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CHAPTER ONE The Evolution of the Engineer " Since the late Rebellion, England hath abounded in variety of Drinks (as it did lately in variety of Religions) above any Nation in Europe. EDWARD CHAMBERLAYNE.. 1669. " Before or about the year 1760 a new era in all the arts and sciences, learned and polite, commenced in this country." THE Society or CIVIL ENGINEERS. The seventeenth century had been one of the liveliest in English history. The Englishman of those days, who was busy laying the foundations of the modern state, was a very different figure from his successor of two hundred years later who built the superstructure and lived in it in peace and security. He still lacked that sobriety and stability of character
for which he became famous in the days of Victoria, and those familiar types which later generations learned to regard as the props and pillars of the social order had not yet been evolved. No stern incorruptibles were going out to publish abroad the blessings of British civilization and of the unshakable British constitution, for the constitution was being shaken like dice in a box and the social system was in the melting-pot. The country squire, hatched by the nouveau riche speculative landlord out of the feudal princeling, was as yet barely fledged, and was still trying his wings. The parson, far from being a tower of strength in the village, went anxiously about his work in constant terror lest the hunter of to-day might be the quarry of tomorrow in the giddy chase of the righteous after the heretic and blasphemer. The future " nation of shopkeepers " hardly knew what a shopkeeper was, and the British workman had not been invented. The seventeenth century therefore was a lively one, and it was full of variety, not only in drinks and religions, but also in political theories, constitutions, sciences, inventions, patents, poetries and every kind of ingenuity. The mind of the race was active,
flexible and resilient. It is true that when an Englishman caught Puritanism he caught it badly, but, though gloomy and unbeautiful, the Puritan period was rich in constructive ideas, and once the malady had run its course the nation bounded from her bed in the robustest of health, without any laborious interval of convalescence. There will always be gloomy people as well as gay people, and people with no ideas but their fathers' as well as people with new and revolutionary ideas of their own. But it is one of the blessings of providence that the revolutionaries are generally gloomy while the conservatives are often gay. Consequently, whichever is in power, there will be life and movement of one kind or the other. In the period that lies between the date of the first quotation at the head of this chapter and the date referred to in the second, the stature of life dwindled and its glamour faded. There was a reaction from the violent experiments of the seventeenth century to a more stable and less eventful kind of existence, while the intellectual vivacity characteristic of Elizabethan and Restoration society, becoming more formal, more artificial, was frozen into a crystalline
brilliance, leaving to the highspirited no resource but the elaborate cult of physical pleasures. It was an age of fast living and slow thinking. There were individuals who pressed on into new worlds, but they travelled alone. The mind and the tastes of the people were as a clock that has stopped. The hands still pointed at I690. England became less famous for the variety of her drinks than for the quantity consumed, and for the violence of its effects. The habit of gin-drinking so utterly demoralised the inhabitants of the metropolis that the City of London sent up a petition imploring Parliament to take severe measures to suppress the evil. Society found a congenial form of excitement in the passion for gambling, which culminated in the glorious fatuity of the South Sea Bubble and the fraudulent companies of I720. The coarseness of our manners and the cruelty of our sports were widely denounced by critics both English and foreign, and it is hardly surprising to learn that it was in this generation that journalism for the first time came into its own. When vitality returned it brought a revival of all those activities which had been characteristic of the seventeenth century. Once more a fertility of
invention. at best. and the Puritanism of the seventeenth century found a parallel in the Methodism of the eighteenth. "Inventing" became the fashionable hobby of learned circles. the English potters enjoyed an unquestioned preeminence in their art. and led as often to religious fanaticism as to religious conviction. It may be that his teaching was narrow and intolerant. he called on his hearers to renounce the thoughtless life of vicious pleasure and make religion an inspiration instead of. And . John Wesley. a popular social function. both mechanical and artistic. but it undoubtedly helped to shake the middle classes of England out of their apathy. and the ingenuity of the makers of scientific instruments was the admiration of all visitors. enlivened the industries of the country. Once more the nation was stirred and tormented by an access of religious fervour. Like the Puritans before him. who was at the height of his power in I760~~ is said to have preached 800 sermons a year to audiences that often exceeded I0000 in number. The glass-ware of England won so high a reputation in Europe that French craftsmen paid it the flattery of imitation.
of which those who are now in the meridian of their . Parliamentary reform was already in the air when Tom Paine. Once more the accepted principles of government and the traditional doctrines of political philosophy were questioned and challenged by active minds intent on change.once they were roused they could not fail to see that they held the future of their country in their hands. inspired by the example of France. described the reign of George III as an " age of excitement. but as he was the greatest genius of the age. that it had to be unearthed a century later from the litter of Marxian dogmas and researches under which it had been buried. looking back from the calm heights of the Victorian era. he was naturally regarded by most of his contemporaries as a harmless lunatic. teaching a theory of socialism and co-operation so much in advance of the understanding of his time. denounced the whole structure of the constitution and preached the virtues of republicanism in a book whose already enormous circulation was increased by the Government's attempts to suppress it. A writer. Later came Robert Owen. William Blake walked the streets of London wearing the red cap of Liberty.
as it were. form but a feeble idea. His genius was one of the manifestations of the age's vigour and drew nourishment from its extraordinary fertility. for the drama of modern life. . setting the stage. In all these manifestations of the movement of progress. and in due course it put forth a new crop richer and stronger than the first." It was in this " age of excitement " that James Watt lived and worked. and the plant withered. from the repose which they have enjoyed. Watt was a member of that band of builders who were constructing the framework of our material civilisation. there followed a spell of inclement weather. the activity of the closing years of the eighteenth century appears as the revival of a spirit that had first shown itself a hundred or more years earlier. The movement which was born in the seventeenth century and grew to maturity in the days of Watt has created the modern world. and the first small crop reaped.days can. Other crops have followed. The seed had then been sown. The germ of life had been preserved in the soil. and to-day we are still reaping the fruits of that first sowing. But it did not die.
During the Middle Ages the use of these ." he writes. and might be traced back to the day when Adam and Eve picked their figleaves. Power. our clothes and all the luxuries and conveniences which we are pleased to call the evidences of civilisation. it was the power to win the mastery over Nature. The use of fire. But it falls into welldefined periods. sir. It is to man's success in this struggle with Nature that we owe our houses and our cities. " I shall never forget. our roads and our railways. to extract from her treasure-house whatever may add to his comfort. our food. the loom and the Lough. " Mr. Boulton's expression to me when surveying the works.Boswell relates how he once visited the works at Soho where Boulton and Watt were manufacturing their steam-engines. No one would suggest that this struggle began in the seventeenth century. what all the world desires to have. ' I sell here. to compel her to serve the ends of man. the art of working metals and of building with brick and stone."' But the power which Watt invented and Boulton sold was not that which most men lust for. the power to dominate their fellows. It is as old as history. all these were discovered in antiquity.
for at that moment there came into play two new forces. The craftsmen. Those two forces were Science and Finance. seems to be a new creation. And the change took place. and as he progressed in that study. so civilisation grew under his hands. which is Science. Every feature that makes the visible shell of our modern life unlike that of the Middle Ages. which effected so complete a transformation that the material civilisation of the modern world. but little was added that was absolutely new. man had to study the anatomy of the physical world. but by I600 there was little room for further advance without some more fundamental change of method. working generation after generation along the same traditional lines. and the only inventions that had a palpable eject on the progress of civilisation were those of the mariner's compass. If Nature was to be compelled to render new services she must first be persuaded to yield up her secrets.devices was elaborated. Before he could advance any further. gunpowder and the printing press. from the engines in our . developed a degree of skill that has never been surpassed. when compared with the medieval.
had not Science furnished means for the infinite multiplication of the original work of the artist. The history of modern . Everything is good. Between them they had nothing but contempt for the Middle Ages.factories to the flowers in our gardens. which yields a profit. The first great age of science in England is marked by the foundation of the Royal Society of London in I662 and its early years were made famous by the researches of Isaac Newton. when men took their beliefs on trust. until it has been proved. cries Finance. the banker and the dealer in stocks and shares. These twin powers invaded also the world of thought. is the product of the invention of Science. says Science. Finance can be represented by two types. Nothing may be believed. It is in the seventeenth century that we shall find the gulf between old and new. and the earliest signs that these two parents of modernity have begun their work. translated into matter at the bidding of Finance. yet they would play much the same part in our lives to-day as they did in those of our ancestors. Although Art and Literature have changed from an impulse not scientific. and were ignorant of the first principles of sanitation.
Botany and so forth. " There are two methods in which we acquire knowledge. Roger Bacon. the East India Company. encouraged by the foundation of Professorships in Natural Phil osophy. Some three hundred years later appeared the distinguished pioneers of the coming age. received its charter in I600~~ and the first independent Stock Exchange was set up in 'Change Alley in I698. who died in I 292~~ touched the very essence of the scientific outlook when he wrote. Just before the Civil War the point had been reached at which scattered students began to regard themselves as colleagues. argument and experiment. There had been men of science in the ancient world and in the Middle Ages. and isolated minds were welded into that . a conscious spirit of co-operatlon appeared. Mathematics. The greatest joint-stock enterprise ever launched. contemporaries of Galileo Galilei. Gradually the Universities introduced scientific subjects into their curricula." But he stood alone.banking begins with the foundation of the Bank of England in I694 and of the Bank of Scotland in the following year.
The early members were a compact band of enthusiasts.most elusive of intellectual phenomena." That this movement received its embodiment in the Royal Society at the hands of Charles II shows that influential circles. Where all was new. they were tilling virgin soil and won rich returns for their . small. but in the hope that the observations of the assembled company might lead some one to throw out an idea of value for discussion and investigation. outside the group of the scientists themselves. not to demonstrate some new theory that he claimed to have proved. as yet. Though the field of study was wide. and a vigorous mind could keep in touch with all that was being done in the world of science. the available knowledge in each branch was. A Court that wished to rival in brilliance that of Louis XIV must be a patron of the Sciences as well as of the Arts. They would meet together of an evening to witness an experiment carried out by one of their number. progress was rapid. a "movement. had recognised the great value of the work and the eminence of the workers.
for any day news might come of some discovery that shattered the tradition of centuries. the centre of life was found to have shifted to the more bracing climate north of the Tweed. this cooperation between the men of science and the men of business. More will have to be said of these men later. of their attention was devoted to practical problems. astronomy and meteorology as aids to the science of navigation. The Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow were made famous by a group of scientists who were working and teaching in them during the last forty years of the eighteenth century. and a lively interest was taken in the technical problems of industry and agriculture. . and bore precious fruit in the eighteenth century. Chemistry and botany were studied in their relation to medicine. At the same time a great part. This connection between theory and the application of theory. Even the healthy young plant of English science languished in the sunless days of the first two Georges.labour. was destined to grow closer as time went on. The excitement was intense. probably the main part. When the revival came. between the professional and the amateur.
By his patronage and his example he tried to turn the captain of . They were the field of action of a type of man who believed that the true road to economic progress lay in the application of the exact methods of scientific experiment to the problems of industrial technique. which acted as a connecting link. Every step in advance made scientific work more complex and the need for specialization greater. for new Societies were formed. This division of labour resulted in a closer and more effective co-operation between science and business. who devoted himself to the pursuit of principles.for it was among them that Watt spent the most crucial years of his early life. and every learned Society was agog with eagerness to hear the latest results of their inquiries. was inclined to leave to some one else the application of those principles to useful ends. The average man was no longer able to spread himself over the whole field of knowledge. They and their successors revolutionised the science of chemistry as completely as Newton had revolutionised that of physics. The story of their discoveries ran quickly throughout Europe. The pure philosopher. less purely scientific and more definitely industrial in character.
Manufactures and Commerce. The first and most famous of these bodies was the Royal Society of Arts. founded in 1754. It had been preceded by a similar association in Dublin and was immediately followed by one in Edinburgh.industry into a scientist and the craftsman into an engineer. According to a contemporary writer the scientific spirit had spread even to the Far East. Switzerland and Denmark. and on this side the movement was definitely international. The craftsmen were advancing along . but also in agriculture. The members of these Societies were interested not only in industry. most of them Fellows of the Royal Society. Its objects are made sufficiently plain in its full official title. and it began its work by offering prizes for discoveries and inventions which might prove valuable to the economic life of the country." Simultaneously there were stirrings at the other end of the scale. having branches in France. " The Society for the Encouragement of Arts." Its founders were scientists. and " the Emperor of China rewards the husbandman who makes the best and greatest improvements in his land with the dignity of a Mandarin of the eighth class.
and by I750 .4 we beat all Europe in Clocks and Watches of all sorts. more significant still. It was in this way that Watt received his . The art of clockmaking was taken up with enthusiasm in England after the Restoration. He made the instruments used for navigation and surveying. and from the study of these he learned so much of the methods of science that he often became a valued partner in the work of invention. The trade through which this particular type of skill was turned to scientific use was that of mathematical instrument maker.the path of science to meet these scientists who were invading the field of industry. and. Naturally he was employed by the best scientists of the day to make the apparatus for their experiments. those of the clockmaker and the wheelwright. This is probably the first example of machinery being used to make machinery. there were only two mechanical crafts of any importance in the seventeenth century. the newest mechanical devices. The latest designs. machines were invented by the clockmakers for cutting out the metal parts used in the manufacture. Apart from the blacksmith. all passed through his hands." The work demanded the most perfect accuracy.
coppersmith. repaired. he invented " a machine to spin and reel cotton at one operation. " He carried so far his theory and practice of clockwork. but his ambitious nature carried him beyond the confines of this narrow trade. to which different movements were given. mended fiddles. He got his mechanical education as apprentice to a clockmaker. bellfounder and coffin-maker." thus putting his talents at the service of industry and becoming in the fullest sense an " engineer. as to be the inventor of a very curious astronomical and geographical machine. gunsmith.. tuned and played upon and taught the harpsichord and virginal But this was all craftsman's work. etc.early training. He was " a blacksmith. representing the diurnal and annual motions of the earth. whitesmith. all with the greatest correctness. made and erected sundials." Finally. he went further. the sun's place in the ecliptic. containing a celestial and terrestrial globe. the position of the moon and stars." and " a simple and ingenious piece of mechanism for raising water from a coal-mine." The variety of the list might make us incredulous if it were not that we can . A striking example is found in the career of Laurence Earnshaw of Stockport. we are told.
find an almost exact parallel in the achievements of James Watt himself. The wheelwright's business consisted in making and repairing all the machinery in mills that were driven by the power of water or of wind. He was generally a man of little ingenuity, who worked by rule of thumb and did exactly what he had been taught to do by his father. But if he had intelligence and curiosity it was always possible for him to discover the mechanical principles on which his machines were based, to master the theory as well as the practice, and so to become, not merely a craftsman, but an engineer, able to create as well as to copy. The story is told of James Brindley, the engineer of the first canal built in England, that when he was apprentice to a wheelwright and was working with his master on a paper-mill at Macclesfield, he suddenly disappeared one Saturday afternoon and was missing for two nights. On Monday morning he was back at work. Being convinced that his master's conservative treatment would never put the mill to rights, he had set out for Manchester to visit the Smedley Mill, twentyfive miles away. He spent Sunday examining the machinery, and having got the
details well fixed in his mind, walked back to Macclesfield next morning. His master was so impressed by his story that he handed over to him the control of the work, and Brindley, after changing all the designs, produced a machine that included all the best features of the Smedley Mill and several new devices of his own invention. The craftsman, in fact, was being educated. In one way or another he was picking up fragments from the store of knowledge that was being accumulated by the scientists, absorbing, almost unconsciously, the scientific atmosphere that emanated from the centres of research. An unusually observant writer noticed what was happening as early as I747. He produced a book in which he gave a description of every trade, craft or profession practised in London. When he came to the engineer, he wrote: " By Engineer I do not mean the Military Engineer, but that Tradesman who is employed in making Engines for raising of Water, etc. We have improved much of late years in this useful Art, and have now Engines moved both by Fire and Water, which our Forefathers knew nothing of. This has been owing to the labour of the Royal Society, and the progress
we have made in Experimental Philosophy." The author goes on to explain that the engineer must know the laws of mechanics, and adds, " He requires a large Stock to set up with, and a considerable Acquaintance among the Gentry. The business is at present in few hands." It was, in fact, a new profession, offspring of the union of science with craftsmanship in which the members of the Royal Society of Arts, and others like them, played the part of Pandarus. Two parents are generally considered to be enough for any child, and, in the metaphors of the historian, one is often made to suffice. The engineer had three. The author just quoted referred to " Military Engineers " as a familiar institution. The history of the Engineers as a branch of the Army goes back into the Middle Ages when they were concerned with fortification, mining, the building of roads and bridges and the whole province of artillery. When the Artillery was split off and established as a separate service in I7I6 it became evident that every branch of military engineering had its counterpart in civil life. Even in the seventeenth century engineers had been employed to drain the Fens and to
construct the " New River " which gave London its water-supply, but such men were scarce and did not yet constitute a " trade." Only when the needs of commerce called for the building of canals, bridges, roads, docks, harbours and lighthouses, did the Civil Engineers begin to be conscious of themselves as a professional group. They also realised that their trade was a highly scientific one and that most of its technique had still to be invented. They felt keenly the community of interest that linked them with the engineers of a rather different type, who were inventing and manufacturing scientific instruments for use in surveying and engines for raising water or driving it through canals. In order that they might meet together to discuss the peculiar problems of their trade and share the advantages of their individual experiences they founded the Society of Civil Engineers in I77I. The first list of members reveals clearly the triple origin of the profession. Joseph Priestley represented pure science. James Watt stood for the craftsman whom science converts into a mechanical engineer and inventor of machines. Smeaton, the builder of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Eddystone Lighthouse, and
Rennie. Young Isaac Watts heard the . was inherited largely from the military engineers." and so gained access. not only to their drawingrooms. to their pockets. so far as it existed. which was far more important. The process of evolution was complete. they also won a " considerable Acquaintance among the Gentry. The Age of Engineering had begun. who began as a millwright and afterwards constructed Waterloo Bridge and the East India Docks. and it was at once accepted as a learned Society of high standing. Its members shared the respect that was already being paid to eminent scientists. CHAPTER TWO Childhood and Education "Because of a certain singing teakettle we now have the puffing engine. The Society united within itself every branch of the trade as known in those days. won fame by the execution of great public works. the technique for which. but.
defending his home against the invading forces of Montrose. 1924) ON the southern bank of the River Clyde. In the far back days when men laid down their lives for the Covenant. the eastern part of the present town was a separate village known by the name of Cartsdyke. lies the port of Greenock. Here. the grandfather of the engineer. It seems odd that in so small a town it should have been possible for any one to confine . for Cartsdyke had a pier and Greenock had none. or Crawfordsdyke. from Aberdeen. it is thought. He was by profession a teacher of mathematics. It was a prosperous little fishing port and considered itself superior to its neighbour. in American Magazine (quoted in Punch." Advt. settled Thomas Watt. somewhere in the middle of the century. where his father had been killed. He came.song. He figured that what made it sing would make something go. July 30th. an orphan and a fugitive. if only it could be hitched up right.not far from the point where it turns south into the Firth and about twenty-five miles west of Glasgow.
John was educated as a mathematician and went off to Glasgow to be a surveyor. It is a survey of the Clyde which he made in I734~ and which was afterwards revised by his nephew James. It is clear that Thomas Watt not only lived. John and James. This map shows that Greenock had by then definitely gone ahead of Cartsdyke. Thomas Watt had two sons. the former had now . A great part of his work. for he bought house property in the district and filled offices of trust in the town for which. and published in I760. even in seventeenth century Scotland. consisted in teaching the elements of astronomy and navigation to the local seamen.himself to such a trade and live. but throve. it was as " Professor of the Mathematicks " that he was commemorated on his tombstone. thus setting an example of longevity that was followed by his descendants. and one that must have demanded almost superhuman patience. substance was probably as important a qualification as virtue. for while the latter was merely a jetty. When he died in I734 at the ripe age of ninety-two. on his earnings. One example of his work survives. the engineer.
he was elected to . The trade of the Clyde was growing fast. like his father before him. so he rose in the estimation of his fellow-citizens and. James Watt the elder prospered in his business. he would put in repair any of the instruments used in navigation. Tobacco ships from Virginia called at Greenock harbour. wisely moved to Greenock and set up as a builder. He was prepared to do pretty well anything that came his way. As he prospered. He stocked and sold every variety of store that a ship could want. John's brother James. It is quite likely that John's reputation as a surveyor helped his nephew to get work of the same kind when he was a young man with his name still to make. contractor and general merchant. seeing the drift of business. grew bolder in his mercantile speculations and took shares in ships engaged in trade to distant parts. and the sugar of the West Indies went up the river to the refineries at Glasgow.completed the excellent little harbour which had been begun some thirty years before. When his father died and left him part of his fortune. he manufactured every species of naval gear. he bought a house and some land backing on the harbour and there installed his workshop.
who was one of the earliest and most constant friends of James Watt the younger. Margaret. shortly before her death it was commonly whispered that the dear lady would never see ninety again. managed to her last hour to keep her age a profound secret. " a fine-looking woman. Shaw. she lived to be very old. but exactly how old it is impossible to say. a cultivated mind. including the family of Mr. an excellent understanding. James was also very well connected through his wife. and an equal. Mr. Treasurer.hold public office as Town Councillor." However. with pleasing." Her family well remembered settling in Clydesdale somewhere in the latter years of the eleventh century. for " Miss Margaret. Shaw had a daughter. with maidenly coyness. and had " never acknowledged any superior. the local minister. andÑ ." But the most glorious episode in its history occurred when the Laird of Muirhead came to the defence of his King at the battle of Flodden Field." or chief magistrate. He had a wide circle of highly respectable acquaintances. and finally " Bailie. He had married Agnes Muirhead. graceful manners. Like so many who figure in this history. cheerful temper.
