James Watt 1736 - 1819

James Watt 1736 - 1819

A creative genius who transformed the Industrial Revolution

Legend has it that James Watt carried out his first experiments when he was just six years old! Allegedly he experimented with his mum's tea kettle to find out more about the properties of steam. Whether that's true or not, we don't know, but James Watt certainly changed the course of British history with his improvements to the steam engine.

Famous for:

  • Improving the design of the steam engine. Watt's steam engine became the main energy source in Britain's Industrial Revolution. This transformed British society - we moved from the countryside into the cities.
  • Invented the term "horsepower" - so when you hear someone say "My Ferrari has 650 horsepower", you can thank James Watt!
  • Has a unit of power named after him - the Watt.

Pretty impressive for a guy who hardly went to school and didn't even finish an apprenticeship!

Science Museum London has recreated James Watt's workshop so you can discover more about the "hero of Britain's Industrial Revolution". Find out more at the Science Museum website.

This picture shows how Watt's steam engine works. Click on the numbers to find out more:

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Curriculum information

  • Summary

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