The History Of Steam Engine


Scientist of ancient Greece first mentioned untapped steam power sixteen hundred years before it would become the force that drove the Industrial Revolution. During the 18th century scientist like James Watt refined it and steam power was able to overcome man’s weaknesses or horses that were tired. Factories were sped along and hard work was accomplished at a rate that was never seen before.

Beasts of Burden

Typically, no one thinks of industry being associated with the Middle Ages. Societies spanning portions of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe had manufacturing plants and factories. They were slow working, but they did have them. For example, production of textiles was bustling with trade. But due to geographic separation there were issues in delivery. There were plenty of water-powered mills built close to the mountain streams, sheep grazing in pastures that grew wool that was harvested, and then in the cities the cloth was able to be purchased in the market squares. Mules and packhorses transported the goods, but they were slow and expensive. In flooded mines, horses were used to carry buckets of water. They had to have breaks frequently so that they stayed in shape.

Had it of not been for 17th Century British glassmakers who used large amounts of coal to fuel their hot furnaces, the beasts of burned may have been the mechanism of choice. The need for fossil fuel was inhibited by the glassmakers growing needs for more consumption and the horse-pully system proved to be very inadequate and too slow to keep up. In the early 1600’s scientists started giving serious thought to tinkering with steam. A great deal of team work led to the first operational steam engine.

The steam-powered pump was invented in 1698 by Thomas Savery. It was an engine designed to use fire to raise water. This first basic engine used the steam to create a vacuum as it pulled water upwards through a pipe. This theory had never been successfully applied before even though it had been around for several centuries. Using pistons and cylinders the technology was improved by a blacksmith named Thomas Newcomen. Watt made more improvements in the mid-18th Century.

The steam engine really went beyond mining circles during this time and began moving over to other areas of industry from textiles to metal working. Later a rotating wheel system was adapted and became more common in rotating wheel systems. The term “horsepower” was coined when Watt, who was a savvy businessman began calculating the number of horses that the engine would actually replace.