James and Agnes had five children. was born on the 19th of January 1736. He was from the first a sickly boy. of his ain name. The three eldest died in infancy. she kept him for a time under her own care at home and gave him his first lessons herself. the youngest was drowned on a voyage to America at the age of twenty-four. Had he gone very early to school his sensitive nature might have been bruised. and his tastes forced into the . the subject of this memoir." But the existence of the virtuous Agnes two hundred years later must be taken as evidence that the clan was not entirely wiped out on that fatal day. The fourth son. But a' die by his side. rather than send him to a school where he might not be properly looked after. Frae Torwood and the Clyde." Twa hundred mair. It was probably fortunate for him that this was so. Sware they wad never gang to hame. His mother was devoted to him. and showed signs even then of the chronic illhealth that was going to torment him through the greater part of his life. James. and.
was a gift from heaven to the other boys. when he had got used to his new surroundings and found work that was congenial to him. As it was. His abilities began to appear when he wasÑ about thirteen or fourteen years oldÑput into a mathematical class. where he made rapid . But. fresh from his mother's knee. And they must have been severe. weakly child. by the time he was let out of the family circle into a wider world. his individuality and originality were already well developed. He was ob viously made to be ragged. If he had beaten them all at their work they might have respected him and forgiven him for being a " mother's darling. his genius peeped through the veil of his childishness. He was slow and awkward. This poor. with his comic air of thoughtful gravity.narrow channel of things accepted by schoolboy public opinion. He went his own way and took the consequences. and fell below the ordinary standard demanded by the common routine of school lessons." But he did not. " He was thought rather dull at his lessons. and he never showed any tendency to adapt himself to the type that was most admired by his schoolfellows.
The visitor questioned him and found his answers quick and intelligent. this boy's education has not been neglected: he is no common child." " Look how my child is occupied before you condemn him. The first story runs as follows. Mrs. and not allow him to trifle away his time at home." replied the father. in fact. This is an attention that no genius can escape. Marion Campbell. " Forgive me. On the whole the document seems to be a faithful one." he said. What are we to say ? ." said he. The boy was. Watt. who dictated her reminiscences in I798~~ some fifty years after the events with which we are concerned. The chief source in this case is Watt's cousin. Of course there are sensational stories of Watt's infantile precocity. the other rejects it. but memory plays strange tricks. one accepts this story." This seems to be the most reliable of the pictures handed down to us of Watt's schooldays. " Mr. When young James was six years old a visitor noticed him scribbling on the hearth with a piece of chalk. " you ought to send that boy to a public school." Of the two biographers who give most attention to Watt's childhood. drawing geometrical figures and marking down the results of his calculations.progress.
the words she claims to have used are unnaturally appropriate. holding now a cup and now a silver spoon over the steam. and catching and connecting the drops it falls into. Mrs. Then comes the inevitable kettle that haunts all youthful engineers.Where evidence is lacking. Are you not ashamed of spending your time in this way! "Now this tale is very attractive. we can pass the story without an excessive strain on the historical conscience. and if we add a year or two to the age quoted. that young Watt was experimenting on . She noticed. one evening. Apart from the improbability of any stern aunt upbraiding her nephew for finding something to keep him quiet in the drawing-room after tea. Muirhead. it is wisest to play for safety. and suppose that the boy had already begun his lessons with his mother. but taken off the lid of that kettle and put it on again. for the last hour you have not spoken one word. apparently." said his stern aunt. make allowances for a father's pride and a visitor's politeness. " I never saw such an idle boy. " James Watt. watching how it rises from the spout. It is certain that Watt was an ingenious child with a natural taste for mathematics. but it is also very suspicious.
the condensation of steam, and we know, as Mrs. Muirhead did not, that his great invention was to be related, not to the force of steamÑits most obvious propertyÑbut precisely to this fact of condensation. If it is mere coincidence that this particular event should have been recorded in a form so tellingÑ and recorded, be it remembered, through the remark of a woman who could not have understood its significanceÑHeaven must indeed be on the side of the historians. Suppose she had merely said, as she well might, " James, you idle boy, leave that kettle alone at once ! " How tantalising that would have been for all future biographers! But the truth or falsehood of this story is a trivial matter. Even if it were true it could have no real importance, and to attribute some deep significance to it, to imagine that the kettle might have inspired Watt's great invention, is a serious blunder. In the first place Watt's . . . . . inquiries Into the nature of steam, which led to his work on the engine, did not begin until at least ten years after the date given to this incident. We have a full narrative of those inquiries when they did begin, and the parentage of his great idea is satisfactorily accounted for without
the aid of the kettle. In the second place the main principles governing the use of steam for power were already well known, and were not awaiting discovery by the genius of a child still in the nursery. Steam-engines of a kind had long been a familiar feature of the industrial world. Watt's improvements were based on accurate measurement and ingenuity in mechanical detail, and no kettle could help him there. Inventions are not the children of chance. They are more often the result of hard work and clear thinking than of a dazzling inspiration. Watt lived at home till he was eighteen, occasionally paying visits to his mother's relations in Glasgow. The atmosphere was favourable to the development of his scientific instincts. In his father's workshop he could find a complete outfit of carpenter's tools, and could watch the manufacture of the mechanical parts of ship's tackle or examine and play with the collection of nautical instruments. He amused himself by copying what he saw, and became highly skilled at making models. By good fortune examples of his work were found and described by a workman who was apprenticed in his father's shop. They included models of pulleys, pumps, capstans, a
barrel-organ and a crane, probably copied from the first crane ever seen in Greenock, which had been made by his father to unload the Virginia tobacco ships. Watt seemed to be attracted by every science in turn. Geometry and mechanics were his first loves, but he passed on to geology, botany and astronomy. At one time anatomy fascinated him, and he was caught coming home carrying under his coat the head of a child that had died of some unusual disease. He wanted to dissect it. Often he would go down on to the quay that jutted out into the harbour at the foot of the garden to fish; often he would wander off in the evening to a great clump of elms and beeches south of the town, and there he lay on his back with a telescope borrowed from his father's store and watched the slow procession of the stars through the network of branches above him. Whenever his health was bad or his headaches worse than usual, and he knew that he was getting sullen and ill-tempered, he slunk away into the solitude of the moors and walked for hours by himself until the breath of the hillside had purged his bitter mood. He was a nervous boy and full of fancies. He read voraciously whatever came his way,
and stocked his mind with vivid images that came pouring out when he talked. A friend of his mother, with whom he was staying when a boy of about fourteen, said to her, " You must take your boy, James, home; I cannot stand the state of excitement he keeps me in; I am worn out with want of sleep. Every evening before ten o'clock, our usual hour of retiring to rest, he contrives to engage me in conversation, then begins some striking tale, and, whether humorous or pathetic, the interest is so overpowering, that all the family listen to him with breathless attention; hour after hour strikes unheeded. In vain his brother John scolds and pulls him by the arm; ' Come to bed, James. You are inventing story after story to keep us with you till after midnight, because you love company, and your severe fits of toothache prevent your sleeping at an earlier hour."' It is an excellent picture of the boy, highlystrung and imaginative, with a mind so restlessly active that he himself feared it and sought refuge from it in company. When he had finished his schooling Watt worked for a time about his father's shop. In I753 his mother died. He was then seventeen. It was
Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University. Dick realised that here was first-class talent running to waste. He spent a year there. It was described at this date as " a very ingenious and profitable Business. Her death broke up the family life at Greenock. were good. and it gave more scope to his mechanical dexterity than he would have got by following either of their trades Its prospects. In June of the following year he was sent to Glasgow to learn the craft of a mathematical instrument maker." and was by no means overstocked with labour. Watt asked his father's permission to go. and strongly advised him to go to London and get the best training that was to be had." until he attracted the attention of Dr. working under a nondescript mechanic who called himself an " optician. But when he got to Glasgow he found there was no one who could teach him. too.probably his mother's devotion to him that had kept him so long at home when other boys of his age were away earning their living. Dick. It was a profession closely allied to those of his father and his grandfather. It was a momentous decision. It was a natural choice. This must have been the first time in its history that any . and it was given.
. Art. Dick in his pocket. that no Freeman of the said Company using the said Trade. Apparently Watt's father had either overreached himself in his speculations or had suffered losses at sea. giving him only the most meagre of allowances while he was getting his training. do keep in his service . alien or English. not being free of the said Company of Clockmakers. any foreigners. Mathematical Instrument Maker " Item. although he had once been quite wellto-do. it is ordained. or bound as an apprentice . There was also the expense to be considered. or Mystery. CHAPTER THREE James Watt. and London seems a long way from Glasgow if you have to get there on horseback.member of the Watt family had proposed to cross the border. for. with a letter of introduction from Dr. I755 Watt mounted his horse to ride to London. and on 7th June. . he was now obliged to leave his son to make his own way in the world. In spite of all difficulties the adventure was accepted.
who seemed likely to become a pauper. and the skilled craftsman. and could be used discreetly to get rid of undesirables. but the right remained in theory. They were always afraid of competition. The vagrant. The city was still clinging to its ancient customs and privileges."-ordinances OF THE CLOCKMAKERS COMPANY OF LONDON. or indeed wanted to. and anxious to keep . The time was long past when any town could preserve this monopoly intact. who might prove a dangerous competitor for the custom of the townspeople. 1632. and at once his difficulties began. chief among which was the right to keep all its trade in the hands of the native.thereunto. were refused admission. unenterprising labourer were unmolested. the wealthy merchant and the honest. IT took Watt twelve days to reach London.born townsmen. The initiative in these matters came generally from the Gilds and Companies which controlled the various trades carried on in the City. and to forbid any " foreigner " from another town to settle down within its walls to earn his living.
and. merchants or employers of labour. At the top of the industrial scale was a class of wealthy men. by competing for employment in the restricted market of the town. advanced boldly . No person might set up in business on his own unless he was a Master and had been admitted as such into the Gild. and the normal way of becoming a Master was by serving an apprenticeship of seven years under a Gildsman. In this way the trade was protected against an influx of inferior and irresponsible labour which might lower the standard of work. All regulations affecting the trade were made by the Masters who ruled the Gild. They ran their businesses as they thought best. Now society in the reign of George II was anything but medieval.down the number of tradesmen among whom the available custom had to be divided. The chief principles which the Gilds had inherited from the Middle Ages were the following. Little was left of the elaborate system of industry based on the Gild. and then paying the fees for admission to the rank and privileges of Mastership. who had no patience with rules of this kind. drag down the level of the earnings of the craftsman.
As a long training was essential. apprenticeship had some meaning. and they had a monopoly in training recruits to the craft. At the other end of the scale were the labourers in common trades where the degree of skill required was small. The Masters in a trade of this kind were in a commanding position. and had no intention of teaching the secrets of their trade to any one except their own sons. But between these two classes came the highly skilled handicrafts. they had nothing to fear from the competition of upstart unqualified workmen. and there conditions were often different. Whenever there were enough of them in a town to have an organisation of their own they made strict rules for the training of novices and their admission .into any field that looked profitable. and when it was over the craftsman was ready to start business on his own. Such men were not likely to go through a long period of apprenticeship when they could learn their job well enough without it. They had no employers over them with power to dictate terms. and nothing awaited them at the end of it but a fight for existence in an overstocked labour market in which they had no special advantage. respecting nobody's preserves.
He must find a Master who was prepared to break the rules. The Clockmakers of London were a trade of this kind. But it was by nature suited to the medieval type of organisation. and no one who had not qualified according to these rules was permitted to open shop within the town. In the first place he was too old. The Company was not medieval in origin. in the third place he could not possibly afford to undertake to serve the full term of seven years. it had been founded in I63I. But he was in no position to conform to the ordinary regulations. He wanted to get trained in order to become a Master and start business on his own. The fact that he was a " foreigner " who had no intention of setting up shop in London was a . apparently. The mathematical instrument makers were a branch of the Company of Clockmakers and had the same rules. had not thought of this difficulty. His case was exactly that for which apprenticeship rules were designed. Watt. His only proper course was to bind himself by a legal contract as apprentice to a member of the trade.to the status of Master. in the second place he was a " foreigner " and had no right to work in the City at all.
On five days in the week he put in ten hours a day. Watt settled down to do seven years' work in a year. Even so it was nearly three weeks before Watt found the man he was looking for. Then he discovered Mr. Each workman in the shop was a specialist on some particular instrument. John Morgan of Cornhill. Watt wanted to learn to make them all. for London was not afraid of possible rivals in Glasgow. But it was difficult to avoid wasting time. not of the spirit. Morgan was willing to take him for a year and teach him all he wanted to learn. and so worked with each in turn.point in his favour. in nine . During that time he was to give his labour free. he got interrupted in his course of progress. he had to pay the large fee of twenty guineas to compensate his master for the violence he was doing to conscience. In six weeks he had outstripped a fellow-apprentice who had been in the shop for two years. But if the man he wanted happened to be busy or away for a time. and as the engagement was quite irregular. To teach such a man the mysteries of the craft was a breach of the letter of the law only.
This was a serious danger to Watt. never will be slaves. and anyhow he could not afford them. as he was a stranger with no rights in the City. Some fifteen years before. to the strains of the popular new song. But he had another reason for staying indoors. for. All this time he hardly ever went out. Now. while the people of London were still proclaiming that " Britons never. never. recovering from the strain of fighting with Austria against Prussia. She had tasted the sweets of Empire and was persuading herself that God made the sea for the English. When he got off in the evening he was much too tired to think of amusements.months he was as skilful as a fully trained and experienced workman. before she embarked on a new war with Prussia against Austria. and could cover a wider field. he could not claim the protection of the civil ." the officers of the Press-gang were lurking round the corner ready to pounce on any young Englishman who had so touching a faith in the freedom of his country as to walk about the streets of the capital after dark. England was enjoying a short interval of peace. " Rule Britannia ! " the British fleet had sailed out to defend our precious monopoly in the slave trade.
where they are obliged to carry them before my Lord Mayor first. He cut his expenditure on food down to eight shillings a week. He longed to get back to the fresh air of the Scotch countryside. to disgrace itself at Minorca. All this time Watt was working much too hard and not getting enough to eat. except it be in the Liberties of the City. it being against their laws for any unfreeman to work. In August he screwed up his courage to face the . A fleet had to be manned in a hurry for Admiral Byng to take out. there is scarce any getting off again. and unless one be either a Prentice or a creditable tradesman. " They now press anybody they can get." wrote Watt to his father.authorities. even as a journeyman. " landsmen as well as seamen. I durst not avow that I wrought in the City. and he suffered from violent attacks of rheumatism. In the spring of I756 the Press became very active. When his year was up his health gave way. within the Liberties." Fortunately he escaped. and could get it no lower without " pinching his belly. A thousand men were taken in one night." The strain was too much for his fragile constitution. And if I was carried before my Lord Mayor.
to offer his newly-won skill to the world. Glasgow at the beginning of the eighteenth century was a small seaport lying on the north bank of the Clyde only. with from ten to fifteen thousand inhabitants. but the charge could not be proved. which accused the Glasgow merchants of defrauding the Customs. After a short stay at Greenock that restored his spirits and his health. he turned his back on London. mounting his horse. but by that time the prosperity . From the time that the first Glasgow ship crossed the Atlantic in I7I67 an ever-increasing proportion of the sugar of the West Indies and the tobacco of Virginia found its way up the Clyde. he went on to Glasgow. and Glasgow grew rapidly richer." and the only town in Scotland that was developing both its foreign and domestic trade. and.weary journey into the north. with the outfit of tools that he had bought in London. When the American Colonies revolted in I775 this trade was annihilated. Its growing prosperity was based on the commerce with the colonies in the New World. When Defoe visited it about I724 he found it a " city of business. to the great indignation of the old-established English ports. Perhaps they did.
and laid out into a . linking Glasgow with the Eastern seas. knew that before she returned with her cargo from the West some new hive of industry would rear itself within sight of his warehouse.of the city was built on wider and firmer foundations and it quickly recovered. new buildings in the clean. One by one the signs of the new age appeared. while the rambling villages on the south bank of the river were replaced by neat suburbs " upon a regular plan. First the stone bridge across the Clyde founded in I 768. An upstart race of vigorous. gauntly prominent among the mellowed houses of the old town. then. In the last quarter of the century the face of the town was changed. then the Forth and Clyde Canal. The merchant. as he watched his ship sail out of the harbour. pushing manufacturers began to lick the old place into shape. and every hour that he waited patiently for the wind to do his work. square style of the period sprang up like temples offered by the city for the worship of its own greatness. behind its walls men and machines were ceaselessly toiling under the eye of a master who was building with their labour the edifice of his unchallengeable power.
erected " by public contribution to restore the use of reason. proud of its accumulated wealth.number of right-lined streets ". to crown the work. The greatest of these. while laboriously creating a school of Science for their own students. Joseph . the Grammar School. the Royal Infirmary. But in the eyes of many the renown it was already enjoying. the Assembly Rooms. there followed the Trades Hall. the Theatre. The impulse given to the study of Science by the Royal Society had worked itself out. the Courts of Justice with pillared hall and Doric frieze. was preparing to throw itself into the task of winning the respect and admiration of the modern world by success in those pursuits which the modern world then most valued. The University was at the height of its fame. when seized by restless ambition for something greater. It came from a group of men in Glasgow who. and." When Watt arrived this transformation had hardly begun. was more worth than any it has since achieved. and a new inspiration was needed. a magnificent domed Lunatic Asylum to house one hundred and twenty patients. the Bridewell. The city. dazzled Europe by the brilliance of their discoveries.
Here. Watt met with much the same difficulties in Glasgow as he had in London. was now lecturing in the University and. Within a month of his arrival in Glasgow. the University received a present of a case of astronomical instruments from a rich and eccentric merchant in Jamaica. refused him permission to work within the town in any capacity whatever. but intellectually hammers indeed as compared with Watt's gimlet. in spite of the fact that there was not one of them who pretended to understand the rudiments of his particular craft. worthy men. and the gift was most . Classes in physical astronomy had recently been started. His trade came under the jurisdiction of the Incorporation of Hammermen. he was a " foreigner. too. no doubt. of the name of Alexander Macfarlane." and a dangerous " foreigner." because he did not wish humbly to study the craft in the shop of a Master. and this precious collection of industrial autocrats. as if that were not lustre enough Adam Smith was Professor of Moral Philosophy. Watt was saved by one of those odd coincidences that crop up from time to time in the pages of history. but had every intention of setting up shop for himself.Black.
the University took him under its protection and gave him a room within the walls of the College. had none of the pride that makes the professional refuse to associate with . Watt was already a brilliant mechanic. And these men. shortly afterwards. Dr. being pioneers in an unconquered territory. where the writ of the Hammermen did not run. Watt was delighted to have this chance of proving his skill. but the sea voyage had thrown these delicate instruments out of gear. and had soon put the whole collection into perfect order. That side of his genius had hitherto been starved.opportune. and they needed overhauling by an expert. When. This was the turning-point in his life. In the University he found himself for the first time in the society of men who were his equals in intellect and his superiors in scientific experience. remembered his young friend and asked him to undertake the work. for which service the University voted him the sum of five pounds. but he would never have won fame as an engineer if he had not also become a brilliant scientist. in whose charge they were placed. Dick. it was heard that he had been refused leave to have a workshop in the town.
Watt's workshop was in the inner court of the College and communicated with the premises occupied by the Natural Philosophy department. It was as " Mathematical instrument maker to the University " that Watt gained admission to the precincts of the College in the summer of I757> but as soon as his remarkable gifts were recognised. Anderson was a young man. he was treated by both Professors and students as a friend and colleague rather than as an employee. who had first introduced him to Dr. Dick was still there. like some jealous guardians of accumulated knowledge. Professor Muirhead. and provided an excellent channel of approach to the keener scientists both of the older and the younger generation. and when Dick died. a relative of his mother. early in I7577 his successor as Professor of Natural Philosophy was Anderson. the brother of one of Watt's school friends.the amateur. Teachers and . not more than eight years senior to Watt. nor did they. The initial steps were made easy for him by the fact that he was already known personally to some of the University staff. feel proprietary about their science and resentful against trespassers.
Of all the friends he made at this time the two who most deeply influenced his future were Joseph Black and John Robison.students would look in as they were coming away from their work. His shop became the regular meeting-place for those who were doing original work and who liked to put up for criticism the tentative theories suggested to them by the results of their experiments. He had that rare gift of imaginative insight that is not afraid to leap into a new world of speculation. " has less . But he was not a wild guesser." said Adam Smith. finding. Before long they were discussing with him not only the intricacies of apparatus but the scientific problems on which they were engaged in research. to consult him about some piece of apparatus or to give him an instrument to repair. " No man. His friends dropped in to chat with him and brought their friends. More than once a Professor got a valuable hint from some swift thought hatched in the brain of the young craftsman and flung over his shoulder as he worked at his bench. Black was a scientific genius of the first order. a fresh significance in facts that have long been known to all. who knew him well. as it were by inspiration.
" to be a young man possessing most uncommon talents for mechanical knowledge and practice. for mere intellectual gratification. when he got him to make some apparatus for his experiments. with an originality. prefer. but I should. He would come and stand in the shop toying with a quadrant and whistling softly to himself.nonsense in his head than Dr." and he combined this freedom of vision with an unrivalled lucidity of exposition and accuracy of experiment. without hesitation. But it was not till later. " I found him. readiness and copiousness of invention which often surprised and delighted me in our frequent conversations together. " I have heard the greatest understandings of the age giving forth their efforts in its most eloquent tongues." The two men became close friends. to be once more allowed the privilege which I in those days enjoyed of being present while the first philosopher of his age was the historian of his own discoveries." he says. Black." Black had come across Watt when he was at work on Macfarlane's instruments. that he became aware of Watt's genius. Lord Brougham had heard him lecture and wrote of him. and Black's affection for Watt lasted to the .
