed his shares on to his two sons after he retired from the business world.
With his innovative work on the steam engine, the engineer, who was highly regarded not only in Great Britain, laid the foundation for groundbreaking developments that later led to the construction of the steam locomotive. Without Watts' preparatory work, visionary technicians such as George Stephenson and Richard Trevithick would hardly have been able to build the vehicles that heralded the age of the railways just a few years after his death and thereby revolutionized the transport of goods and people.
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