James WattWe can imagine a young James Watt, sitting by the fireplace in his mother's cottage, intently watching the steam rising from the boiling tea kettle, the beginning of a lifelong fascination with steam.
In 1763, when he was twenty-eight and working as a mathematical-instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, a model of Thomas Newcomen's steam pumping engine was brought into his shop for repairs. James Watt had always been interested in mechanical and scientific instruments, particularly those which dealt with steam. The Newcomen engine must have thrilled him.
James Watt set up the model and watched it in operation. He noted how the alternate heating and cooling of its cylinder wasted power. He concluded, after weeks of experimenting, that in order to make the engine practical, the cylinder had to be kept as hot as the steam which entered it. Yet in order to condense steam there had some cooling taking place. That was challenge the inventor faced.
James Watt's Invention of the Separate CondenserJames Watt came up with the idea of the separate condenser. In his journal the inventor wrote that the idea came to him on a Sunday afternoon in 1765, as he walked across the Glasgow Green. If the steam was condensed in a separate vessel from the cylinder, it would be quite possible to keep the condensing vessel cool and the cylinder hot at the same time. The next morning Watt built a prototype and found that it worked. He added other improvements and built his now famous improved steam engine.
James Watt Partners with Matthew BoultonAfter one or two disastrous business experiences, James Watt associated himself with Matthew Boulton, a venture capitalist and owner of the Soho Engineering Works, near Birmingham. The firm of Boulton and Watt became famous, and James Watt lived until August 19, 1819, long enough to see his steam engine become the greatest single factor in the upcoming new industrial era.