" It is very foolish. but I can't help it. He realised his debt to Black. good enough to be elected Professor both in Glasgow and Edinburgh. When he was an old man a friend brought him news of Watt's triumph at law over an infringer of his patent. and always generously admitted it. wept with joy. qualities which made him an ideal companion for Watt when his bouts of ill-health made him talk of giving up work altogether Robison quickly recognised that Watt was his superior. who had just graduated when Watt arrived in the University." Watt profited immeasurably from his contact with this inspiring mind. " in great measure my being what I am. when I hear of anything good to Jamie Watt. and was also kept in touch with the most advanced scientific thought of the day. and was always at true friend and adviser. The old scientist. and then apologised." he said. he taught me to reason and experiment in natural philosophy.end of his life. weakened by years of illness. he was not the same calibre as Black. Though an able scientist. But he had great vitality and enthusiasm. He has described his first conversation with Watt in his workshop in the . " To him I owe." Robison was a younger man.
but Robison's adventurous tastes carried him away to sea very soon afterwards. everything became to him the beginning of a new and serious study." . Watt so much my superior. but was surprised to find a philosopher. He found that. we went to Mr. he could help Watt by testing and analysing " the random suggestions of his inquisitive and inventive mind. where I was always obliged to be a follower. as young as myself. thanks to his more systematic training. The young enthusiasts clustered round him. and always ready to instruct me. and renewed his friendship. He was attached to Admiral Knowles and was one of those who heard Wolfe recite Gray's " Elegy " as he went his rounds on the eve of the attack on the heights of Abraham. Four years later he returned." They became friends. " Whenever any puzzle came in the way of any of us." But Watt was the leader. I had the vanity to think myself a pretty good proficient in my favourite study. Watt. and "was continually striking into untrodden paths. and expected no more.College: " I saw a workman. everything became science in his hands. and was rather mortified at finding Mr." Watt had by this time a wide reputation. He needed only to be prompted.
If the instrument to be repaired was one that he had never seen before. he set to work to master its principles with what help he could get from the library. He was always ready to try. The University. On the contrary.Meanwhile Watt's business was growing. It was Watt's reputation as a universal mechanical expert that brought so much custom to his shop. where he could offer for sale to the public the instruments he made in his workshop. when granting him quarters. in I759 with a man named Craig. In order to develop this side of the business he went into partnership. had not stipulated that he should work only for them. who undertook to provide most of the capital needed for expansion. And what he learned he . and kept a staff of sixteen men at work. and was not satisfied until he had put it to rights. he was provided with a room fronting the street. They started with a stock and cash worth £200. and about five years later were making gross sales up to £600 a year. detested. which Watt. then as ever afterwards. When anything had to be done and there was no one in Glasgow who knew how to do itÑ which was oftenÑit was taken round to Watt. and to do all the commercial transactions.
In I763 he became engaged to be married to his cousin. we must pause in the . In this way he repaired and afterwards made. Watt could do anything. Margaret Miller. although he could not tell one note of music from another. thoroughly examined the mechanism of the best organ he could find. Soon after he formed his partnership with Craig. but also to the theory of sound. though still living in the College. fiddles. and in order that their nature and value may be made clear. In I765 he was married. guitars and flutes.never forgot. he was asked if he could build this organ. and devised an exact method by which he could tune the pipes by observing "the beats of imperfect consonances. into which he moved in the following year. But before this he had begun his experiments on the steam-engine."' He sat down to study the theory of music. " We imagined that Mr. and so took a house. and in the same year his partner died. When a Masonic Lodge in Glasgow wanted an organ. the officers went to Watt." By the time the work was completed Watt had made substantial contributions. Watt had opened a shop in the town. not only to the mechanics of organ design. He said 'Yes.
and he has. and the features of history take shape before us. inquisitive. for there are no periods in the infancy of thought."ÑBACON. 80 are all Innovations.narrative to consider the point the steam-engine had reached in its evolution when Watt turned his attention to it. and water in the world together. are illshapen. at first. when the Creator set man. CHAPTER FOUR The Great Invention and its Predecessors "As the Births of Living Creatures. a child's passion for toys. as . it was evident that ultimately the steamengine would have its place among the births of Time. The first steps towards its invention are blurred and unrecognisable. MAN has always been observant. Consequently. That benefactor of humanity who first boiled water in a vessel remains unknown. We must hurry down the ages to a point where time has measurable length.through life. fire. and lazy. which are the births of Time.
to A. He invented . As the water boils. will issue violently from the nozzles of those spouts. steady blast from his mouth. Or make a hollow doll of brass.the sleepers between the rails detach themselves into an expanding series as the eye travels home along the track from the farthest limit of vision to the ground at our feet. as nobody knows how he did it. all bent one way.C. He was an engineer and architect to Louis XIII of France. I600 steam was little more than a toy. and the steam. with a hole for his mouth. and he will seem to blow the fire that heats him. He has discovered that it has force and that with its help he can make toys that work. and drive it spinning as a catherine-wheel is driven. then the laziness of man prompted him to use this force to ease his labour. From 200 B. Man is beginning to play with this new element. driven along the radiating tubes that are the spokes. we pass on to Solomon De Caus. Heat water in the hollow hub of a wheel.D. fill him with water and set him by the fire. It is said that a Spaniard drove a boat by steam in I543~~ but. the steam will issue in a strong. who came to England in I6I2 and was employed by the Prince of Wales to embellish his gardens at Richmond.
The result was a toy fountain. but it is worth describing as being the simplest example of one of the methods of raising water with the aid of fire. But he got tired of life abroad.means for raising water above the height of its source and so constructing ornamental falls and fountains. Marquis of Worcester. It was of no practical use. which was then closed. he returned to England. the lower end of which came down nearly to the bottom of his globe and was therefore under the water. namely. and could hardly be called an engine. The next claimant to a place on the roll of inventors is Edward Somerset. Having acted as Charles I's agent in some of his wildest schemes during the Civil War. up the pipe and out as a jet from the top. He took a metal globe and partly filled it with water through a cock. He was altogether a fantastic character. Through the top of the globe he inserted a vertical pipe. Then he applied the fire. Whether it was the calm assurance of the . One method was by the use of fire. although he had been condemned to death in his absence. and. The heated air and steam pressed on the surface of the water in the vessel and forced it to escape by the only way open to it. he escaped to France.
There are several shorthand alphabets and codes. Closer study shows that the Marquis had simply collected every ingenious device he had ever met with in life. in which he offered it to his King as an indication of the ways in which he might still be of service to him. and after two years released with a pension. and boldly claimed that he possessed the secret of each without venturing to explain what that secret was. which he published after the Restoration with an effusive dedication to Charles II." and an automatic horse that a man may . an " artificial bird. It was at this time that he wrote his amazing book. a perpetual motion. At the first glance it appears to be the work of a lunatic. a torpedo. several portable fortifications and repeating pistols. or some irresistible magnetism in his personality." " a most conceited tinder box. entitled X Century of the Names and Scantlings of the Marquis of Worcester's Inventions. a watch that goes for ever. literature or legend.man. but instead of being immediately put to death he was sent to the Tower. or the memory of his reputation for fabulous wealth. it is impossible to say. This type of invention is impressive without being difficult.
" Number 68 was clearly a steamengine on the principle of De Caus. Was it Number 68? If so. which. only differing from his in that it had a separate boiler for generating the steam. Latin. Welsh. in good terms uttering it out of his mouth. " will presently open its mouth. Now it is known that a water-engine was set up by the Marquis at Vauxhall." Among these marvels are some machines for raising water. Number 68 called " A Fire WaterWork. and resolve the question in French. Number I00 is not clearly enough described to be reconstructed. and then shutting it until the next question be asked. the Marquis . if he whispers a question in its ear.ride " using the decent posture with bon grace. mostly by buckets working over wheels and pulleys. Two of these are interesting." and Number I00 modestly described by its author as " the most stupendious work in the whole world. Irish or English." King Charles is told by this unemployed commander of royalist armies and negotiator of secret treaties how he may make a head of brass or stone. several people report having seen it. but it seems to have been some kind of water-wheel worked by a man whose strength was multiplied by a system of weights and pulleys.
" This peculiarly unscientific and almost mystic statement of the case had proved very misleading. was the inventor's chief pride. Shortly before this a line of inquiry started by Galileo. He was a French doctor who fled from his country in I68I to escape the persecution of Protestants. though the least ingenious of the collection. Real progress began with the work of Dionysius Papin. Unfortunately none of those who saw it make any mention of the use of fire. their descriptions suggest that it was not a steamengine at all. and the Marquis of Worcester must be classed among those brilliant charlatans who never lack a train of devoted disciples.had turned De Caus's toy into a fullsized steamengine of practical value. and became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Was this because it was the only one of the hundred that ever materialised ? It seems highly probable. This last of the century. settled in London. and pursued by his pupils in Italy. had led to a very important discovery. It used to be said that " Nature abhors a vacuum. The Italians now discovered that it was nonsense to . but the quite unoriginal and unimportant Number I00. the darling of his heart.
To Papin belongs the credit for having thought of employing steam to do this.talk as if there were special laws of nature relating to a vacuum it was simply a question of the pressure of the atmosphere. constant where wind and water are fickle. But if you can withdraw the air from one side of a body there is nothing to balance the pressure on the other. for the pressure is perfectly balanced. The chief obstacle to the use of atmospheric pressure to drive a machine was the difficulty of producing the vacuum. The air is exerting a continuous pressure in all directions. open at the top like a shellcase that has been converted into a flowervase. to become unruly and burst the vessels intended to contain it. And this admirable force had not yet been pressed into the service of man. everpresent force provided by nature free of charge. and fitted it with a piston. Here was a universal. The body is therefore propelled into the vacuum with a force equal to the pressure of the atmosphere. He put a little water in the bottom of the cylinder. He took a cylinder. As it is in all directions it normally has no effect on the objects it surrounds. like steam. lowered the piston till it rested on . and not liable.
but rich in suggestions for future engineers. Such was Papin's engine. Whereas De Caus and Papin had started their investigations as scientists trying to fathom the mysteries of nature. The workings had reached a depth at which the old pumps ceased to function.the surface. When the catch was released the piston made a powerful stroke. the steam was condensed and became once more a layer of water on the bottom. Savery began from the other end. clumsy and desperately slow in working. As the cylinder cooled. The scene now shifts to Devonshire. and there . and the fire was removed. leaving a vacuum under the piston. He then replaced the fire and started again. the piston was raised to the top. and had seen for himself the difficulties the tin miners were having in keeping their mines clear of water. Thomas Savery was born in a village not far from Plymouth about the year I650. He was a military engineer and also a clever clockmaker. while the cylinder filled with steam. He had often travelled about in Cornwall. driven down by the pressure of the atmosphere which now had no resistance to overcome. and set it over a fire. There it was locked with a catch. As the water boiled.
so he now applied De Caus's system to force it higher. That alone was a big saving. The remarkable thing about this . he opened a pipe that communicated directly with the water to be raised. His method was as follows. He filled a vessel with steam. That was not enough. and he invented an engine. at high pressure. except that he generated the steam in a separate boiler which he could keep constantly hot. condensed the steam and created a vacuum. Savery tackled this problem as a practical man and an engineer. by pouring cold water over it. patented in I698~~ which was actually introduced into some of the mines. So far he wasfollowing Papin. and then. He turned on the steam again. and so had to keep taking the fire away and putting it back again. and it acted on the water in the vessel and drove it up and out through an ejection pipe. whereas Papin boiled his water in the cylinder in which he condensed it. and up it rushed into his vessel. But Savery did not use a piston Having got the vacuum.was pressing need for something more powerful. In this way he could get the water up about 30 feet.
He airily remarked that the . Sometimes. and they were quickly forthcoming. and then to use it to drive an ordinary suction pump which would raise the water. and the engineman led a perilous existence. Hooke of the Royal Society. or himself conceived. Thomas New comen. He either got from Hooke. He also had. not always. the idea of combining the advantages of both.engine was that it sometimes worked. but he had left the work unfinished. with the help of Dr. studied the experiments of Papin. Bursts and leakages were common. knew what Savery was doing. to drain a mine was a great stimulus to further efforts. Newcomen proposed to build an engine that would simply provide the power. he may even have been employed by him as a mechanic on his engines. It sucked the water up into its own bowels. with some measure of success. For the utmost skill of the blacksmith of those days was not equal to constructing a boiler that could be relied on to contain itself when tickled by high-pressure steam. Savery's machine was in itself a pump. The fact that a steam-engine had actually been used. a Dartmouth blacksmith. This had been Papin's intention.
pivoted in the centre. The suggestion came from Robison." This is what Newcomen did." and so forth. He took Papin's piston and cylinder and made it pull down one end of a beam. The first successful model was completed in I705 and the first engine was set up at Wolverhampton in I 7 I 2. where it was condensed by a douche of cold water. but each individual must select the construction of machinery appro priate to his purpose.manner of using his engine to " dis charge iron bullets to a great distance. But at the same time he applied Savery's improvement by generating the steam in a separate boiler. and leading the steam from it to the cylinder. but was pacified by being taken into partnership. " would be too long here to detail. We must now return to James Watt at Glasgow. It was in the year I759 that he first turned his attention to steam-engines. to propel ships against the wind. He knew that steamengines were being used to pump mines and was not thinking about ways of improving them. to the other end of which was attached the rod of a common pump. but of possible new uses . Savery complained that this was an infringement of his patent.
like his predecessors. And Robison. he worked at it. therefore. This seems so obvious. everything became to him the beginning of a new and serious studyÑ everything became science in his hands. " He needed only to be prompted. or to contain or control it if produced. It will be remembered that Robison said of Watt. Now in the eighteenth century mechanical technique was not good enough either to produce a steady supply of high-pressure steam. Might it not be used to drive carriages on wheels? Why not invent a steam locomotive ? Savery had had the same idea. he had now been prompted." Well. to drive his engine by the pressure of steam itself. Watt. The explanation is simple.for steam. was quite right. If atmospheric resistance is not removed by means of a vacuum. He first tried. that people often wonder why engineers at first preferred the far more complicated and round-about way of using steam only as a means for making a vacuum. force of the steam. but nobody had yet succeeded in carrying it out. He did not play with the idea. The steam must be used at high pressure. as any one would. . and so bringing the pressure of the atmosphere into play. it must be overcome by the driving.
" he says. the danger of bursting the boiler. because he was " sensible it would be liable to some of the objections against Savery's engine. He discovered that the University possessed a model of a Newcomen engine. it would only make two or three . He read a few standard works. Even now he soon checked his hasty enthusiasm and sat down to complete his education. " I set about repairing it. although the model was mechanically as perfect as any fullsized engine. It was probably at Watt's suggestion that Professor Anderson recovered this model from London and handed it over to him to be put into working order. but that it was at the moment in London. and the difficulty of making the joints tight. viz. At first he was not thinking of theories." In later years Watt would never have begun to experiment on a problem until he had studied and mastered everything that had been done or written on the subject by any one before him. Then he wanted to see an example of the latest type of engine in use." But when he had finished. undergoing repairs.soon gave up his attempt to devise a high-pressure engine. This was in the winter of I763. " as a mere mechanician.
It led him away from the purely mechanical aspects of the problem. and this is much more important.strokes at a time. From this he saw that the model was more wasteful than a real engine. it " became science in his hands. In the big engines the cylinder was made of castiron. Therefore. arising from the very principle on which the machine worked. that even in a full-sized engine with a perfectly proportioned cylinder of the most suitable material known to exist there would still be waste of energy and loss of power. in the model it was of brass. when the cold cylinder was being filled with steam. He determined to find out what that waste amounted to." He saw that heat was being wasted. Therefore energy was going astray. . in heating the cylinder. In doing this he was led into a series of elaborate scientific experiments on the nature of heat and the properties of steam. and then expired. Here was a puzzle of a new kind. a better conductor of heat. But he also saw. a great deal was uselessly turned to water. as it were. He saw that the toy cylinder " exposed a greater surface to condense the steam in proportion to its content " than a big cylinder.
Three aspects of the problem occupied him. It had already been shown by experiment that, when subjected to a pressure lower than that of the atmosphere, water would boil at a temperature lower than the ordinary boilingpoint. Watt carefully worked out a scale showing at what temperature water will boil at every pressure from nil upwards. In his neat, precise way, he reduced a general theory to an exact, quantitative form. Then he went on to discover the relation between the volume of a given quantity of water and the volume of steam, at the temperature of boiling water, into which it could be converted. Others had tried to do this before, but Watt's researches proved that their conclusions were at fault. His scientific mind, aided by his mechanical genius for experiment, enabled him to get results that far surpassed in accuracy anything that had been done before. Finally he was struck by the extraordinary heating-power of steam. On devising some experiments he came to the surprising conclusion that water converted into steam can heat six times its own weight of cold water up to the boilingpoint. Thinking that he must have blundered somewhere, he consulted Black. He then learned
that he had stumbled on the fact, the discovery and explanation of which had made Black famous, namely, the phenomenon of Latent! Heat. When water is boiling, however much you go on heating it, it will get no hotter. The steam receives the heat without raising its own temperature and holds it in store. This heat is described as " latent." If the steam is driven through a volume of cold water it naturally condenses, and in so doing it releases its store of latent heat, which all goes to raise the temperature of the water. In other words, the heating power of a certain quantity of water at a temperature of 2I2¡ is trifling compared with the heating power of the same quantity of water converted into steam also at a sensible temperature of 2I2¡. In order to appreciate the way in which Watt applied these scientific observations to the problem of perfecting the steam-engine, it is essential to understand exactly how the Newcomen engine of the day worked. With the aid of a diagram that should not be difficult. The figure on page 7 I represents an engine of this type reduced to the simplest terms. A is a furnace, and B is a boiler in which steam is generated. The boiler communicates
by a pipe in which is a cock, a, with the cylinder, C, in which works a piston, D. It will be noticed that the cylinder is open at the top. The rod of the piston is attached to a beam, EE, pivoted at the centre, to the other end of which is fastened the rod of a pump, G. and on this rod is a weight, F. H is a cistern of cold water with a pipe running down into the bottom of the cylinder in such a way that, whenever the cock, h, is opened, a jet of water IS injected into the cylinder. Imagine the beam EE horizontal. The cock b is opened, letting steam into the cylinder. This balances the pressure of the atmosphere on the piston, and the weight F. finding no resistance at the other end of the beam, sinks down to the position shown in the diagram, drawing the piston to the top of the cylinder. The cylinder is now full of steam. When the cock b is shut, the cock h is opened, letting a jet of cold water enter the cylinder, which at once condenses the steam and creates a vacuum. The piston then makes its stroke, driven by atmospheric pressure, and so raises the pump rod. But there is now some water in the cylinder, partly condensed steam, partly the water that formed the jet. When, therefore, cock b is
opened again, cock c is also opened, and this water is drained away down the pipe that enters the bottom of the cylinder on the left in the diagram. In this way the pump is kept working .the stroke of the piston sucking the water up into it, and the fall of the weight driving it out again. Watt, equipped with new knowledge, turned again to his model. He could now calculate what volume of steam was being generated for each stroke of the piston. He compared this with the volume needed to fill the cylinder, and found that it was three or four times as great. In fact, as much as three-quarters of the steam was being wasted. His precise, orderly mind was shocked by this discovery. And the defect was not due to some detail in the machine; it was fundamental. To condense the steam and create a vacuum, the cylinder had to be cooled. When fresh steam was admitted for the next stroke it went on condensing, uselessly, until it had heated the cylinder up to its own temperature. There lay the waste. It had been worse still in the first Newcomen engines, where the cylinder was cooled by being douched with cold water outside. The internal jet condensed the steam without making the walls of the cylinder
The conclusion was that the machine was. it did not need to be heated to boiling point. in fact. the jet must be as large as possible. . But the waste of steam. If this happened at all. His first series of experiments had shown him that. and there would be some steam left in the cylinder to resist the descent of the piston. too much for the steam to heat to I00¡. The obvious lesson to be learned from this was that the jet must be as small as possible in order to cool the cylinder as little as possible. as the water was in a vacuum. though reduced. instead of the cold water condensing the steam.so cold. it would boil at the much lower temperature of I00¡. was still enormous. always being clogged by vapour under the piston. That was why it had been adopted. the steam would vaporise the water. There was a danger that. the vacuum would be incomplete. namely 212¡~~ before it turned to vapour. which went to raise the temperature of the water that had been injected. His observations on Latent Heat taught that when the steam in the cylinder was being condensed it gave out its immense store of heat. and the only way to reduce this defect was to inject a lot of cold water.
This was precisely what the engineers had done. The cylinder must always be at a temperature of less than I00¡otherwise the water that is injected will turn to vapour and obstruct the action of the Pi machine. An engine that was so wasteful offended his sense of mechanical beauty. Then quite suddenly the simple and obvious solution dawned on him. It all happened on a Sunday afternoon walk. but. " Nature. Keep . replies that the jet must be as small as possible." He put his case to himself in a new way. if we can only find it out. But Watt was not satisfied. Was that any more helpful ? It hardly seemed so. He refused to confess himself beaten. Very well. on the other hand. it must be as large as possible. the inquirer can only curse the oracle and make a jet of medium size.He seemed to be stuck. For days he walked about torturing his brain in the effort to achieve the impossible. The cylinder must never be at a temperature of less than 2I2¡ otherwise steam will be prematurely condensed and wasted. There must be two different temperatures. " has a weak side. then there must be two separate vessels. If the oracle of science. when consulted by its most accomplished high priest." he used to say.
Start with both the cylinder and the condenser full of steam. It merely carried the improvements of Savery and Newcomen one step farther. In will rush the steam from the cylinderÑfor steam is elasticÑmaking a vacuum there.the cylinder always hot. Watt. in order to reduce the waste of heat. Make a separate condenser. which served as boiler. Down will come the piston. Papin had one vessel only. Condense the steam in the condenser and make a vacuum there. and keep that always cold." When the substance of Watt's great invention is put down in black and white it hardly seems to provide a sufficient excuse for writing a biography of the inventor.condenser. Newcomen. had three. Not a particle of heat will be wasted. The thing is done. " I had not walked farther than the Golf House when the whole thing was arranged in my mind. adopted Savery's idea and had two separate vessels. a boiler and a cylinder. and condense the steam somewhere else. communicating with the cylinder. in order to reduce the waste still further. . cylinder and condenser. at second hand. as it were.
was an engine driven by the pressure of steam alone. As steam is elastic and expansive. just as it was. but it was driven by the force of the atmosphere. the downward one. He wanted to keep the cylinder hot. Newcomen's machine made use of steam. familiar. The piston was drawn up by a weight on the far . It was satisfied with the safe. Here. and was often. called an " atmospheric engine. however. There must. Watt's invention led directly to a further improvement of equal importance.engine is indisputable. and contact with the air was bound to cool it.But technically Watt's claim to the title of inventor of the steam." The nature of Watt's improvement led him to cut out the air altogether. the first real " steamengine. then. Watt set the cylinder. with ~ greater accuracy. highpressure steam. it pressed on the piston in exactly the same way as the atmosphere in Newcomen's engine. low-pressure steam. in an air-tight case filled with steam. Up till now engines had only one driving stroke. assisted in its action by a vacuum that eliminated resistance. be some kind of " atmosphere " to press on the piston and drive it into the vacuum." But it did not require that dangerous and expensive article.
