The Importance and History of the Steam Engine

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"The wonderful progress of the present century is, in a very great degree, due to the invention and improvement of the steam engine, and to the ingenious application of its power to kinds of work that formerly taxed the physical energies of the human race."~Robert H. Thurston

The steam engine can easily be considered the single most important invention of the entire industrial revolution. There is not one part of industry present in today's society that can be examined without coming across some type of reference or dependence upon the steam engine. But, who deserves the credit for this great invention? Some give the credit to James Watt while others claim that Thomas Newcomen was the original inventor. However, the idea of the using the power of steam to the advantage of human beings has been around practically since the beginning of time. But, no practical uses for steam emerged until the 17th century.

The majority of people will tell you that the steam engine was invented by James Watt. But, this is far from the truth. Like all other great inventions and great discoveries, the steam engine came about after centuries of work by numerous scientists, engineers and even writers. It came from a compilation of work and theories that took centuries to complete. If James Watt was not the first to create the steam engine, who was? How did James Watt end up with all of the credit for the invention? Was he just the one that was there at the right time and in the right place? Is it true that James Watt discovered the steam engine when he observed the lid of a kettle lifting as water boiled within? Those are the questions that we are out to answer. But, keep in mind that "...inventions only become successful wh...

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...ords that the steam engine held at the time that the book was written. This biography is meant for at least high school age readers and is directed more so towards those interested in science or engineering history.


This website is successful at telling the reader everything that they want to know and more about the history and evolution of steam engines. It hits on all the major advancements as well as fall backs that occurred over the years. It is very easy to find whatever you are looking for on this website. The most beneficial part of the website however, is a link to a page that gives a timeline of the growth of the steam engine. This timeline is very well illustrated and makes note of all of the large and small developments in the evolution of the steam engine.
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