Before you start up reading this post, I would like you to take a minute or two in analyzing the major reason for the change in Earth’s ecology and human’s relationship with the environment. Yes, if you and I think alike, it’s the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution began in the mid 1700’s in Great Britain. It was the time when machinery began to replace manual labour. Fossil fuels replaced wind, water and wood, used primarily for the manufacture of textiles and the development of iron making processes. It can thus be concluded that industrial revolution changed human life and lifestyles to a great extent.
The major reason behind the origin of industrial revolution was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer named James Watt, the founder of the Watt Steam Engine. There is one apocryphal story that always strikes my mind when I think of him. One day, while his mother was preparing tea, James Watt observed the lid of the tea pot moving up and down on heating. He then realised that steam can be converted into mechanical energy and this led to the invention of the Watt Steam Engine.
The Watt Engine was an improvement of the 1712 Newcomen engine which was proved to be inefficient in nature. James Watt was the first person to design an engine which made use of steam just above atmospheric pressure. The major advancements in the Watt Engine when compared to the Newcomen engine were a separate condenser and rotary motion.
The separate condenser cooled steam externally such that the piston and the cylinder walls are not cooled. This helped to double the efficiency of the engine. Rotary motion proved to be the most suitable motion for industrial power (this phenomenon can also be observed in present days). Thus rotary motion was used over the oscillating beam motion of Newcomen’s engine.
The Steam Engine is only one of Watt’s inventions. He also played a major role in the development of a copying machine. Watt started to develop the process in 1779, and made many experiments to formulate the ink, to select the thin paper, to devise a method for wetting the special thin paper, and to make a press suitable for applying the correct pressure to effect the transfer. He had also conducted a lot of chemical experiments and obtained successful results from it.
Watt also possessed a great character. He had the ability to practically apply the knowledge he had on theoretical areas in science. Humphry Davy said of him “Those who consider James Watt only as a great practical mechanic form a very erroneous idea of his character; he was equally distinguished as a natural philosopher and a chemist, and his inventions demonstrate his profound knowledge of those sciences, and that peculiar characteristic of genius, the union of them for practical application”.
We all would remember Watt till date as his name replicates the ‘unit of power’. May such legends be born and bring dynamic changes in the way the world functions.