Very soon. He was only waiting till the simpler machine had proved its worth and been accepted by . The single engine already overtaxed the intelligence of the average engineer. however. the steam above it was in an enclosed space in which a vacuum could be created by condensation. and to provide for the automatic opening and shutting of the various taps at the right moment. This would give the engine two driving strokes instead of one. Watt trembled to think what might happen if he introduced him to the double. It could not be otherwise. This was still the case in Watt's first engines. but he did not introduce it into his patented designs till I782.end of the beam. The reason was this. since he used an open cylinder sitting in an atmosphere of steam. Naturally this point did not escape Watt.l Now. exactly as for the downward stroke. when the piston was at the bottom. The " doubleacting " engine required a very complicated mechanism to connect the cylinder twice over both with the boiler and with the condenser. he abandoned this in favour of a closed cylinder communicating at both ends with the boiler.
Watt's contributions demanded higher qualities than were possessed by any of his predecessors. But Watt was a greater scientist than Papin and a greater mechanic than Newcomen. then he offered them the creations of his riper genius. and was bound to remain a rarity. for which others deserve the credit. owing to its superiority in efficiency and economy. because he had thoroughly analysed . But Watt's claim is not a technical one only. Newcomenwas an ingenious mechanic. Newcomen's engine was a rarity. The solution seems simple. and put the finishing touch to work done by others. there were few industries in which it could pay its way. Watt's engine. Nor was his success due simply to the fact that his invention came at the crucial moment. from the corn mills to the cotton factories. His invention was not just a happy inspiration. was able to spread from the mines to the iron foundries. from the iron foundries to the corn mills. until the industry of the nation had been transformed. It was the fruit of months of hard work which no one without his genius could have accomplished. because it was uneconomical. Papin was a clever scientist.the industrial world.
explored it. cocks and connecting mechanism to make sure that everywhere there was perfect accuracy and perfect economy.every factor in the problem and reduced it to its simplest form. experimenting in devices for keeping the piston tight in the cylinder. and going over all the valves. and pressed on to its solution by a process of irresistible logic. Papin could never have solved it in practice. When he had finished. That was the most diflicult part of his task. demanding the supreme skill of the mechanic guided by the brain of the scientist. a work of art. But that was not the end. Watt saw it. Newcomen had never realised what the problem was. demanding the brain of a scientist guided by the instincts of a mechanic. It was as different from its predecessors as . trying various forms of condenser. There followed years of hard work. The invention was made in I765 and patented in I769 but it was ten years before he had produced an engine that satisfied him. so far as the craftsmanship of the day allowed. All that time he was toiling away at the mechanical details. the engine was.
world-wide possibilities of work and traffic. In creating the steam-engine Watt created the science of mechanical engineering. watching the parts fly to their places the instant they were conceived. Mammon is like Fire. Creditsystems. WATT came home jubilant from his Sunday afternoon walk on the Green. Then he turned from his arm-chair to his laboratory bench. For two days he enjoyed the exquisite pleasure of building engines in the world of his imagination."ÑCARLYLE.the modern bicycle is from the velocipede of the 'eighties. the usefullest of all servants. The results . CHAPTER FIVE The Partnership of Watt and Roebuck " I know Mammon too. and sat down to think out all the implications of his new idea. with never a leaky joint nor a broken screw. if the frightfullest of all masters. and applaud and admire them. An apparatus was set up to test the principles underlying the invention. Swiftly the perfect engine of his dreams took shape in his mind. Banks-of-England.
I can think of nothing else but this machine. came back. man. and the slightly lecturing tone jarred on Watt's excited nerves. He found Watt in his room contemplating a little tin cistern which seemed to absorb all his thoughts.. I765~ he wrote to a friend a letter full of confidence. It shall all be boiling hotÑaye. " I have now made an engine that shall not waste a particle of steam.. and went round to have a chat with him. He was convinced he was on the right track. At the end of April. who had been away and knew nothing of the invention. " You need not fash yourself any more about that." telling Watt of some new ideas that had occurred to him while he was away. and might be of value for their work." Shortly after this Robison." he exclaimed sharply.pleased him. He had calculated the capacities of his engine as compared with those of the old type. Robison began talking steam-engine " shop. mine ought to raise water to 44 feet with the same quantity of steam that theirs does to 32. and .. I hope to have the decisive trial before I see you. " and if there is not some devil in the hedge. This time he was hopelessly out of date. for he always regarded himself as a sort of partner in Watt's researches. In short.
He tried every kind of padding: cork." And he pushed the little cistern out of sight under the table. horse-dung. or pasteboard . and long after that too. It was quite certain that no craftsman then alive could make the metal parts so accurately that they fulfilled these conditions without other help. before the first of his engines was at work. A hundred tiresome problems of detail were revealed which had not existed in the immaterial world of his imagination. He was proud of his secret then.hot water injected if I please. His difficulties began when he started to makea working model. tallow. Newcomen had solved this problem by having water lying on the top of the piston to prevent the passage of air through the cracks. ready to cling to any one who had strength to support his weakness. and refused to answer a single question. He was weary and heartbroken. collars of cloth treated with varnish. The piston must fit tightly in the cylinder. strong in the sense of his own power. he wanted nobody's help. and. but with as little friction as possible. But Watt's cylinder must be absolutely dry.
only to find that the cylinder was untrue. or the pipes leaked. " Oh. when practising " mechanics in great. he burst out. compelled to accept the clumsy approximations of the local blacksmith. do you imagine me so dull as not to have thought on that long ago P " His mind was working faster than it had ever worked before. off he darted to make the trial for which he had been waiting impatiently for weeks.soaked in linseed oil. man. Many patterns were tried and rejected before he was satisfied. By this time he was getting irritable and impatient. The most maddening part of it was that he. He was like a hound in full cry called back to inspect a rabbit hole. was now." as he called it. and the moment the parts arrived. Then the condenser had to be drained of the water that formed in it. He fumed and fretted at the leisurely methods of the British workman. The exact form of the condenser was another source of trouble. who was accustomed to work with apapparatus fashioned with all the delicacy of his own exquisite skill. When the faithful Robison meekly suggested some special kind of education pipe for this purpose. every nerve was strained for speed. and he must .
The more he was worried. said he. He was a very exacting master. they were part of his vitality. Nor did he make things any easier for his men. for. the more inventive he became. and could not be turned off like a tap while the mechanics were at work. died.go home again. " Thinking on these things is a kind of relief amidst my vexations. The engine was his noblest artistic creation. Consequently he was always making little changes and revising the designs while the engine was being built. He could not bear to see its beauty marred by clumsy hands." who made the condensers. The confusion that resulted was often as much his fault as theirs. He was quite convinced that his invention had a high commercial . And his creative faculties never rested. and nothing short of perfection would satisfy him." His next difficulties were financial. At the crucial moment his " old white-iron man. and he loved it as a child. greatly to the distress of the builders. and he had to face the exasperating task of training another to take his place. with his work at a standstill.
To-day the efforts of a highly organised matrimonial agency keep up the birthrate. There is a host of rich captains of industry on the look out for new ideas. from the . and behind these conduits through which flows the money that irrigates the fields of trade. build a factory. This feature of modern civilisation.value. The penniless inventor is at the mercy of Mammon. His idea is barren and cannot give birth to wealth until it has been fertilised by wealth. The profits would eventually cover this outlay. dates. but he wanted to spend those profits in advance. Finance is its father. If Science is the mother of invention. and manufacture the engines that should persuade the world that he was right. The commercial world bristles with devices for bringing the two parents together. are the reservoirs of the banks. I as we have seen. It would be very profitable to somebody. like nearly every other. ready to be enticed by the company promoter to invest its savings in any venture that promises high profits on the authority of high personages. Behind them too is the sea of the money-making public. Here enters the credit system. But in the meantime he wanted a few thousand pounds to complete his experiments.
the Projector. that genius presiding at the birth of speculation. beyond the understanding of man. " Credit makes the soldier fight without pay. by way of distinction. " Necessity. ancestor of the company promoter of to-day. nay. the armies march without provisions. Even to him who spoke the word it was a miracle. he that has credit is invulnerable. nothing that it could not accomplish.seventeenth century." The Projector. to call it the Projecting Age. There seemed to be no limit to this new-won power. He muttered his spells." wrote Defoe. and it makes tradesmen keep open shop without stock. which is allowed to be the Mother of Invention. The force of credit is not to be described by words. that it seems not at all improper. and up and down the years heavily sported that quaint monstrosity." But if the magic lamp is rubbed . and the spirits of industry flew to do his bidding. it will make money. as he watched the old century dying. In that fascinating and fertile age banks and jointstock companies established themselves as parts of the economic system. "has so violently agitated the wits of men at this time. was dabbling in the mysteries of credit. whether he has money or no.
Nevertheless in Watt's day the financing of a new enterprise was a very difficult operation. No joint-stock company might be founded without sanction of an Act of Parliament. afraid lest it might do more damage. The banks were mostly small affairs without substantial resources. were not prepared to take any of the risks of business. Government.too often. put obstacles in the way of its expansion. the genie gets out of temper and out of control. The tragi-comic fiasco of the South Sea Bubble struck a blow at Finance from which it was slow to recover. small private banks sprang up all over the country. The Stock Exchange did a brisk business. the activities of Finance revived. The . So it was with credit in the hands of these ignorant miracle-workers. As the eighteenth century wore on. and joint-stock banking was a monopoly in the hands of the Bank of England. and credit itself lost its credit. Brokers must be licensed and must only do such business as the authorities considered respectable. as has always been the practice in England. Adventures went amiss. the bubble was pricked. and. while brokers and jobbers never lacked either customers or victims.
The investor's only chance. But Black knew well enough that the burden of financing so big an enterprise was too heavy for him to bear. was always ready with precious advice and stimulating suggestions. And even then he knew that his partner would have to embark on the perilous seas of financial speculation. carrying his invention with it. and he lent him money. He followed every step of his work with the keenest interest.only type of company that could be floated without a special Act of Parliament was an association which the law treated as a partnership. that in spite of his help. Watt . knew. trusting to the crazy ship of an imperfect credit system which might go to the bottom. with no bank to help him and no Projector to turn him into a company. As the ordinary investor is not prepared to shoulder the risks and responsibilities of partnership or to stake his entire property on a speculative venture. too. and which did not enjoy the privilege of limited liability. was to discover among the few existing rich capitalists one who would go shares in his idea for ready money. such bodies did not find it easy to draw on the savings of the general public. Watt's best friend in these times of trial was Joseph Black.
found scope enough for it in those agricultural pursuits which were just becoming fashionable. Its introduction into many other industries 87 depended on those industries being remodelled so as to receive it. He began to look for some one to take his place. The choice was not wide. The engine had not yet been proved a success. Even if it passed all tests. was a small one. owners of big workshops and factories. if they had any enterprise. To such men the invention of the steamengine was just a little commotion under the surface . it could not be proved successful until much money had been spent on further experiments. or by providing employment to large numbers of scattered craftsmen. The class of industrial capitalists. who lived by trade. both foreign and domestic. but only on condition that it was cheaper and more economical than the engines already in use. There was an active demand for it in the mines. who. or of merchants. The sinking of large sums in this invention was bound to be attended by risks. skill would be needed to find a market.was already running heavily into debt. The wealth of the country was for the most part in the hands either of landed gentry.
The process needed a big plant. The Carron Ironworks. not far from Falkirk. Roebuck was a Birmingham physician who had taken up the study of chemistry and its application to the processes of industry. Roebuck chose as his site the banks of the river Carron in Stirlingshire. they could not estimate its possible value to others.in a remote and unfamiliar corner of the world of industry. Support had to be found in that section of the economic world which the engine was designed immediately to serve. planned on an imposing scale and built . It was of no use to them. From this he passed on to iron. especially as the processes subsequent to smelting had hardly been touched by the earlier invention. and the use of mechanical means for getting a powerful blast. The man who at once occurred to Black was his friend Dr. The iron trade had been revolutionised earlier in the century by the discovery of a method of smelting with coke instead of charcoal as fuel. His first commercial success was a factory for the manufacture of sulphuric acid established at Prestonpans. Roebuck. The trade now offered great scope for individual enterprise both in organisation and in technical development.
Finally. Black. Roebuck was much attracted by Watt. were formally opened on the 1st of January. I760. but he was full of caution. Watt was by this time satisfied with the performances of his first . The character of this early correspondence was ominous. Before he com mitted himself he wished to make certain that the invention was sound. He was a scientist. therefore. he bombarded Watt with questions and irritated him with worthless criticism. and could be expected to appreciate. his establishment could easily be adapted to the manufacture of engines on a large scale. introduced the two men. Roebuck seemed to be the ideal man for the purpose. He was extremely wealthy. He himself stood to gain by the invention. and in the summer of I765 they entered into correspondence with one another.with the aid of the engineer Smeaton. and had a natural sympathy with any bold enterprise. the possibilities of the engine. since the chief obstacle to progress in his industry was the limit to the efficiency of water-power as a means to work the bellows that drove the air into the blastfurnaces. even from an imperfect model.
and thereby useless. And Roebuck was a somewhat sceptical pupil. In return for this he was to have two-thirds of the property of . the cylinder "was very illbored.model and ready to start on a larger and more perfect one. After more than a year's careful consideration. It was a further disappointment to Watt to find that. For Roebuck's sake he had to go over all the ground again and explain to him the nature and results of his original scientific experiments. He undertook to pay his outstanding debt of £I000 and to bear all future cost of experiments and of securing a patent. when he sent drawings of a piston and cylinder to be cast at Carron for use in a big-scale model. though the best Carron could make. the basic idea of the invention." The least he had expected to get out of the connection with Roebuck was access to first-rate workmanship. Roebuck decided to take the risk and entered into an agreement with Watt. He even questioned the necessity for a separate condenser. and much valuable time was wasted in trying alternatives which Watt knew well were useless. There were disadvantages in having a partner who professed to be a scientist as well as a financier.
the invention. in reality. I765] was but a trifle to what I know now. God willing. leaving him free to devote himself uninterruptedly to the experimental side of the work. for some time. the time when he came nearest to throwing up the whole thing in despair. he was just entering on the greatest crisis of his life." Evidently he was in high spirits. But. " I am going to be at home. At the beginning of I 768 Watt was busy with a model which was to be the last before they embarked on a full-sized engine." he wrote to his friend Lind on 5th January. The future seemed brighter now that he had Roebuck behind him. . Seriously. it would give me great pleasure if you could spend a few weeks with me. and some other trifles of that kind). " I am going to try some things I am persuaded you would like to see (perpetual mobiles. And there still remained much to be done. It really seemed as if all worries of finance and business management had been lifted off Watt's shoulders. He felt he was making great progress. I think I could entertain you. What I knew about the steamengine before you went away [December. the elixir magicum. The partners were not yet ready to apply for a patent.
and partly turned.. he writes on April 1st." A fortnight later he made a very favourable report. " I have been close working at the engine since I wrote you. bored.His troubles began in April. and on May Ioth he wrote: " I have got the two new exhausting cylinders cast." But time passed and the indefatigable inventor was still pulling his model to pieces in order to introduce the new devices that were constantly cropping up in his fertile brain. and I have had no good news lately. concluding with the words. " but have not got it perfectly tight yet. and hope it will make you some return for the obligations I ever will remain under to you." Four days later he reports that some mercury from the gaugepipe got into the cylinder " and has played the devil with the solder. and is very vexatious." Then some slight defect led him to make considerable changes in the design. When October came. I would write you oftener.. and the . but my health is but indifferent. though it is much better. " I sincerely wish you joy of this successful result.. also the new condensers made: and expect to have it going again by the end of the week. and are related in a series of letters to Roebuck. This throws us back at least three days.
and he was eager to begin manufacturing for the market. and securedÑit bore date January 5th. ought not to be lost. Watt went on tinkering at his beloved model. A day. but only the speediest and most effectual manner of executing one of a proper size. although a patent was applied for. or to ask him to proceed on the lines of his " present ideas." for his ideas changed daily." But Watt was incorrigible and unrepentant.experiments still dragged on. or even improvement of this. or even hourly. And you should not suffer your thoughts to be diverted by any other object. So. " You are letting the most active part of your life insensibly glide away. " I wrote you last night of my having taken asunder the engine to add an external cylinder . a moment." he wrote. Roebuck began to lose patience. " I want much effectually to try the machine at large. It was useless to tell him not to think of improvements. I769Ñand although plans were concocted for erecting a fullsize trial engine in a shed at the back of the doctor's house at Kinneil. He was satisfied with the model as it was. according to your present ideas. The specifications for the patent were being prepared.
and a thinner bottom," he writes cheerfully in February. And ten days later, " I made an imperfect trial to-day of an alteration in the condenser, with which I am much pleased "; but by the end of May he was expressing equal satisfaction with a new condenser of an entirely different pattern. The unhappy Roebuck must have felt that there was nothing more trying to the patience than to have dealings with a man of genius. Watt's genius was a tormentor to him as well as to his friends. Its ceaseless bounding energy rattled the frail body that it inhabited, as the imprisoned steam shook the fabric of one of his engines. When his health was bad he shrank from every effort except that of his work. He was afraid of the journey from Glasgow to Kinneil, which might have refreshed him, because, he said, " I am far from well, and the fatigue of the ride would disable me from doing anything for three or four days." But he remained chained to his workshop, wearing himself out with labour which racking headaches often rendered quite fruitless. His strength flagged before he could put his ideas into effect. " Much contrived, and little executed," he lamented. " How much would health
and spirits be worth to me ! " " I have found my engine much better of the alterations I mentioned in my last. Still plagued with headaches, and sometimes heartaches. I received Mr. Boulton's, to whom my compliments." It was as if, as he sat at his work, the pain grew and mounted in his brain, and, suffusing his thoughts, distilled one pure drop of misery on to the paper before him amidst the jargon of valves and cisterns. Sometimes he felt he had not made one inch of progress since the day that the idea of the engine first came to him. " I am not near so capable as I was once. I find that I am not the same person I was four years ago, when I invented the fire-engine, and foresaw, even before I made a model, almost every circumstance that has since occurred.... The necessary experience in great was wanting; in acquiring it I have met with many disappointments. I must have sunk under the burthen of them if I had not been supported by the friendship of Dr. Roebuck. I have now brought the engine near a conclusion, yet I am not in idea nearer that rest I wish for than I was four years ago. However, I am resolved to do all I can to carry on this business, and if it does not thrive with me, I will lay aside the
burthen I cannot carry. Of all things in life there is nothing more foolish than inventing. " During all this time, and during the years that followed in which the trial engine was being built at Kinneil, Watt had to find means to earn his living. The engine was not now costing him anything, but it brought him no income, and he had a wife and two children to support. At first he kept his odd mixed business going at his Glasgow shop, but it declined after the death of his partner, John Craig. The orders sent by his rather thoughtless friends distracted him from more important work. One of the earliest letters from Roebuck, after discussing the science of heat, concludes with a postscript: " The microscope is safe arrived, and affords fine amusement; but Mrs. Roebuck desires me to remind you of the guitar." The guitar, forsooth ! when he was already engaged in experiments on the steam engine. About the same time he invented an ingenious machine for drawing in perspective for which he had several orders at three guineas apiece. As his reputation as an engineer grew he was offered surveying work, which, though not well paid, brought in a more regular income than the chance sales of his little shop. His
first undertaking of any size was a canal to connect Glasgow with the collieries at Monkland. The survey was completed in I769 and he was then asked to supervise the work of construction. Rather against his better judgment he accepted, for he knew that the work would be hard and would occupy him for three or four days a week, but he could not afford to throw away a chance of earning £200 a year. To his surprise he found the open-air life suited him. " The vaguing about the country, and bodily fatigue, have given me health and spirits beyond what I commonly enjoy at this dreary season, though they would still thole amends. Hire yourself to somebody for a ploughman; it will cure ennui." That was in January I770 and he was at it all that year and through the following winter. The work brought its worries. It was new to him, and he kept meeting problems that taxed his ingenuity to the full. Of course the money ran out before the work was finished, and he had troublesome negotiations to conduct with con tractors and workmen. There was nothing he hated more. " Nothing is more contrary to my disposition than bustling and bargaining with
and produced quadrants and micrometers and a " dividingscrew " that would divide an inch into a thousand equal parts. following the line of the famous Caledonian Canal afterwards built by Telford." he wrote to Watt. Naturally he applied his inventive faculties to the instruments used by surveyors. " because it is just and masterly. . some of which were carried out. Among them was a survey and estimate for a canal from Fort William to Inverness. His report was put on one side at the time. and I have introduced in my Report your general description. but Telford came across it long afterwards among some Treasury papers./p> He was occupied with the Monkland Canal for over two years. He executed surveys for a number of canals.mankind: yet that is the life I now constantly lead. He built a bridge over the Clyde. and then more work of the same kind came along. " I believe it is yours. plainly saying that it could not be so well told in any other words."<. and improved the harbours of Greenock and Port-Glasgow. others not." Watt became more and more absorbed in his new occupation.
The more distant success appeared.tion of failure. " To-day I entered into the thirtyfifth year of my life. To make matters worse. He was no longer bearing the cost of the experiments and had not even been able to pay the expenses of the patent Watt had been forced to borrow from Black again. The speculation was a complete failure and crippled his finances. refuse every piece of business that offers. served to distract his mind from his unlucky steamengine." he wrote. In order to get control of his raw material he had taken a lease of the Duke of Hamilton's coal-mines at Borrowston ness. He began to be haunted by the expecta. and Watt's difficulties were increased by the faultiness of the goods turned out by the Carron works. the more readily Watt accepted other kinds of employment. " on an uncertainty. " I cannot. Roebuck was in financial difficulties." he wrote in I770 ' and I think I ." He was constantly away and tried to direct experiments by letter. together with the host of little scientific problems that he explored at this time. and with it the ruin of his life's work. There was always something amiss with the trial engine. For things were going very badly at Kinneil.All this employment.
