James Watt (1736–1819)

  • Gordon R. Pennock
Part of the History of Mechanism and Machine Science book series (HMMS, volume 1)


It is generally accepted that the birth of James Watt was destined to bring about a revolution in the utilization of power. Watt, see Fig. 1, is regarded by many to be the progenitor of the science of thermodynamics. He was not only the inventor of the separate condenser and many other parts of the steam engine, but he was the first to study the steam engine scientifically. He also made distinguished contributions to the development of workshop practice. His scientific examination of heat losses in engines led him to recognition of the influence of latent heat on steam engine economy. Watt was at one and the same time a scientist, an inventor, and a producer. He put numbers to the concept of horsepower and is credited with inventing the centrifugal governor for automatic control of the speed of the steam engine, a rotary motion device for the steam engine, a pressure gauge, a smoke-consuming furnace, and a letter-copying device based on the link transfer process. Watt also invented an approximate straight-line mechanism for his famous double-acting steam engine, thereby creating a whole new family of linkages. This brief article will focus on Watt as the inventor of parallel motion, the basis of many machines. It is interesting to note that at the age of 72, he wrote to his son [1]: “Though I am not over-anxious after fame, yet I am more proud of the parallel motion than of any other mechanical invention I have ever made.” Watt was rightfully proud of the parallel motion four-bar linkage. This mechanical invention is believed to be the beginning of an ordered and an advanced synthetic process [2].


Kinematic Analysis Spur Gear Parallel Motion Steam Engine Coupler Point 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon R. Pennock
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Mechanical EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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