Sarah L.

asked • 01/29/21

The Steam Engine

The idea of using steam for driving stationary machinery originated in the early centuries. For a long time, no one seemed to have thought of using steam for transportation purposes. In the earlier historical records, there is mention of "heat engines," which were used for organ blowing, the turning of spits1, and like purposes. But from this early date until the seventeenth century, practically no progress was made in the use of steam. Though men had experimented of spits1, and like purposes. But from this early date until the seventeenth century, practically no progress was made in the use of steam. Though men had experimented with steam up to this time with more or less success, the world is chiefly indebted for the developed type of the steam engine to James Watt and George Stephenson.

James Watt, who secured the position as a maker of scientific instruments in the University of Glasgow, proposed an idea for improving the existing steam engine, which was used for pumping mines. For a long time, owing to a lack of money, he had difficulty in establishing the merits of his improvements. Finally, he formed a partnership with Matthew Boulton, a wealthy and energetic man who lived at Birmingham, England. They began the manufacture of steam engines at Birmingham, under the firm name of Boulton and Watt. This partnership was very successful. Watt supplied the inventions; Boulton furnished the money and attended to the business.

Before the time of Watt, the steam engine was exclusively a steam pump—slow and wasteful of fuel. Watt made it a quick, powerful, and efficient engine, requiring only a fourth as much fuel as before. Under his first patent, the engine was still used only as a steam pump, but his later improvements adapted it for driving stationary machinery of all kinds. The commercial success of his engine was soon fully established.

George Stephenson further modified Boulton and Watt Company's creation. Stephenson initiated the use of steam for carrying passengers and goods. In September 1825, the first train passed over the road. It consisted of thirty-four cars weighing, all told, ninety tons. The train was pulled by Stephenson's engine, operated by Stephenson himself, with a signalman riding on horseback in advance. The train moved off at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, and on certain parts of the road it reached a speed of fifteen miles per hour. The trial was a complete success.


1 a device, such as a slender rod, used for roasting meat

What can the reader infer about the impact of the partnership between Matthew Boulton and James Watt on the development of the steam engine?


Their partnership allowed James Watt to convert a small steam pump into a steam engine used for organ blowing and turning spits.


Matthew Boulton’s partnership with James Watt provided the financial capital for the development of a steam engine.


Their partnership allowed James Watt to develop a steam engine capable of driving passengers along a road at 15 miles per hour. 


James Watt’s partnership with Matthew Boulton provided the inventiveness for the development of more efficient methods of mining.

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