" Work on the engine stopped for want of funds. I can do so no longer. "My heart bleeds for his situation. . Within three months his wife was dead. But his cup of misery was not yet full. He was out of pocket more than the value of his share in the invention. and there was nothing left to be done but try to save something out of the wreck. Watt had long been prepared for the failure of his own projects.have hardly done thirty-five pence worth of good in the world." This letter was written in July 1773. my family calls for my care to provide for them. The engine at Kinneil was perishing. The patent was worthless. and I can do nothing to help him. The trade depression and financial crisis of 1772 finally smashed Roebuck. I stuck by him till I have much hurt myself. The partnership had come to grief. but I cannot help it. He even spoke of converting the " damned engine " into a machine of thee old type and selling it for what it would fetch. but he could not endure the thought that he had helped to bring ruin on his friend.
quickness and comprehension united. a variety of expedients. Among Roebuck's friends in his Birmingham days was Matthew Boulton the big hardware manufacturer. The two men continued good . an insight into character. but Boulton was fully occupied with his own factory at Birmingham and had wisely declined. an acquaintance with a number of particular circumstances. Roebuck had tried to persuade him to join him in his excursions into coal-mining. he was. Boulton was not merely a competent scientist and a keen patron of the arts. an extraordinary capacity for affairs. without doubt. For when the crisis came he was not entirely dependent on Roebuck for support. a tact for finding out what will do.CHAPTER SIX Matthew Boulton of Soho " I would not be understood as saying that there is not what may be called a genius for business. WATT'S situation was not in reality as desperate as might appear from the account that has just been given."ÑHAZLITT. the greatest industrial organiser of the century.
Small. Boulton had been for some five years installed in his magnificent premises at Soho. and he invited Watt to come and see him. He was quick to understand exactly how much progress . and when Roebuck heard of Watt's invention he naturally told Boulton about it. There was a quality about its ordered efficiency that he had never met with before. Small. He t was an ingenious scientist with a taste for mechanical invention. and the agility of his mind and the keenness of his perception enabled him to fathom Watt's character. Boulton's interest was at once aroused. In I767 Watt went. to follow. his moods.friends. and to appreciate the quality of his work. who showed him over the factory. but Boulton was away. two miles north of Birmingham. Dr. or even to anticipate. And he was equally delighted with Dr. and it was his friend. for he knew that he too had been doing some experiments on " fire-engines " with a view to introducing them into his own works. The inspection of this most up-to-date of modern factories made a great impression on Watt. Roebuck and his works seemed crude and feeble beside this creation of the organiser's genius. Small was a man after Watt's own heart.
Watt came away from Soho with his eyes opened. on passing out into a wider sphere. He had been given a glimpse of a world that was new to him. that acute sense of beauty in machinery which was the cause of so much friction between Watt and those of his colleagues who were out of sympathy with this side of his character. R. that you should . There is more real intimacy in his letters than in those of any other of Watt's correspondents.. "my idea was. if he could do so without being unfair to Roebuck." wrote Small. and never needed to be brought laboriously up-to-date. where he was certain and where he was still guessing. He suffered all the torments of a young man who marries in his own narrow circle and. and he was instantly at his side.Watt had made. At the same time he was absolutely loyal to the partner he had chosen. " Before I knew your connection with Dr. He fully shared that passion for perfection in design. viewing the problem from the same angle. Boulton and Small were just as eager to capture him as he was to join them. But already he was pledged to Roebuck. and to which he instinctively felt that he belonged. sees at once that he has married too soon.
if he had in any respect consented to the proposal from the South. who then went to sound Roebuck again. And. and that Boulton and I should assist you as much as we could. . " I waited to find. therefore. Professor Jardine. and. my opinion is. and would have prevented that close co-operation between inventor and manufacturer which Boulton regarded as essential. but understand. . which in any case we will most certainly do. when the case was put to him. Watt talked over his troubles with his friend. that the more he is convinced of the practicability of the scheme. was to allow Boulton a limited share in the business. Boult on very rightly mistrusted Roebuck's business ability. the keener he is of carrying it to practice yourselves for your mutual advantage.settle here. The letter in which he reported to Watt the results of his interview is full of interest. realising that he was out of sympathy with Watt and did not understand how to make things easy for him. James. . he wanted to get the unhappy engineer under his own protection. . which would have put him in the position of an inferior partner." The most that Roebuck would consider. without direct inquiry.
" And Watt knew that it was not an idle boast..that you will find it necessary." Then he touched on the point that hurt Watt most of all. to fall in with his senti ments. even though it should not be carried to such perfection as might be expected from the gentleman in the South's assistance. suggesting the strong man of business who knows his own mind and shrinks from no responsibility. however great. " It would not be worth my while to make for three counties only. It was a very poor one} amounting only to a share in the engine as regards the three counties of Warwick. and he pressed Roebuck until he made a definite offer. on account of your intimate connection. " The very nature of your improvements is such that it is im possible it can fail to succeed much to your interest. At the same time he . but I find it very well worth my while to make for all the world.. The tone is firm and decisive. he could do it if he wanted to." But James was miserable at the prospect of losing Boulton's help and with it the hope of perfection. Boulton's reply to Watt is a masterpiece. His was the strength that Watt was craving for to lift the burden of anxiety from his shoulders. Stafford and Derby..
. and with as great a differ ence of accuracy as there is between the black smith and the mathematical-instrument-maker." And the letter concluded ambiguously.showed a subtle appreciation of the causes of Watt's distress. While professing to be giving his view of the proper way of running the business. weakened by his own financial difficulties and Watt's . leaving a loophole for fresh negotiations. I769~~ Roebuck. Watt never ceased to long for association with these two men. who . . At the end of September. he painted a picture which was the ideal of Watt's dreams. by the side of our canal. This brilliant piece of business diplomacy had its effect. where I would erect all the conveniences necessary for the completion of engines. could execute the invention 20 per cent.witted scientist and the strong and understanding man of business. By these means and your assistance we could engage and instruct some excellent workmen. who perceived his wants even before he expressed them. and from which manufactory we would serve all the world with engines of all sizes. the quick. " My idea was to settle a manufactory near to my own. cheaper than it would be otherwise executed.
which he at once began to put into execution at Soho. it was rapidly becoming dangerous. Boulton was to have a year in which to decide and complete the purchase. Boulton and I have agreed with Dr. This put Watt in a very delicate position. of which he was acutely sensible. " I shake hands with you and Mr." The immediate result was that Watt sent drawings of an engine to Boulton. for he could not . to be fixed later. But the price had not been fixed nor the transaction concluded. The price had been left to Boulton. and before the year was out Roebuck's financial distress was so evident that the whole situation was changed. made Boulton a new offer. in order to help Watt. and two days later Small wrote to Watt.insistence. which I hope will prove agreeable to us all. Boulton and Small had accepted the offer of partnership." To which Watt replied. unsatisfactory though it was. Boulton on our connection. Roebuck. He proposed to sell him one-third of the rights in the patent for a sum of not less than a thousand pounds. But now the scheme was no longer merely unsatisfactory. " I have only time to say that Mr. The formal proposal was sent in writing on November 28th.
ask his friend Boulton to pay a high price for something he was only buying to please him. I have had reasons which I cannot further explain by letter." There was. But the solution came another way. " I have urged the Doctor to sell. all his creditors had an equal right to share in it. that no progress could be made. considering his urgent need of money. Roebuck went bankrupt. This Boulton had not expected. " I admire your delicacy. The commercial crisis that finally ruined Roebuck also put Boulton into temporary difficulties. he was able. to take a low one. perhaps further than I ought to have done. and at first he was not certain how to deal with the situation. and when he found that the other creditors considered the engine to be worthless. Boulton was himself a creditor to a considerable extent. so much delicacy on both sides. in fact." he wrote to Small. when you know them all. and you to purchase. with their consent and . If Roebuck's property in the engine had any value. and his affairs were put into the hands of trustees. and all hope of a conclusion vanished. I suspect you will acquit me of selfish designs in teasing you so much. nor could he advise his friend and partner Roebuck.
In May. to take over the full property in the patent in return for a complete renunciation of all his claims on the estate. Nothing now stood in the way of a new partner ship between Boulton and Watt. heads of canes." and inspired a local poet to sing: " See from the sooty toils what wonders rise ! Behold yon radiant family of toys ! Th' elastic buckle . In the seventeenth century specialisation went still further.hearty approval. Birmingham had been a town of some importance in the Middle Ages. antiquities and curiosities of his kingdom. " can be had better and cheaper at Birmingham." which can be seen in such perfection in Milan. snuff-boxes and other fine works of steel. Henry VIII. and was already famous for its hardware when Leland drew up for his master. I774 Watt left Glasgow to join Boulton at Soho." Its supremacy in the production of all manner of metal trinkets and plated goods won for it the name of " the toy shop of Europe. a full and picturesque account of the resources. A traveller. some branches of the hardware trade moving to other centres. writing in I690's tells us that those " swords.
But Birmingham had not been incorporated. By the middle of the eighteenth century she enjoyed an unchallenged pre-eminence . And the gilt button emulates the day. and it opened its doors to all. It had no Gilds. Birmingham ardently embraced the doctrines of modern commerce. but grace the thigh. of Quakers or Dissenters. heroically defending their city from the contamination of the unorthodox. The great aim of new and expanding industries in the early days of the industrial revolution was to escape from " the miserable little politics of corporate towns. Here sparkling chains in bright confusion lie. Chains not to fetter limbs.casts a silver ray." The very rapid industrial development of Birmingham was made possible by its freedom from medieval restrictive customs." for the jealous spirit that had prevented Watt from setting up his shop in Glasgow was an enemy to all progress and innovation. prepared to see the nest empty rather than run the risk of mothering a cuckoo. and no champions of religious persecution. It was ready to welcome new blood whether it ran in the veins of capitalists or unapprenticed workmen.
in I790 the buckle was ousted by " the effeminate shoe-string. She tickled the appetite of fashion for " new. and her products lost all permanent value. but she had only herself to blame." and 20. buckles that grew more dazzling and more monstrous every season. The toymakers of Birmingham had many tricks to deceive the inexpert eye of the purchaser. Quality was sacrificed for the sake of quantity. But.born gawds " and throve by the satisfaction of its greed.000 good craftsmen of Birmingham went hungry. and shares with Josiah Wedgwood the almost unique distinction of having made the factory the province of the artist. Matthew Boulton set himself steadfastly against the degrading influences of the day. She was suffering the same convulsion of mind and body that afflicts the East when touched by western civilisation. In changing her way of life she rejected the old standards and could find none to take their place. For years she lived by buckles. It was an undignified position for a great city. and he deserves credit for having proved that quality may be combined with quantity. and .in the fabrication of shoddy goods and gimcrack vulgarities.
and modern man now assumes. Wishing for larger premises." he said. who died in l759. indeed. Hither he migrated in I762 and. over a thousand workmen. and his ideal home is fitted. with every modern convenience. but beautifully furnished throughout with genuine antiques. he created by his inventive genius and his force of character an organisation that was accepted as a model by all the aspiring captains of . that he has lost for ever the faculty. he selected a site at Soho. Boulton inherited a comfortable fortune and a prosperous business from his father. he devoted his life to the service of industry.palmed off as articles of price much ill-made. with no experience to guide him and no one to turn to for advice. it is said." As I am an old buttonmaker. . " allow me to advise my brethren to make excellence rather than cheapness their principle of rivalry. possessed by his ancestors. of making articles that are both sound and beautiful. but instead of retiring on the proceeds. meretricious trash. with affecting modesty. and there built a factory to accommodate. Against these practices Boulton never ceased to wage war." But the struggle still goes on.
and sent agents to ransack the curio shops of Italy. " hath bought a pair of cassolets. made drawings of the exhibits in the British Museum. Soho became one of the sights of the kingdom and was visited by the crowned heads and nobility of Europe. His work in consequence became fashionable in high society. and some other things." A few years earlier he had not been considered good enough to marry into one of the county families. a Venus clock. he borrowed the art treasures of the nobility. and won a reputation throughout Europe. He had long interviews with the King and Queen. I shall see him again. " The king. He was soon one of the best known men in England. In order to provide himself with designs to copy. between two and three hours. and became the . the Queen and all the children. a Titus.industry of that generation and the next. Boulton won recognition as the greatest living authority on matters of industry and trade. the founder of Etruria. both of whom gave him several orders. The Queen showed me her last child." he wrote to his wife. I was with them. including even Josiah Wedgwood. and inquired this morning how yesterday's sale went. which is a beauty. I believe....
But Boulton's patience never failed. Boulton was like a comfortable arm-chair after a long day's walk. and throughout the period of their partner ship he sustained him with his unselfish devotion. and firm mouth inspired confid ence.trusted adviser of governments. He was a profound judge of character. His strength was always there to support you) his gentleness and sympathy to receive you and protect you from all the jarring roughnesses of the world. His massive forehead. and I Boulton's personality fitted him to fulfil both functions. and he watched over him and cared for him as a nurse watches over a delicate. nervous child. strong features. But it was not only on account of his business ability and his great resources that Watt found in Boulton the ideal associate. He had a deep I affection for his colleague which increased with time. I and understood Watt's longings and anxieties better than he did himself. Watt needed a sympathetic friend as well as a partner. Watt was often petulant and irritable. chafing under discomforts that were trivial compared with the worries that Boulton had voluntarily taken upon himself in order to relieve his friend's anxieties. and his eyes invited .
Watt was his superior. and at the same time he had had inquiries from a mining company in Derbyshire. and answers much better than any other that has yet been made. but Boulton has a place among the great men of history. At the moment. that the fireengine I have invented is now going. When Watt came to Soho. Other engineers were at work. It was familiarly known as " Beelzebub. But already there were competitors in the field. finished. In I77I Boulton had heard that four or five copper mines in Cornwall were about to be abandoned owing to the cost of the coal consumed by their old pumping engines. too. nine years before. work began at once. that is to say.confidences. both improving the old . and I expect that the invention will be very beneficial to me. and set to pump the water that drove the water-wheels in the factory. The old Kinneil engine was brought over in pieces." It was the first decisive success he had been able to report since the birth of his idea. I7742 Watt wrote to his father: "The business I am here about has turned out rather successful. the prospects of finding a market for the engines were good. In ingenuity of mind." In December.
owing to considerable opposition in the House. This course was adopted. Boulton favoured the plan of surrendering the patent and getting a new one. and six of these had passed before he was in a position to execute a single order. and one at least had stolen Watt's ideas. it was not passed till the following .atmospheric engine and producing new models of their own. if he invested his capital in the engine. He sent Watt up to London to prospect. and a bill was introduced in February I775. The patent was for fourteen years. he would be able to reap the profits that were his due. and at the same time secure a public confirmation of their rights which would strengthen their hands in dealing with pirates. This would have allowed him to increase its effectiveness by patching up any loopholes it might contain. Boulton's first care was to discover how he could obtain an extension of the period during which he and Watt might enjoy a monopoly of manufacture. But Watt reported that every one advised him to get the existing patent prolonged by Act of Parliament. Boulton realised that he had no sufficient guarantee that.
Thou fam'd creator of the fam'd Soho ! " J. and court the southern breeze. . MORFITT. and whereas heavy expenses had been incurred and would still have to be incurred before the public could receive the full benefit of his valuable invention. CHAPTER SEVEN Creation of the Engine Business at Soho Behold yon mansion flank'd by crowding trees Grace the green slope. whereas James Watt had carried out experiments along the lines indicated in his patent. It recited that. Genius and worth with Boulton there reside.May. so that " the whole term granted by the said Letters Patent may probably elapse before the said James Watt can receive an advantage adequate to his labour and invention. of arts the patron and the pride I Commerce with rev'rence at thy name shall bow. Boulton now felt that he could safely embark on manufacture on an extensive scale." it was enacted that the sole privilege of making and selling his engines in Great Britain and her colonies should be vested in him and his executors for a term of twentyfive years. Boulton.
the valves. the originators of the practice of smelting with coke in place of charcoal. The world of industry was watching anxiously to see whether this new power would show itself to be a sound investment. On the success of these engines depended the future of the whole enter prise. which were manufactured at Soho. con denser and so forth. But they did no better than Carron. Watt was in terror lest some ill-executed part might ruin the effect of the first public trials.WORK was started at once on two engines. one for Bloomfield Colliery. Re membering how he had been hampered in his earlier experiments by bad workmanship. He could trust Boulton to see that all the more delicate pieces of mechanism. were made accurately to his designs. the famous ironworks belonging to the Darby family. controls. When conducting his earlier experiments with Small. had to be cast elsewhere. some fourteen miles out of Birmingham. but the heavy iron parts. and the other for John Wilkinson's ironworks at Broseley. and especially the cylinder. and the castings were found to . in the Wrekin district. Boulton had got his cylinders from Coalbrookdale.
Shortly before Watt joined Boulton at Soho Wilkinson had invented a new way of boring cylinders.be " unsound. in Denbighshire. had a consuming passion for iron. and finally left directions that he was to be buried in an iron coffin. and so contributed the last factor needed . There was a subtle curve in the walls of the cylinder which caused the piston to jam. who had inherited his father's works at Bersham. although the diameter of the cylinder remained constant throughout. the biggest figure in the history of the British iron industry. In the old method the tools could not be kept rigid and so. He made an iron pulpit for his parish church. and then started a new foundry at Broseley. Wilkinson remedied this defect. iron writing tablets for the village school children." The situation was saved by John Wilkinson. next door to the Darby works at Coalbrookdale. Wilkinson. and done over with some stuff to conceal their defects. His vision of the future was a world in which everything would be constructed of iron. and totally useless. in which they wrote in sand with an iron pen. the bore did not proceed from end to end along a straight line.
and whose Expectations were fully gratified by the Excellence of its performance. The stratagem was entirely successful and the impression created was profound. fall to and do your best. the big by Wilkinson. When he went to Broseley. The liberal Spirit shown by the Proprietors of Bloomfield in ordering this. " and then. in the name of God. of " a Number of Scientific Gentlemen whose Curiosity was excited to see the first Movements of so singular and so powerful a Machine.. and the erection of the engine was supervised by Watt.to make the manufacture of steam-engines a commercial possibility... as the Birmingham Gazette informs us. the first large engine of the Kind that hath ever been . The Bloomfield engine was " opened " with great ceremony in March I776. In these two first engines the small parts were made at Soho. Boulton forbade him to let the engine make a single stroke until he was certain it would work without a hitch." The whole beauty of the machine must be revealed to the spectators in one miraculous moment. The trial took place in the presence of the proprietors of the colliery and. The Workmanship of the Whole did not pass unnoticed. nor unadmired.
" Then follow full accounts of the subsequent. " It made eight strokes per minute. and in rejecting a common one which they had begun to erect. Nor do I at present see sufficient cause for its dulness. it stood still. Boulton corresponded with him regularly. but upon Joseph's endeavouring to mend it. the roof is nearly put on." There followed in the same year an engine for a Warwickshire colliery and another for a distillery at Stratford-le-Bow.made. " The new forging-shop looks very formidable. setting up the engine. " The engine goes marvellously bad. At first. then at Broseley. and the Importance and Usefulness of the Invention is finally decided. in the absence of the master mind. Meanwhile the factory was growing. and more successful. and finally in the summer of I776 he went to Glasgow to get married. so did his ." As the factory grew. experiments. first in London about the Act of Parliament. progress was slow. for by this Example the Doubts of the Inexperienced are dispelled. and his letters give a lively picture of life at the factory." he wrote. and the hearths are both built. Watt had been away from Soho a good deal. entitle them to the thanks of the public.
appears as an obscure and somewhat sinister background.ambitions. Watt. Her father consented to the match. Boulton held two-thirds of the property in the patent." It amounted to this." It sounds a calculating and unromantic affair. Apparently no formal deed of partnership had been drawn up." Of Watt's second marriage we are told by his biographer that. who became the second Mrs. but. which he " extracted from our mutual missives. and a charming woman she is. Boulton prepared a statement containing the various points on which they had agreed. at Watt's request. married a second time. which had now become vitally important. and undertook to pay all . The Empress of Russia is now at my house. but wished to know the value of his son-in-law's share in the engine business. and certainly Anne Macgregor. " I have fixed my mind upon making from twelve to fifteen reciprocating. " having found that the burden of domestic affairs and the care of his children interfered seriously with his other pursuits. in the scenes of his later life. he. after having remained for some years a widower. rather than as a leading actress. and fifty rotative engines per annum.
one that would drive a wheel. supplying it with water by means of a reciprocating engine and a pump. He was to provide all the capital for the business of manufacture. and on this to receive lawful interest. Watt was to make all the drawings and to give directions for the work of construction. So there was not much business to . This district seemed to offer the most favourable conditions for expansion. Inquiries from factories were usually for a " rotary " engine. During the next five years the attention of the firm was almost entirely occupied with the demands of the Cornish mines. and were suitable for application to pumps and bellows. but Soho was at present only producing " reciprocating " enginesÑengines that worked a vertical rod up and down.expenses of past and future experiments. This was naturally put out of court as an unsound investment if a rotary engine was likely to be soon on the market. and were advised to use a water-wheel. The profits were to be divided in the proportions of two-thirds to him and onethird to Watt. Factory owners were therefore told that the rotary engine was not yet perfected. without claiming interest on his money.
In reality. It might be expected that the engine would be most useful in the coalmines.be done in factories. There remained only the pumping of mines. had as yet hardly begun. There were one or two city waterworks where an engine might be used. Where coal was very cheap that saving was not enough to compensate for the expense of in stalling the new machine. that is precisely the reason why the engines were not first introduced there. An oldfashioned atmospheric engine was good enough to drain the shallower workings. but the majority of ironworks still used charcoal. The engine was effective for blowing furnaces. and the immense increase in demand. the majority of the coal-mines were not in urgent need of a more powerful engine. and therefore did not require a powerful blast. but this demand was almost confined to the London area. The most obvious advantage of Watt's engine over Newcomen's was its saving of coal. which was to drive the miners to burrow ever more deeply into the bowels of the earth. . The coal area was extensive. In addition to this. produced largely by the spread of the engine itself. since fuel was to be had on the spot for nothing.
Two engines might succeed where one I20 failed. " is the most disagreeable in the whole county. This was exactly what the new engine professed to be able to give." wrote Mrs. But the water was getting too strong for it.In Cornwall the case was different. and there is scarce a tree to be seen. " The spot we are at. The face of the earth is broken up in ten thousand heaps of rubbish. and there was hardly an acre that had not been tried for ore. and more than once of late it had failed to " fork " a flooded mine. As trade declined and profits fell. but the cost of transporting coal by sea to Cornwall and then inland to the mines was prohibitive. Then Newcomen's pumpingengine gave them a new lease of life. If the industry was to expand. Deeper and deeper worked the miners. it could only expand downwards. The rich mining district round Redruth had long been honeycombed with diggings." The surface deposits of tin had been exhausted and copper was found only at a considerable depth. Watt. fighting the water as they went. the miners clamoured for more power and less expenditure of fuel. . At times the pits were drowned and had to be abandoned. when staying with her husband at Chacewater.
I776 and it was at once followed by another from Wheal Busy. who was destined to give so much trouble in after years. His brothers were called Jesse and Jethro). and there were families which had been in the trade for two generations. They found it hard to believe that any one could know more about steamengines than they did. The parts of the Chacewater engine were the first to be ready. Jabez (they all began with a J. He was not very well received. who had handled them all their lives. The most prominent of them was Jonathan Hornblower. and Watt went down to Cornwall to see them put together.The first definite order came from Ting-Tang Mine in November. son of Joseph who had come to Cornwall to build engines fifty years ago. If the newcomer from Glasgow was successful. The building and repairing of steam-engines had been a regular business there for a long time. near Chacewater. But they were not very frightened. There was also a clever mechanic called Bonze. Watt found him pleasant and honest enough. their livelihood would be threatened. but entirely sceptical about the value of the new invention. It was Jonathan's son. who absolutely refused to touch any work connected with .
the noise seems to convey great ideas of its power to the ignorant. great crowds came to see it start. and with one-third of the coal. But the trial was an overwhelming success. where. " Certainly. who seem to be no more taken with modest merit in an engine than in a man. so I have left it to the enginemen. and horrible noise of the engine. but Mr." . Wilson [the manager] cannot sleep unless it seems quite furious." When the Chacewater engine was ready. " I have already been accused of making several speeches at Wheal Virgin. It did more work than a common engine. I have once or twice trimmed the engine to end its stroke gently. violence." wrote Watt." They tried to injure him by spreading false rumours. and the weather. " The velocity. " they have the most ungracious manners of any people I have ever yet been amongst. magnitude. drinking. many of them hoping for a fiasco. Watt found the Cornishmen illnatured and treacherous. and. believers or not. I have only talked about eating.Watt's engine. "give universal satisfaction to all beholders. to the best of my memory. by the by." he said. and to make less noise.
we have five engines of various sizes actually going here now in this county. which are the best of the old kind in the island. and we have executed agreements for several others. and have eight more in contemplation. so that our affairs wear a most smiling aspect to human eyes. formerly abandoned. In December I778Watt wrote from Redruth to his old friend Black: " Our success here has equalled our most sanguine expectations. and is also to do the work of two other engines larger than itself. and we have luckily come among them . "A universal confidence of the whole county in the abilities of the engine is now fully established.The Wheal Busy engine made as many converts as a Methodist meeting and inspired them with as great a fever of enthusiasm. are likely to go to work again through virtue of our engines. Soho was hard put to it to keep pace with the orders. but no part can or will pay us so well as Cornwall. we have succeeded in saving three-fourths of the fuel over the engines here. Several mines. " Our affairs in other parts of England go on very well. one of which will pay us better still.
Perfection of workmanship was not achieved at once. There were still many obstacles in the path. we are training up workmen. and rich in disappointments." wrote Boulton to Smeaton in I778~~ as as we have done before in the button manufactory. Our workshop and apparatus will be of sufficient extent to execute all the engines that are likely to be soon wanted in this country. Each workman confined himself to one process until he became an expert at it.when they were almost at their wits' end how to go deeper with their mines. and at a cheaper rate than can possibly be done by the ordinary methods of working. and making tools and machines to form the different parts of Mr." But it was a slow business. others. unduly optimistic." But Watt was. Watt's engines with more accuracy. " We are systematising the business of engine-making. The policy adopted at Soho was one of specialisation. for a change. when trained. and many of the parts continued to be manufactured by other firms. . Some men were untrainable. were enticed away by other employers with offers of higher pay. Labour continued to be a difficulty.
But they made mistakes. they had to be found when wanted. and there was very little of it. Watt complained that it was not at all easy to discover " operative engineers. This also required skilled labour." On another occasion he was searching for " forty pair of Smiths " to set up the engine at Wheal Virgin. and setting it right when their clumsy handling had upset its delicate constitution. Watt had at first to do the bulk of this work himself." Far scarcer still were men capable of superintending the installation of an engine. the engine had to be put together on the spot. Soon Boulton provided him with a small staff of men to relieve him of the strain. and he had a hectic time flying backwards and forwards from the factory to the various centres where operations were in progress.When the parts were finished. Men could not be kept in the employ of the firm for this type of work. who can put engines together according to plan as clockmakers do clocks. " for in all the mines where we are concerned I find a scarcity of these animals. and searching in vain. who acted under his minute instructions. teaching the local engineers how to treat it. Watt was the sort of man who could not forgive a .
But even Joseph had his little weaknesses. as Watt reported. he has done much good at his leisure hours. Joseph had an even more remarkable successor in William Murdock. and he wrote fierce letters to Boulton demanding their instant dismissal." But Joseph was a good workman and much could be forgiven him. I have not heard how he behaved in the west. Besides.. of immense industry and dog-like devotion to his employers. Boulton quietly shifted them on to other jobs till the air cleared. who entered the service of the firm in I777. " Joseph has pursued his old practice of drinking in a scandalous manner. He then performed the more remarkable feat . and sent Joseph.mistake. He was a big brawny Scot.. and another querulous letter arrived from Watt. down to Cornwall. excepting that he gave the ale there a bad character. and on his first appearance in Cornwall in I779 he at once won his way to Watt's heart." and he soon had the engines in proper order. the Soho foreman. He was endowed with originality of mind as well as dexterity of hand. until the very enginemen turned him into ridicule.. " A1though Joseph has attended to his drinking.
His outlay had been enormous. He lived on terms of close friendship with Boulton and Watt. and were manifestly disappointed if Watt came instead. and his income was very precarious. Very few firms were sanguine enough. or rich enough. engineers asked him to go into partnership with them. But he never allowed his own researches to interfere with his duty to his employers. In spite of the rapidity of the progress he was making.of winning the affection of the Cornish miners. he invented gas lighting and made valuable contributions to the design of the steam-engine. when . he was obliged to supply them on very easy terms. but was not put on the footing of a partner until the business had passed to their sons. Whenever anything went wrong with an engine the miners asked for William. The mineowners offered him £Iooo a year if he would stay with them. Boulton's financial position was causing him much anxiety. but he stuck to the firm in which he was an employee at twenty shillings a week. He was the maker of the first working model of a steam locomotive ever seen in this country. When the engines were new and still had to prove their worth.
The proposal to fix his rent according to the economy in fuel was very ingenious. and for the work of installation and the patentees secured a return on the value of the invention by charging a rent for the use of the engine so long as the exclusive privileges of the patent lasted. once they had met the initial cost of manufacture. who were asking about terms. to pay down a sum that would cover the cost of production. . compensate for the outlay on experiment and provide Watt with a fair reward for his invention. some of which were made at Soho others elsewhere. The risk was not on their shoulders. They could not possibly be out of pocket by it. Customers paid for the parts of the engine. This scheme had occurred to him as early as the spring of I775 and he had tentatively suggested to the proprietors of the Cornish mines. that he would guarantee that his engines would save half the fuel used by the old engines.buying an engine. they were given a guarantee that the engine would yield them an annual profit. Boulton therefore adopted the following plan. It was distinctly favourable to purchasers. provided that they paid him a sum equal to the value of what it saved beyond that half. as.
Our terms are as follows: we will make all the necessary plans. so that if we save nothing we shall take nothing. and they then undertook to pay annually a sum equal to onethird of the value of the fuel saved by the engine as compared with a common engine. He obtained a share in that increasing prosperity which he was confident that his engines would bring to industry. Watt invented an ingenious meter. "We do not aim at profits in engine building. when erecting an engine there. The engine was built and erected at the expense of the purchasers. the form of agreement adopted was slightly different from that first sketched by Boulton. that it is worth quoting at some length.And it was fairly satisfactory for Boulton. which was kept under lock and key. and it gave him the best chance of getting the money that was due to him. sections and elevations for . When business actually began. " but shall take our profits out of the saving of fuel. The whole affair is so clearly described in a letter of Boulton to the Carron Ironworks." writes Boulton. and told him faithfully what that saving was. It enabled him to sell more engines than he could in any other way have done.
specifying all cast and forged ironwork. We will execute. and for the engine with its appurtenances. the new owner must undertake to continue the payment of the dues owing." The disadvantages of this system are evident. for a stipulated price. the valves. We will give all necessary directions to your workmen. " otherwise the engine which we make for you at an expense of two thousand pounds may be sold in Cornwall for ten thousand pounds. etc. we will see that all the parts are put together. and set to work properly." Then follows the usual stipulation that the fuel consumed is to be compared with that of any other engine in Scotland. our drawings.the building. and every other particular relative to the engine. Like all systems of payment by instalments it exposes the seller to continuous risk." If the engine is sold. and one-third of the value of the saving is to be paid to Boulton and Watt " in recompense for our patent licence. and all other parts which may require exact execution. The purchaser may at any time become unable or unwilling to pay what is . at Soho. which they must implicitly obey.
and no rent is due. if a copper mine failed and had to close down. The longer an engine had been at work in a mine. if the buyer gets in default for any reason. They forgot that. When the engine is not working it cannot save coal. Boulton could not go down and take it away.owing. In the second place. In Boulton's case that was not so. their original outlay. and the more intolerable appeared to them the burden of the annual dues. even if there were deliberate default he had no easy remedy. for the engine was the property of the mine. levied on them for the use of their own property in order to keep two grasping monopolists in idleness. In most cases of the kind. It was augmented by the fact that . and they came to regard the payment as an iniquitous tax. the payments would stop. apart from these. the more it was looked on by the mineowners as their absolute property. but there would be no default. it had been bought and paid for. In the first place. Feeling ran high. Boulton and Watt had received nothing to reward them for their risks. and for the invention itself. It was a toll taken by private individuals on the mineral resources of the country. the seller can at least recover the goods.
was bound to be very precarious.the monopoly. although there was every reason to hope that the new engine would retrieve their fortunes. and it depended entirely on the prosperity of the coppermining industry. and to accept orders without concluding any definite . Boulton was inclined to be lenient. The flooding of the mines and the high cost of coal had nearly ruined many of the companies. Watt was miserable. He had devoted his life to benefit his fellow-men. Unfortunately that industry was passing through a severe depression. and now he was denounced as a heartless profiteer and an enemy of society. therefore. which normally only lasted for fourteen years. They proposed to petition Parliament to repeal the Act. The miners felt convinced that somebody had sold them. It was difficult to extract. The income from the engines. But the storm blew over. and. He felt inclined to sell the whole business for what it would fetch and retire to poverty and peace. the mine-owners were extremely reluctant to put their hands in their pockets until those pockets were once more comfortably full. had been extended by Act of Parliament for twenty-five.
This he could ill afford to do. consolidated into money a priori." Boulton did his best. In I778 Low. was doing badly. and they naturally called on Boulton for repayment. enough to keep us out of jailÑin continual apprehension of which I live at present. He only saved . he had to finance his customers to enable them to pay for his goods. He could get no assistance there.agreement about future payments. which was run as a separate concern.. but this infuriated Watt. and it is certain we shall get some money. the bankers from whom he had been borrowing. because the companies were too poor to pay. if possible. " and. but even when he had concluded firm agreements he often had to remit the dues for several months. "Let our terms be moderate. Things came to such a pass that Boulton and his friends had to take shares in several of the copper mines in order to keep them going at all. chiefly owing to the incompetence of his partner. To him a bird in the hand was worth at least a dozen in the bush. The hardware business. nearly came to grief. it was quite enough for his modest tastes. Vere & Co. He was himself in debt. Fothergill. and it saved worry." he wrote to Boulton.
Though driven almost to distraction. Boulton kept his temper. every ill. and imploring him to do something to set his mind at rest. " Believe me. In his present state of weakness. He asked all who had dealings with the firm to be gentle with Watt and remember that he was a sick man. appears of a gigantic size." But . which was outside the bond. He had been reduced to a state of moaning melancholy. His wife wrote to Boulton begging him to forgive her husband's complaining words. every good is diminished. In truth. Wiss insisted on Watt's name appearing in the agreement." she wrote. Watt was furious. " there is not on earth a person who is dearer to him than you are.. The terms of partnership had exempted him from all financial responsibility. It causes him pain to give you trouble.. while. however trifling. forgetting that Boulton had for four years been paying him a salary of £33 a year. on the other hand. Wiss.himself by borrowing another £7¡¡¡ from a Mr.. He practically accused Boulton of breaking their agreement. Watt was hardly responsible for his actions. without him. as. the mortgage on the engines was unsound. pledging the profits of the engines to pay the interest.
Twenty years had passed since Watt conceived the idea of his engine." In a moment of irritation he told Watt that. Watt's repeated ungenerous behaviour to me on that account. his share of the profits had for the first time become a reality. that I am determined as soon as possible to wipe away all obligation to him. But before disaster overtook them the tide of misfortune turned. He was writing to his bankers about the loan to them. " so much pain from Mr. and at times bitter thoughts crept into his mind and found expression in his letters. Money and megrims came near to snapping the strands of their friendship. Two years later Watt no longer had to draw an annual salary of £33¡. forty thousand pounds had been .In I783 Boulton had a balance." In the following year Watt reported a clear income from engines of over £3¡¡¡. he might take over the management of the firm's accounts himself. This Watt foolishly agreed to do.Boulton was ill too. and at once used it to release Watt from his debt to the bankers. if he was dissatisfied." he said. In I78I there had not been " money to pay their Xmas balances nor their workmen's wages. " I have received.
All India is but an item in the Ledger-books of the Merchants. CHAPTER EIGHT The Triumph of Boulton and Watt " Pasta. The ships of the English swarm like flies. THERE could be no doubt left in the mind l of the public by I780 as to the immense value of the new steam-engine. A useful comparison can be made on the . their printed calicoes cover the whole earth. and by the side of their swords the blades of Damascus are blades of grass. With a healthy hum of smooth-running machinery it sailed through tasks before which the old engines would have collapsed with a sob. whose lumberrooms are filled with ancient thrones ! whirr ! whirr I all by wheels !Ñwhiz ! whiz I all by steam ! "ÑKINGLAXEX Eothen. at least in so far as the pumping of water was concerned.invested by Boulton in the development of the invention. and at last they were beginning to reap the fruits of their labours.
As the owner of a factory. It was time to pass on to other problems. he could appreciate the possibilities of steampower for the driving of factory machinery. or rotative. it was the rotary.basis of the proportion between the work done and the fuel consumed. and it is known as the " duty " of the engine. Watt. having started work on the reciprocating engine for pumping water. Smeaton estimated that the average duty of the atmospheric engines in the Newcastle district in I769 was just over 5+ millions. and the maximum then realised was Just under Watt's first engines. The . got up to 21 millions. This can be measured by the number of pounds weight raised one foot by the consumption of a bushel of coal. and by I780 he had increased this to 26. on the contrary. type that interested him most. Boulton was not exaggerating when he claimed that the efficiency of the steam-engine had been increased fourfold since Watt took out his patent. When Boulton first contemplated the idea of manufacturing engines. The reciprocating engine was now good enough to satisfy even Watt's fastidious taste. had consistently refused to be diverted on to other lines of experiment. of the I776 model.
his reluctance to embark on new projects increased. Soho was unique until Wedgwood built Etruria in I770. and who were getting on quite well without one. and the Scotsman's longing for a secure. he was distinctly sceptical about the prospects of finding a market for rotatives. been water- . It is easy to condemn Watt for lack of enterprise and to criticise him for failing to realise the almost unlimited scope for the application of steam-power to the factory. Up till now he had been selling good engines to people who were already using bad ones. with rotatives it would be a matter of persuading people to buy who had never used an engine before.engineer's love of mechanical perfection. and for whom the change was an urgent necessity. There had. of course. and. might even lose the advantages he had already gained. He was in terror lest he might have to face the same heart-breaking anxieties all over again. Besides. income combined to make him stick to his chosen task until it was both a technical and commercial success. by dividing his attention. But in Watt's days the factory was itself a rarity. if modest. When the bitter struggle was nearly over and the end seemed to be in sight.
The first engine to start working outside Soho was erected to blow the furnaces at Broseley. and even paper-mills as well. with some assistance from canals and waterworks. silkmills. And it was obvious that. the iron industry was making very rapid progress. In the twenty-five years of the partnership they only accounted for about one-tenth of the engines sold. and. you could find fullingmills.mills for centuries for grinding corn. Watt looked to mining and metallurgy for his principal market. Big distilleries had been built to satisfy the abnormal passion of the day for spirits. if you knew where to look. and he was right. and there were a few big breweries. But before passing judgment. A modern observer might consider that any firm ought to be satisfied at the prospect of enjoying a monopoly in the supply of power to all the industries that work in iron and steel. he must try to imagine a world in which steel was counted among . some of which were suited to the application of power. The iron industry had been one of the earliest customers. sugar refineries and glass factories. But Watt did not anticipate getting anything very startling out of them. since the introduction of coal fuel.
our total output of pigiron was only about 50. The prophets of those days were expecting rapid development. but even the most sanguine prophets. the outlook here and in the mining areas was distinctly encouraging. in which all ships were built of wood and all bridges of wood or stone. when trying to estimate human progress. If any one had then told him that.ooo tons a year. would have been reckoned not merely among the Nightmares. of the 325 engines destined to be produced . hesitate to employ the I50 times table. and even though a great part of the work could be done by reciprocating engines. What was in fact to be the scene of the greatest and most immediate triumph of his engine Watt. there would be a demand for some rotatives to drive rolling and slitting mills. polishing machines and tilt hammers.the precious metals. but among the Revelations. However. in I780} could not foresee. in which the vision of an age when machines should be made of iron by machines made of ironÑand so back to the first Adam of machineryÑand all should be driven by power. and to run the winding gear at the pits. A century later it was 7+ millions. When Watt came to Soho.
to make a variety of fabrics. for habits strike deep roots in four hundred years. For centuries the manufacture of woollen cloth had been carried on in the homes of the weavers and spinners.between I775 and I800~~ II4 would go to the textile industries. The use of printed cottons was prohibited early in the eighteenth century. and that this industry had brought prosperity to a considerable district in Lancashire. But nobody made pure cotton goods. Nobody could expect any sudden change there. of the activities of the Projectors in the seventeenth century. The excitement about cotton seemed to be merely silly. Arkwright patented his machine for spinning with rollers. Then. wool. and 92 of those into cotton mills. It was well known that for a long time cotton had been spun into thread and mixed with linen. The way was . he would have been entirely incredulous. This was the first machine that could spin thread strong enough to allow the manufacture of fabrics of cotton only. and they injured the native woollen industry. in the very year in which Watt took out his first patent. because they were all imported from India. somewhat. reminiscent. or silk.
and rollers were used in the " Mule. but he soon replaced it by a water-wheel. No one was supposed to use a spinning machine that contained rollers unless they paid him for the privilege. the " Billy. The invention was important for another I38 reason. He tried to prosecute the offenders. but action at law only revealed the . proved too tempting. Up till now Arkwright's iniquitous patent for a process he had not really invented had cast rather a shadow over the industry. and most advantageously. Machines for roller-spinning can very easily. and in the eighties his rights were constantly being invaded. be driven by power. The water-wheel brought the spinning. A horse was the particular form of power Arkwright had in mind." But the remarkable success of Arkwright himself.opened to a new industry with the prospect of fabulous profits for those first in the field." which came into use about I780X and these also were suited to the application of power. The decisive step came still later with the invention of the " Mule " and of its cousin.mill. But Arkwright's machine alone did not transform the cotton industry. and of those to whom he sold a licence to set up his machinery.
" How could such a trade hope to have a future ? There was not in history an example of an industry of first-rate importance being established in a country which could not produce a single ounce of the necessary raw material.weakness of his case. our manufacture of cottons would . and in I785 his patent was finally quashed. It is true that in those days the raw cotton came from our possessions in the West Indies. The cautious mind of Watt was scornfully distrustful of this reckless behaviour. He wrote to Boulton. please not to seek for orders for cottonmill engines. and if we had been afraid to become dependent on the supplies grown in the United States. because I hear that there are so many mills erecting on powerful streams in the north of England. The bubble was being over-inflated and would surely burst. This year marks the beginning of the real boom in the cotton industry. but if it had continued to do so. He had no intention of being involved in the calamity. who had gone to Ireland on patent business: " If you come home by way of Manchester. and consequently our labour may be lost. The thing was unthinkable. that the trade must soon be overdone.
even if its use were to be confined to mills that were already employing water-power to drive their machinery.never have rivalled in importance our manufacture of woollens. that he imagined that the factory at Soho would be equal to satisfying. for many years to come. Watt can be excused for looking askance at this monstrosity. so far underestimated the coming demand for steamengines. and he persuaded Watt to concentrate his attention on this problem. Even Boulton. the needs of the whole world. all his scientific instincts urged him to explore every mechanical variation of the steam-engine. Watt had only been deterred by his misguided ideas as to what would be profitable. But Boulton was fully alive to the importance of getting a rotary engine put on the market as soon as possible. Watt had but little conception of the great future that was in store for his invention. He had from the very first noted this in his mind as a problem that must . who was quicker to grasp the significance of the movements of commerce. He was watching the beginning of a new chapter in the economic history of the world.
and the moment he went seriously to work at it he became completely absorbed. in which the vertical motion of the rod attached to the beam was converted by a system of cogs into a rotary motion to drive a wheel. While he was thinking out the designs for his original steam-wheel.some day be solved.wheel. The work of invention was infinitely more congenial to him than the duties of prospector and commercial traveller which he was often called on to perform. Nothing much had come of this idea. The engine was of the ordinary reciprocating type. Watt had seen at a colliery an engine. the motion given to the wheel was very irregular. In his original patent of I769 Watt had included a device for obtaining a rotary motion which he generally referred to as a " steam. The machine was too clumsy to have any interest for Watt. and as it was only the upward stroke of the rod that had any driving force. and was driven round by the direct action of the steam passing within it. ." The wheel was hollow. but both he and Boulton had played with it at intervals ever since.
took out a patent for the use of the crank to obtain a rotary motion. He determined to get the circular motion by means of the common crank." who went off and gave a full account of it to a large gathering in a public inn. In this way. Whereupon one of his audience hurried up to London. and. . he " employed a blackguard of the name of Cartwright (who was afterwards hanged). the motion was being communicated through the other. but it had been greatly improved by the addition of a flywheel. and the spectacle of his apparent success wounded Watt's vanity. and to make the motion regular by constructing an engine with two cylinders acting on two cranks attached to one axis. On these lines he made a model. about this model. as he tells us. and concluded an agreement with Wasborough for its application to his engine.Some years later he saw a very similar engine. built by a certain Matthew Wasborough to drive a rollingmill at Birmingham. He was convinced that he could make a better rotary engine than Wasborough. Now Wasborough was a quite inferior engineer. whenever one crank was idle.
very well. as the evidence would be undeniable! " If he had challenged the patent. It had never occurred to him that any one could claim to patent the crank. which is the explanation of the drawings. for.." he wrote. He was forbidden to use the crank. " the true inventor of the crank rotative motion was the man (who unfortunately has not been deified) that first contrived the common foot-lathe. as he said to his son. The conviction would be the stronger. he could almost certainly have overthrown it. He sat down and drew up plans of five alternative ways of adapting a steamengine to drive a wheel. he would do without it." Defeat at the hands of so contemptible a rival made him bitter. Wasborough a better engineer than me. I should scorn to undeceive him. and sent them to Boulton.. " If the King should think Matt. and have about one yard more to send. I have thought on some other methods by which rotative ..Watt was infuriated by this piece of treachery. I should leave that to Matthew. " three yards of the specification. but he was afraid to create a precedent for the annihilation of patent rights for fear that he himself might be the next victim. " I send you enclosed.
and that only until the lapsing of his rival's patent set him free to adopt the crank. It was at this point that he brought to perfection and patented. but Watt claimed it as an old idea of his own. but they are inferior to those specified. attached to the axle of the wheel to be driven. It was known as the " Sun and Planet " motion. in I782) the doubleacting engine already described. " revived and executed by Mr. and the flow of his ideas inundated many more yards of specification paper. Watt now got into his stride. It was a complicated machine. It was especially suited to rotative engines. as its double stroke." He patented the lot in I78IX but only one of them was ever used. and works into another.motions may be made." One cogwheel is fixed to the end of the driving-rod. solved the problem of continuous motion that had baffled Wasborough. and I feared the specification would have grown four yards long. in such a way that it makes two revolutions for every stroke of the engine. and therefore more liable to . upwards and downwards. and it has been asserted that it was originally invented by William Murdock. M.
the rod of the piston was attached to the end of a beam. A parallelogram of jointed rods is fixed on the under side of the beam. So long as the piston had only to pull on the beam. but workmanship was improving. But in the doubleacting engine it had to push as well. pivoted at its centre. it will strain the joint where it enters the cylinder and let the steam escape. the most tantalising event in his life. it could be attached by a flexible chain. In all engines of this period. and so also was the skill of the mechanics who were set to tend the engines. and one angle is . Watt's solution of this tricky little problem by means of the famous " Parallel Motion. It is the most beautiful and fascinating of his inventions. The piston rod must move in a vertical straight line.accidents. There must be some rigid connection which would not wrench the piston out of the straight. and is quite indescribable on paper. But the end of the beam moves in a curve." which was patented in I7842 iSX for his biographer. If it does not. even with the help of a diagram. The double-acting engine in its turn gave rise to a new problem.
The whole contraption is carried through the curve described by the end of the beam.fastened to the head of the pistonrod. sinuous wriggle. obedient to the mysterious laws of geometry. without an instinctive feeling of pleasure at the unexpected fulfilment of an end by means having so little apparent connection with it. in fact. as spontaneous. as inexplicable." It was. as the works of Nature. through the instrumentality of the parallel motion. " It is indeed impossible. and the following account by an eminent engineer seems to have hit on the true explanation. and the angle fastened to the rod beats boldly up and down along a perfect vertical. Many tongues have sung the praises of this " beautiful invention. but. as inconsequent." he writes." Its charm was universal. its joints. and Watt felt a thrill of pride as he watched this creation of his genius moving in a mysterious way its wonders to . as it goes." His contemporaries said that " Mr. Watt's Parallel Motion alone will immortalise his name as a mechanic. perform a delicious. " even for an eye unaccustomed to view mechanical combinations. to behold the beam of a steamengine moving the pistons.
is dreadful to me. Our accounts lie miserably confused. " have taken up all my time and attention for months. " These rotatives. But his will to work overcame the temptation to surrender. and hurried as I am. " Though I am not over anxious after fame. and their embodiment in matter. "Therefore I fear I must draw the whole over myself." The translation of these ideas from his brain to paper. in my present state of health." He employed a man named Playfair to make the drawings. involved much patient and often tiresome labour." he said. which." He started to do it. " yet I am more proud of the parallel motion than of any other mechanical invention I have ever made. but suffered such pain in his head and back that he nearly gave up the task." he wrote. The painful contrast between the swiftness of the conception and the slowness of the realisation brought on fresh bouts of irritable depression. and ten days later he wrote.perform. but they were so bad that he could not use them. " I have got one copy of the specification drawing finished in an . so that I can scarcely say that I have done anything that can be called business.
will compensate for the expense of coals and of our premium. in every case where the conveniency of placing the mill in a town. " Our rotative engines." he writes. the double-acting rotary engine was aproved success. being the neatest drawing I ever made." he wrote in January I782~~ " and the trouble with each of them must be at least double that of an engine that raises water. " There is now no doubt but that fireengines will drive mills." In November of the same year we find him writing. he continued to have doubts as to its commercial value. .elegant manner upon vellum." By I 786." But while confident that he could solve the technical problems of the rotative engine. and orders were pouring in so fast that it was almost impossible to find men enough to execute them." Two years later his tone had changed. the designs were completed. It is possible to trace his gradual conversion. and delivery from Cornwall. or readybuilt manufactory. but I entertain some doubts whether anything is to be got by them. Peace of mind. " are certainly very applicable to the driving of cotton mills. " I have a very mean opinion of the rotative's profits. is my prayer.
which is immense. to consider the erection of a steam-engine to take the place of the famous and prodigious machine of Marly. they were a company of healthy. And their customers were no longer. broken adventurers. at the invitation of the French Government. vigorous pioneers borne on the rising tide of a new prosperity. like the copper miners. and the partners knew that henceforth they would receive as many orders for machines as they chose to undertake. built . " was much pleased with the brew-house. a crew of beaten.The capacity of this new market for engines was almost inexhaustible." he says. The industries of England competed for the favour of their attention. and was obliged to answer the intelligent questions that royalty is accustomed to ask about the activities of its subjects. In this prosperity Boulton and Watt could claim a share. searching desperately for some means of checking the rot in their fortunes. In I786 Boulton and Watt proceeded to Paris. They were now at the height of their fame." Shortly afterwards he visited the King at Windsor. Watt had the honour of explaining one of his engines to George III at Whitbread's brewery " His Majesty.
In I782 Boulton had handed over to him the management of the firm's accounts. but they thoroughly enjoyed their visit." or so at least he says. but whereas work at his scientific experiments gave him a kind of nervous exaltation. anything of the nature of business worries or responsibilities brought on a condition of nervous exhaustion. Nothing came of the proposal." and he was much flattered. It is not unnatural. work of any kind was a strain.in I682 to raise water to supply the town and the water.works of Versailles. leaving the full responsibility for the . It was the first time Watt had been treated as a " distinguished foreigner. He was " drunk from morning to night with Burgundy and undeserved praise. who treated him as an honoured colleague and flocked to hold conference with him. The official reception was magnificent. and since that date Boulton had been more and more in the habit of going off on his own affairs. But most gratifying of all was the welcome given him by the leading scientists of France. Even in this time of apparent triumph Watt's letters are full of lamentation. and always produced a nervous reaction. Owing to his constitution.
neither daring to face business. with the consequent anxious thoughts. which by Mr. The illness I was seized with in London. should have thought of throwing off the .. I have been quite effete and listless.direction of the business on Watt's shoulders. nor capable of it. He groaned under its weight. I have had serious thoughts of throwing down the burthen I find myself unable to carry. if other sentiments had not been stronger. have hitherto prevented my mind from recovering its energy. and sighed for the rest that only retirement could bring. Boulton's frequent and long absences has fallen wholly on me. and the burden was more than Watt could bear.. and the horses given to the dogs for carrion. my head and memory failing me much. " I should have written to you long ago. and several vexations. greatly weakened me both in body and mind. Expansion was at this time very rapid." he writes on July I8th.. my stable of hobbyhorses pulled down. and perhaps. I786 but have really been in a worse situation in some respects this spring than I have ever been in my life. but an unusual quantity of business. The bodily disease has in great measure subsided. in the spring.
some of them. at this moment. Solomon said that in the increase of knowledge there is increase of sorrow: if he had substituted business for knowledge. When it is remembered . if matters do not grow worse. Boulton was facing a financial crisis. perhaps the most serious of his life. but it was extremely hard to get. Several big London firms of merchants were involved. But Boulton was deeply involved in other speculations. indirectly connected with engines. In I 787 trade was depressed. but. it would have been perfectly true. There had been considerable over-production in the cotton industry. Boulton badly needed an extension of credit. had already safely invested his money. and the appeal was made in vain.mortal coil. But Watt. and manufacturers had difficulty in disposing of their stocks. and in I788 there was a crop of failures. He appealed to Watt for assistance. like his investments in the copper mines. The engine business was doing well. including an old-established Manchester bank. I may perhaps stagger on. Watt for the first time was free from debt and had a comfort able balance at the bank. with characteristic caution. Matters were made worse by the fact that.
The partnership and the . but the strain had permanently damaged his health. throughout the hard years of struggle. out of pure generosity. Money matters always brought out the worst in him. a kind of child-murder. Both the partners were beginning to look forward to the time when they would be able to retire from all active share in the business. His horror of the jugglings of finance. that he had paid Watt a regular salary when the business was not making a penny. when profits began to come in. and had. It was a crime that he could not bring himself to commit.that Boulton had. Their two sons were being trained to succeed them. but a crime. Boulton weathered the storm. taken all the financial risks and worries on his own shoulders. Watt's action at this crisis appears mean and ungrateful. To withdraw money from a safe investment and throw it into a speculative venture seemed to him not merely a pity. and his prosperity was never again in danger. amounted almost to a disease. even to help a friend. instead of the stipulated one-third. his dread of instability of income. and by I795 they were participating in the work of management. allowed him halfprofits.
As a rule the machines they produced were so inefficient that it was not worth while to stop them. for in all. piracy became a more serious . There had always been trouble from pirates Ñmen who picked up some knowledge of the principle of Watt's engines and made use of it without recognising their debt to the inventor.patent rights were both due to come to an end in I800 But before this goal could be reached." or like Evans's mill. and an ever-increasing number of men passed through the Soho works and went out skilled engineers. They were either like Hornblower's engine at Radstroke. " the bodily presence was weak. but refused to do any work. there was one more battle to be fought. as the machines became more familiar. not scrupling to use their skill to defraud their late masters. which " was a gentlemanly mill: it would go when it had nothing to do. which was " obliged to stand still every ten minutes to snore and snort." In time. but the engines were rarely able to develop enough energy to achieve this. as Watt quaintly expressed it." Occasionally excitement was provided by the bursting of a boiler. however.
It was not merely the loss of revenue that disturbed theme In any case the patent had only a few years to run. refused to pay their dues. In these circumstances Boulton and Watt decided to put their rights to the test of law. If they submitted without protest. Their pride was involved.matter. Others. however. it would amount to an admission that their business was built on a fraud. and the jury quickly decided that the patent had been infringed. and of course paid Watt no dues on them. Firms ordered engines of Watt's design from these men. and that all the payments they had been drawing from their customers had been exacted on false pretences. The idea was intolerable. They began to prosecute the offenders. they left it. to be determined by a special case in the Court of Common Pleas whether the patent was in itself good . In I793 action was taken against a man of the name of Bull. and the credit of Soho suffered. that the invention was a sham. When the engines proved unsatisfactory. who had been employed by the firm as a stoker. they blamed Watt. because they saw that their neighbours were using a similar machine free of charge. The case was perfectly clear. who had Soho engines.
This point came up for trial two years later before the Lord Chief Justice and three judges. and so complete their ignorance of the properties of steam and the history of invention. that . was it merely a new part of an old machine? So profound was their knowledge of the law. On they pounded round the circular track of their arguments. It was the judges. that when they came to apply their general conclusions to the particular case. These learned gentlemen had little to say about steam-engines. or only part of a machine ? And if a part. but many profound thoughts that they were burning to deliver on the subject of the patent laws. the nature of the issue was a matter of pure chance. rather than the case. spun his argumentary hoops and jumped through them. Was the subject of the patent a process or only a principle? And if a process. Each in turn gave his display of rhetorical Juggling. and a new process.and valid. but there was no common goal Each one carried his own winning-post in his pocket. like racers in a stadium. was it based on an old principle ? Or was it again a machine. and erected it as soon as he began to feel tired.
son of Jonathan." They caused him a loss of revenue and heavy expense in legal proceedings." Even after this the engine pirates continued their operations. A chapter in his life was ending. " We have WON THE CAUSE hollow. but. and blind Justice secured equilibrium by putting two into each. Watt was in his sixty-fourth year. This divided opinion on a matter of such importance was most unsatisfactory. we do not lay them so much to heart as formerly. with Robison at their head. its reputation unchallenged. " having become used to them. When the century drew to its close. rallied to his defence and routed the forces of Jabez.were in the scales. there had come to . But that was not the end. and it was not till I799 that Watt could write triumphantly to Boulton. thirty-five years before. its prestige was high. but it was swept away by the decisive victory in the following year in the case against Hornblower and Maberly. All Watt's old friends. All the Judges have given their opinions very fully in our favour. but the honour of the firm had been vindicated. When. said Watt. The case was tried again on a writ of error.
The invention must be perfected. but to occupy himself with new thoughts and new projects as fascinating and absorbing as those of old. he passed from the scene of his now completed labours. the business was prosperous. all the labour that followed was but its necessary sequel. Now at last he had finished. and forcing himself to endure much that was almost intolerable. CHAPTER NINE Last Years . finding little joy in the work itself. manufactured. impelled still by that first desire to create which would not let him lay aside his tools until the task was done. His invention was as perfect as he could make it. his engines were at work in all the great industries of the country. with no regrets but only profound satisfaction. Until this had been achieved the process was incomplete. So on he laboured.him the first inspired vision of his new steamengine. delivered to the public. not into idleness. Quietly.
Many men suffer as they grow old from the consciousness of the slow. are cracking and crumbling into decrepitude. All his life he had suffered the torments of . WHEN he retired from business. The ideal of every successful manufacturer of that period was to become a country squire. . He valued his release from the cares that vex a man of business. He had no mind to vegetate in obscurity. the sense that physical strength and mental power. where he had lived since 1789) and settled down there to pass the remainder of his days in the old surroundings. among his old friends. ." RUPERT BROOBE. but although he paid it occasional visits. a member of the landed aristocracy of England." Wind. the birds sing still. sun and earth remain. Watt followed the fashion of the day and invested part of his earnings in land. When we are old. his home near Soho. relentless advance of senility. Watt got to the point of buying an estate in Radnorshire. he never migrated to it. because it set him free to live as a man of science. He remained true to Heathfield. Watt's experience was exactly the reverse. are old . once robust.
Lord Brougham. In the early fifties he was sure of it. his health ceased to mar his pleasure in life. " Of all the evils of age." But even Watt was not entirely free from the haunting fear that he was losing his grip of things." The snappy little postscript exempts him from his own generalization. and his mental powers remained as keen as ever." P. expressed the opinion that " he never was more cheerful or enjoyed the pleasures of society more heartily than during this period.S. or thereabouts.ragged nerves and a sickly body. Beighton knew nothing of it. He selected Anglo-Saxon as a good subject for his purpose. it is said that his doubts became so insistent that he determined to test his capacity for learning and remembering." he wrote. these troubles passed away. He first became seriously alarmed at the age of thirty-four when he fancied he was beginning to show traces of the ravages of time.Ñ" Steam is only 1800 times the bulk of water. but. At the age of seventy. and was relieved to find that it presented no great . as old age approached. " the loss of the few mental faculties one possessed in youth is the most grievous. His temper became calm and serene. who knew him in his years of retirement.
. chiefly with his supreme achievement. and would probably go on to produce from the storehouse of his mind the roughly sketched plans of an entirely new and superior method of his own. has scarcely done justice to the astonishing fertility of his mind and variety of his occupations. From his earliest days he showed an insatiable curiosity in every kind of art or craft with which he came into contact. as it must be. he always seemed able at once to explain the best method yet devised for coping with it. And he brought to the study a keen power of analysis and a wonderfully retentive memory. of which he was not a master in theory. even remotely connected with his profession.difficulties. When his advice was asked on any practical problem. Everything must be examined. concerned. and he was actively engaged in the perfection of a complicated invention when he died. He was never content not to understand. His ingenuity and his passion to create remained with him to the end. The result was that there was hardly any technique. This brief narrative.
When he entered into partnership with Boulton. and in a couple of months he is writing to ." Here was another problem on which to exercise his ingenuity. and he was proud of it. the copying machine brought Watt in a steady and most welcome income. while the engine was still unable to earn him a penny. Any office under Boulton's control could be relied on to be up-todate in every detail of its equipment. bankers and Members of Parliament." and in particular by the furnace under the big boiler at Soho " that used to poison Mr. For several years. A few years later we find him annoyed by " the abominable smoke which attends fire engines. He invented a " way of copying writing chemically. but that did not satisfy Watt. B's garden so much. The bankers at first denounced it as a means to make forgery easy. but their fears were set at rest. and it had an extensive sale. but he had taken great trouble to discover the best kind of ink and paper for the purpose." It was not a complicated machine. he found the task of keeping an orderly record of his business correspondence a very burdensome one. He took out a patent in 1780 and then hawked the machine round to business men. and to design the press.
In the very same letter this indefatigable inventor goes on. But they did stimulate his imagination. ." This. devised by a man named Keir.a friend. I say an attempt. and the stem as tall as you please." This particular thing " fell out ". . On another occ sion he was shown some lamps. fitted with clock work. " I have been turning some of my idle thoughts lately upon an arithmetical machine . " I am sure they are clumsy. topheavy. " I have accomplished the engine-fire without smoke." pistons. for though the machine is exceedingly simple. too. They did not win his admiration. springs and. . . was patented." They were the most amazing lamps ever seen. it was never created. as a . and I hope soon to show you it in practice. " I have four plans for making lamps with the reservoir below. logger-headed things. and liable to be overset " (he was a merciless critic of the inventions of others). yet I have learnt by experience that in mechanics many things fall out between the cup and the mouth. with some kind of apparatus for keeping the wick constantly supplied with oil. I intend to make an attempt to make it. forcing-pumps " about the size of a quill. (it was to multiply and divide figures of any magnitude) . finally.
which worked an endless screw. a specificgravity measure and an " apparatus for extracting. He proposed to increase its accuracy and enlarge its scope. an artificial alabaster. during his visit to France. This by no means exhausts the list. following the lines of his own machine for drawing in perspective. a rough sketch that was only waiting for his genius to turn it into a work of art. a waterproofing process. washing and collecting of poisonous and medicinal airs. a miniature propeller poised over the chimney and spun by the rising heated air." His last invention was a machine for copying sculpture. As usually happened in his later years whenever he saw a machine that he had not invented himself. which worked a crank. But we must forgive him. for at that time he was pistonmad and engine-haunted. which worked a piston. which acted in a pump. an ingenious device for reproducing medals and works in bas-relief. It includes a linen-drying machine. As soon as he got home he started his experiments. it appeared to him to be imperfect. He had seen.crowning folly. immediately after his withdrawal from business. The apparatus was to be designed in such a way that when a blunt .
The work was neither too heavy nor too delicate for his tired muscles. It was an ideal hobby for his old age. He was his own workman and his own contractor. And yet it was not just an old man's harmless toy. surrounded by a delicious profusion of . to humour him. pretended to admire.point was passed over the surfaces of the model. it was an elegant and ingenious piece of mechanism that fascinated every artist or engineer who visited it. which his friends. It involved no financial complications. He had hit on one that absorbed all his faculties and overtaxed none of them. Without occupation he would have been restless and miserable. altering the scale as desired. He had converted an attic over the kitchen at Heathfield into a workshop. and there was no one standing at his elbow urging him to hurry up and put his invention on the market. and there he spent many happy hours absorbed in his mechanical experiments. or illexecuted orders. It brought no worries in the form of incompetent or unmanageable workmen. a drill cut identical surfaces in the block of material to be carved.
She confiscated her husband's snuff-box if she caught him taking a pinch. But the garret was outside Mrs. Watt's jurisdiction. In his garret he was master. the old servant. not even his wife. gallipots. and. crucibles. to make him independent of the household timetable. firmly and without apology or argument raked out the fire and removed the lights. and. and no one dared disturb him or question what he did.tools. This was far from being the case in the rest of the house. compasses. entered the room where Watt was sitting. even if he had a guest with him. and meekly led his friend up to bed in the dark. She made a window through which she could spy on the servants in the kitchen. . After she had retired to rest. " We must go. cooking utensils. and she sternly rebuked him whenever he appeared with dirty hands or wearing his workman's apron. She taught her pugs never to cross the hall without wiping their feet on the mat. scales. The second Mrs." said Watt. by her orders. and there the old man found at last the peace and leisure that he had longed for all his life. Watt was a tyrant with a relentless passion for order and regularity. punches. screws.
wood and ivory. sent by Turnerelli. outlived them all. and a sleeping boy. The death of Roebuck in 1794 did . of his old friends. nervous and painridden in middle life. and another boy." But he had ambitions to work in marble." He was working in alabaster. " small busts of Socrates and Aristotle. trying a new experiment there. naked. exactly as he had done with his first steam-engine. in 1775. and the last drawings he made of parts of the machine are dated April 1818 just sixteen months before his death. Watt. one by one. His chief cause of sorrow in these years was the disappearance. making a little change here. In 1807 he was already getting models from London to copy. sickly in childhood. very successfully done. his legs also being separate. His eightieth year found him still passing his days at work in his attic. the sculptor. and by 1812 he seemed to be very satisfied with the results. and holding one arm. about six inches high.Under these conditions he made good progress with his invention. and in 18I4 he could report success. So on he went. There was " a little figure of a boy lying down. and holding out both his hands. But even then he was not satisfied. Small had died long before.
Black had long been ill. One day in December 1799 Dr. apparently asleep over his dinner. with his plate on his knees. The principal friends of Watt's middle life are to be found among the members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham.not affect him deeply. but for Watt it snapped a link with those early days of struggle and enthusiasm at Glasgow. and the quality of the . as their friendship had never been very close. it was cold. Philosophical Societies became as fashionable as Political Societies. Something has already been said of the spirit of inquiry and exploration that invaded intellectual circles in England in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. He touched the hand that held the plate. and as indefatigable in the search for truth. It was an age of clubs and coteries. and his death was expected by his friends and wished for by himself. philosophers of the first rank found their friends and their colleagues among their neighbours. In these days. before the railways had sapped the vigour of the " Provinces " by drawing all talent to London. The attitude was unchanged. Some time later he returned. Black's servant came in and found his master sitting in his chair. He crept quietly away and left him.
would light them on their way as they rode home at night." To which Dr. that the " devil has played me a slippery trick. prevented me from coming to join the holy men at your house. The Lunar Society was the creation of Boulton and Small. Darwin replied. They discussed all the mysteries of nature and probed the secrets of earth. by sending the measles with peripneumony amongst nine beautiful children of Lord Paget's. They certainly did not suffer from timidity. I can tell you some secrets in return for yours.. and it contained some of the most brilliant figures of the day. air and water.discussions of a local club might be as high as that found in the Royal Society itself.. and also how to make it. The " Lunatics " met. When Watt came to Birmingham he was eagerly welcomed as a valuable recruit. that atmospheric air is . when possible. and before long he was on terms of close friendship with several of the members. being at the full. " If you are meek and humble. I fear. and the theory proved both by synthesis and analysis. once a month. choosing the time when the moon. and." wrote Watt to Erasmus Darwin. namely. " perhaps you may be told what light is made of.. As to material philosophy.
Darwin. having himself indulged in speculation on the subject of locomotives. genial and despotic man. and they parted excellent enemies.composed of light. but when the two met they found that there was no single subject on which they did not violently disagree. Johnson to his contemporaries. with an adventurous mind and a heart overflowing with kindness. vigorous." Dr." in which he celebrated the achievements of science in rhymed couplets. That water is composed of aqueous gas. He was a big. rough. and a reputation that extended throughout the Midlands and reached to London. Darwin was keenly interested in Watt's experiments. was the hub of this social wheel. which is displaced from its earth by oil of vitriol. who was the grandfather of the famous naturalist. He had many of the qualities that endeared Dr. and afterwards at Derby. He had a practice at Lichfield. and his enthusiasm led him to give a place to the steam-engine in that " Economy of Vegetation " presented to the world under the title of " The Botanic Garden. and the earth of water (and aqueous earth). The rhapsody ends with a prophetic vision .
He left Birmingham hastily in 179I.that does credit to his imagination. Shall wave their fluttering kerchiefs as they move. leaning from above. He had moved from London to Birmingham in 1780 and he regarded this as " the happiest event in my life. or drive the rapid car. And armies shrink beneath the shadowy cloud. but he was generally regarded as ." because it brought him in touch with the group of scientists and philosophers who clustered round Boulton and Darwin. Or warrior-bands alarm the gaping crowd. an enthusiastic religious controversialist. and a champion of political liberty. Fair crews triumphant. Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear The flyingchariot through the fields of air. and of whom Watt was in his eyes the greatest. In that year a mob attacked some friends of the French Revolution who held a dinner to celebrate the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. UNCONQUER D STEAM ! afar Drag the slow barge. Priestley had not been present." Priestley was a brilliant and original chemist. if not to his poetic gifts: " Soon shall thy arm.
." he wrote. in which he showed something of his father's genius combined with abundant vitality and a gift for selfexpression. Oh ! . In 1802 Darwin died. and would have been a great man." " He was a noble fellow. he developed consumption and slowly faded away. while I live." wrote Watt.. and the Lunar Society lost the most stimulating of its members.the spokesman of rebels. and his house was sacked by the rioters. Gregory." said his friend Campbell. " but I must ever lament his early fate. and the vacant places were not filled by new recruits." Two years later he lost his younger son. After this the group dwindled rapidly. Three years later he left the country to pass the remainder of his life in exile in America. " I having been intimate with him for thirtyfour years.. For Watt the first ten years of the new century brought the heaviest losses. the poet. After a short and dazzling career." " He was almost my most ancient acquaintance and friend in England. " I cannot weep. and Watt began to feel himself " as it were in danger of being left alone in the world. It will be my pride. that I have enjoyed the friendship of such a man. " a splendid striplingÑliterally the most beautiful youth I ever saw.
supreme among those giants of the past who had forged the modern world. John Robison." exclaimed his devoted friend. Yet he was not lonely. in a letter of bitter. He never lectured them on topics of his own choice. and " allowed his mind. and in 1809 the ally of his years of manhood. He let them guide the discussion on to the subjects that interested them most.there was no reason for his dyingÑ he ought not to have died. and he found that it had its consolations. He did not rebel against the decrees of time. A few months later Watt lost the last remaining friend of his youth. He accepted old age. a revered master to those about him. He loved to sit and talk to a circle of enthusiastic young scientists. He was compensated for the lost intimacy of his contemporaries by his enjoyment of the admiration and respect paid him by his successors in the field." He could . and to feel that they still came to him as to a great authority. like a great cyclopa dia. to be opened at any letter his associates chose to turn up. hung on his lips and wondered at his amazing erudition. He was the Grand Old Man of British science. Matthew Boulton. Humphry Davy. passionate sorrow. to others an almost legendary figure.
. or useful in their present form. and fascinate them all alike." One " is not practicable as you have drawn it. a celebrated criticÑyou would have said the old man had studied political economy and belles-lettres all his life. of science it is unnecessary to speakÑit was his own distinguished walk. An engineer submitted designs for rotative motions. another. A more perfect application of that principle is contained in the specification of my patent in the year 1781" I do not . but remarked that none of them were " new to me. and young inventors laid their ideas before him for his criticism. kind. to the student about his problems. Watt thanked him. benevolent old man had his attention alive to every ones question.talk to the learned about their science. Walter Scott met him at a distinguished party at Edinburgh in 18I4 and was much impressed. he talked with him on the origin of the alphabet as if he had been coeval with Cadmus." Naturally Watt was often consulted on engineering problems. His talents and fancy overflowed on every subject.. " The alert. his information at every one's command. One gentleman was a deep philologist. to the child about its toys..
who had taken out a patent for steamships. and probably with truth. Robison said of him that " he was without the smallest wish to appropriate knowledge to himself. that he was at least the equal of any engineer alive. your ideas are ingenious. he had never been secretive about his ideas for fear that others might make capital out of them. a trace of intellectual arrogance in Watt's character. " but we believe we are not likely to agree with him.by what I have said mean to discourage you from paying particular attention to the subject." What could the poor man do after that ! Even more withering was his reply to Earl Stanhope." There was. and one of his greatest delights was to set others on the same road to knowledge with himself. in fact. " His Lordship has also applied to us for engines. He had stood alone in his youth. which increased with time. and by further experience you may think upon better things. No man could be more distant from the jealous concealment of a ." wrote Watt. But he had never shown a petty anxiety about his reputation. he would admit no rivals in his old age. He believed. as he lays too much stress upon his own ingenuity.
His engine must not be tampered with. there was no room for improvement at the hands of others. but not unfair in his criticism. And he had studied the question of locomotive engines and deliberately laid it aside as incapable of satisfactory solution. and each new thought grows out of its predecessors. It is in his attitude towards the problem of steam locomotion that he is most open to criticism. Still more obvious did it appear to him that where he had tried and failed." When he was shown the work of others. If it was good he did not disparage it. . he was merciless. Often this was perfectly true.tradesman. That others should be so bold as to tackle it afresh. he merely remarked quietly that he had had the same idea himself many years before. was an insult to his judgment. But Watt knew better than most that the man who " works it out in detail " is the true inventor. but had never worked it out in detail. Science is logical. Watt believed that where he had toiled and succeeded. there was little chance that others would succeed.
Small had to administer a few more pinpricks. In 1770 he wrote that he and Boulton were very anxious to devise an engine to drive canal boats. I suppose by the rapidity of his progress and puffing. he is too volatile to be dangerous. Dr. Let me know all you know of him. I will stop them.' Anxious curiosity peeps through the arrogant contempt of his language. Small cunningly incited him by reporting the supposed successes of his rivals. and an interesting correspondence followed on Watt suggesting the use of a screw in place of the usual paddle-wheels. one Moore. he can't drive them by steam. "This comes of thy delays." he wrote in 1769." To which Watt replied. This had been the substance of Robison's suggestion which first drew Watt's attention to the subject of engines. and they constantly urged him to study it. But Moore was a quack and Watt's anxiety subsided.To many of Watt's friends locomotion was the most exciting of the possibilities of steampower. has taken out a patent for moving wheel-carriages by steam. " If linendraper Moore does not use my engine to drive chaises. "A linen-draper at London. If he does. .
but it was little more than a preliminary sketch. and came to the conclusion that. I even grudge the time I have taken to write these comments on it. Watt wrote angrily to Boulton. hearing that Murdock wished to apply for a patent on his own. And in this case the rival he feared was his own foreman and loyal friend. asking him to make him give up his experiments. unless things turned out better than he expected. and two years later. who was already pressing Boulton and Watt to take him into partnership for the manufacture of locomotives of his own design. still busies himself . " I am extremely sorry that W. and that it will cost much time to bring it to any tolerable degree of perfection. and that for me to interrupt the career of our business to bestow my attention on it would be imprudent. M. In two long letters to Boulton he carefully criticised his own invention. The proposal was rejected. William Murdock." Now to take out a patent that may block the path of other inventors when you have no intention of pursuing the subject yourself is a very questionable proceeding. " the machine will be clumsy and defective.In his patent of 1784 Watt included the specification of an engine to drive a wheelcarriage.
Before he died. . but the issue was somewhat different. but he had had no hand in its creation.with the steam-carriage. but to prevent as much as possible more fruitless argument about it. and it failed. What he says in effect is this: " I have reserved the field to myself and will allow no trespassers. sat down to consider whether any power. The policy was not a creditable one." He was reluctant to embark on new problems of such complexity. could be used to drive paddle-wheels ." There is more in the same strain. In 1785 two Scotchmen. . I have one of some size under hand. and am resolved to try if God will work a miracle in favour of these carriages. Patrick Miller and James Taylor. but I regard them as pure waste of time. other than man-power. the locomotive was well advanced along the road to success. I shall probably make some experiments. In one of my specifications I have secured it as well as words could do it. Watt's attitude towards steam navigation was similar. and have practically no hopes of success. I have still the same opinion concerning it that I had. according to my ideas of it. but he was even more reluctant to allow any one else the chance of anticipating him. .
attached to ships. and. in a sense he was right For Symington's work was imperfect. anxious to enlarge the scope of their operations. and when Fulton built the Clermont in 18077 the next land mark in the history of steam navigation. After much hesitation they voted for the steam-engine. the first steam boat to do practical service on this side of the l Atlantic. for it was Symington who built the Charlotte Degas. they made advances to Boulton and Watt with a view to co-operation. he equipped it with an engine ordered from the Soho works. He said that he regarded Symington's engines as an infringement of his patent. we thought it best to leave them to be judged by Dame Nature first. Watt's attitude was haughty and frigid. before we brought them into an earthly court. Watt was perfectly right not to allow himself to be distracted from his main work until he had brought . And yet. and from that time onwards shipbuilders figured ever more prominently among their customers. " but as we thought them so defective in mechanical contrivance as not to be likely to do us immediate injury. The experiment was on the whole a success. and invited William Symington to make them one." But he was unjust.
and in his old age he preferred to follow his inclinations. he was too tired of business and all its worries to launch out into a new enterprise. . He was a scientist by choice. But he was wrong to discourage the experiments of others and to belittle their work. patent rights invaded by piratesÑand he had no mind to do it. These difficulties were genuine. and a manufacturer only by necessity. He thought that any engine would be thrown out of action by the motion of a boat in rough water. He would have had to face once again the same old troublesÑtrials wrecked by faulty workmanship. but they proved not to be insurmountable. It is not surprising that he lacked the vision to see the great future that was in store for steam locomotion. profits swallowed up in expenses. He was convinced that for land transport a compact engine driven by highpressure steam was essential. but it is a pity that he allowed his action even for a moment to suggest comparisons with the dog in the manger. By the time work at Soho was running smoothly.it to perfection. Locomotion presented special problems of great difficulty. and he doubted the ability of the mechanics to make anything strong enough.
which he politely declined. His fame spread quickly among scientists and philosophers in all countries. English society gradually awoke to the fact that it had been harbouring a man of genius. The University of Glasgow honoured him with the degree of LL. and in 1814 paid him the very high tribute of choosing him as one of the eight Associes Etrangers of the Academie des Sciences. There were the makers of . and the news penetrated finally even to the Government.But Watt's faults and failures were few as compared with his virtues and successes. engines were being produced outside Boulton's factory. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1785. in 1806. our conclusions would be very wide of the mark indeed. He was offered a baronetcy. Even before the patent expired in 1800. In the world of industry the fame of the Soho engines was widespread and unchallenged at the beginning of the nineteenth century. and so it appeared to his contemporaries. But if we were to measure the extent of the use of steampower in the British Isles at the date of Watt's death by the output of Soho. Two years later the Institute of France made him a corresponding member.D.
Watt's model became in its turn an object for improvement by the ingenuity of other inventors. Watt would have liked to believe that the Spirit of Mechanical Creation.Newcomen engines. working through his genius. so that buyers could no longer feel certain that they would obtain the most upto-date pattern from Soho. or lately. and having added many millions to the national . like Watt himself. After that date the field was thrown open and new manufacturers quickly appeared. had introduced their own improvements into the Newcomen model. by multiplying the value of his gift to the world. and saw that it was good. there were others who. and he was not guilty of idle boasting when he wrote. giving employment to the best part of a million of people. my inventions at present. More than this. and rested. made an engine. and there were the pirates who exploited Watt's ideas without paying for them. three years before his death: " I have spent a long life in improving the arts and manufactures of the nation. But it was not so. Yet this does but increase the tribute that is due to Watt. Fot it remains true that the gift was his.
and in coal England had at that time an undoubted preeminence. the metal industry. and it was clear that. and therefore I have a natural right to rest in my extreme age." The industrial importance of the invention is too obvious to require much comment. to possess it in superabundance gives power. By 1820 it had captured the cotton industry. it would capture the woollen and worsted industries as well. The resulting superiority in production gave her a bargaining power in the markets of the world. the waterworks. the breweries and dis tilleries." The first essential for production is the " food " of energy. for it is a universal need. the cornmills. Production requires energy. The whole basis of our economic prosperity was changed. The new power spread rapidly through the mines. which enabled her to view with equanimity the prospect of becoming dependent on foreign purchase for her food supply. In the eighteenth century no country felt safe unless it could produce enough food to satisfy the needs of . and energy must be " fed. To possess it in abundance gives security. The " food " of energy produced by steam was coal. before long. paper-mills and silkmills.riches.
it was not easy even to stand still. and in consequence the road to economic prosperity was almost too fatally easy for the Victorians. but it did not create " wage slavery. Watt and his successors in the field of transport had laid the Malthusian bogey and created the specialised industrial State. Waterpower is intermittent.its population. A nation's capacity for greatness was limited by its productivity in corn." Unscrupulous employers were exploiting the labour of their workpeople in cottages. And they had more scope for it. and almost entirely beneficial. The steam-engine certainly hastened the growth of capitalism. As Malthus pointed out. and there was no room for expansion. The transformation of industry by the introduction of steam-power gave England a new lease of life. Her capacity for greatness seemed now to be limited only by her productivity in coal. The social effects were equally striking. And this was unfortunate for England. In a hard . workshops and watermills before a single steam factory had been built. since the growth of population tended to drag down the level of prosperity. for by 1800 the limit appeared to have been reached.
the mills stopped work. where the employees had some degree of independence. They were converted barns and cartsheds. women. Steam is more reliable. In a cotton-mill planted on some stream in the heart of the country the employees. and coal does not degenerate from disuse. and men. dirty. therefore in the factories there was some hope of regulating the hours of work. The steam-engine brought the factories into the towns.winter or a dry summer it might fail. largely children. it drew the wage-earners out of obscurity into the factories where pressure of public opinion and legislation could force the standard of . were dependent on their employer not only for their conditions of work. Often the buildings had not been designed as workshops. and children were reduced to destitution. To balance this risk the owner of a mill would. They formed a little isolated colony of which he was autocrat. run his machinery continuously until the mill hands dropped from fatigue. but also for their conditions of life. dangerous and unventilated. when water was plentiful. rather than let it stand idle while his precious source of power flowed uselessly away.
we must admit that they were quickly solved. 1819. On August 19th. The honour that had been paid to him during his life continued to be paid to his memory after his death. it was not in the factories that the worst distress was found. In 1882 his name was given a permanent place in the vocabulary of science at the suggestion of C. The steamengine diminished the risk of accident in the mines and the suffering and loss of life at sea. special accommodation was required.the most backward up to the level of the most enlightened. and new buildings were erected for the purpose which offered far healthier conditions of work than anything that had preceded them. taking the general rate of social progress as our standard. and. Watt passed peacefully away at Heathfield. For the engine and the heavy machinery that it drove. It is true that new problems appeared. and was buried in Handsworth Church. but among the workers outside them. W. but they were solved. as a result of a public meeting in London. . When the depression that followed the great wars passed away. In 1824. a statue of him wasexecuted by Chantrey and placed in Westminster Abbey.
Siemens. The permanent collection has recently been enriched. made the following proposal: " The other unit I would suggest adding to the list is that of power.. the Science Museum in South Kensington celebrated it by holding a Centenary Exhibition. in his Presidential Address to the British Association. and the curious will now be able to see an exact reproduction of the retreat in which Watt spent the last peaceful years of his long life of service to science and to humanity. in honour of that master mind in mechanical science. drawings and letters. It might be appropriately called a Watt. For this purpose the Watt Collection which the Museum possesses was supplemented by extensive loans of models. who." When the hundredth anniversary of his death came round in 1919. Appendix THE WATER CONTROVERSY . and in particular by the gift of the contents of the famous Heathfield garret.. James Watt.
All gases were referred to as air. The result may be briefly summarised. But the properties of air varied. Cavendish heard of it. called phlogiston.FOR centuries scientists believed that water was an element and indivisible. It is necessary first to understand the terms then in use." was what we know as oxygen. " dephlogisticated air. Three men. independently observed that when inflammable air is burnt in ordinary air. Warltire and Macquer. The latter was sometimes distinguished as " the inflammable air from metals. including hydrogen. Cavendish. There was supposed to be an invisible substance. " Inflammable air " covered all gases that will burn. Priestley repeated the experiment. realised its . have claimed the credit for the important discovery that it is a compound of oxygen and hydrogen." In I776 two chemists. the principle of fire. Watt and Lavoisier. which was contained in all inflammable bodies and was given off when they burned. Air deprived of its phlogiston. but no use was made of the observation. For about seventy years a controversy raged over the merits of their respective claims. water is deposited.
Watt's letter was not made public. saw it. and expressed this theory in a letter written to Priestley on April List. which he asked him to send to the Royal Society together with the account of his (Priestley's) experiments.importance and. conducted a series of experiments in which he produced water by exploding a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen in a closed vessel. Watt jumped to the conclusion that water is a compound. I784. and Watt asked that it might be held back until he had made further investigations. because Priestley threw doubt on the theory. consisting of dephlogisticated air and inflammable air. or phlogiston. He reported these experiments to Priestley. . Meanwhile Cavendish concluded his experiments and. on January 15th. in the summer of I78I. including Cavendish. who tried to repeat them. But several scientists. and in turn reported his efforts to Watt. I783. read a paper to the Royal Society in which he put forward a similar theory of the composition of water. using the same terms and making no mention of Watt.
" he had in his experiments always used hydrogen and knew that no other gas would serve. His view of the nature of the ingredients was false. The fact that Priestley was surprised when he heard Watt's theory might be taken to indicate that he had had no hint of anything similar from Cavendish.Watt's guess that water is a compound was certainly original. so his evidence is unreliable. on the other hand. reported to him via Priestley. and blundered badly when he tried to imitate him. It remained for Lavoisier to complete the discovery by showing that phlogiston was a myth. and it was a brilliant piece of intuition. For though he spoke vaguely of " phlogiston. But Priestley often misunderstood what Cavendish was doing. and that hydrogen is a perfectly definite and distinct gas. right. Cavendish. for by " inflammable air. in a sense. with whom he was in close touch. Watt thought that it was his letter that suggested to Cavendish the idea that water is a compound. or phlogiston " he meant. was. But it was based on the experiments of Cavendish. It is incredible that a man of Cavendish's character should have repudiated so great an obligation to a man whom he honoured as a . not hydrogen. but any inflammable gas.
that he understood the meaning of his own experiments without the help of Watt. We may assume.scientist and valued as a friend. therefore. .
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