Inside the Collection

James Watt

James Watt’s Bicentenary: the man and his machines

August 21, 2019

Sarah Reeves
25 August marks the 200th anniversary of the death of inventor James Watt. To mark the occasion, we have invited a guest post by Debbie Rudder, an expert on Watt, to explore his life and scientific contributions.

James Watt’s chemistry

January 19, 2011

Debbie Rudder
19 January 2011 is the 275th anniversary of James Watt's birthday. Because this is the International Year of Chemistry, to mark his birthday let's take a look at Watt's work as a chemist rather than as an engineer.

225th birthday of our Boulton and Watt engine – and a search for two birthday buddies

July 21, 2010

Debbie Rudder
We plan to steam our engine on 22 July to celebrate the 225th anniversary of its installation in Whitbread's London brewery. The only known reference to its first steaming is a letter dated 1 August 1785 from engine erector James Law to his boss, James Watt, and held in the Boulton and Watt Archives, Birmingham City Council: 'Sir I thote it proper to let you know wat I was about the millwrites say the will finish nexte week I set the engin to moofe the 22 of the last month I colde a set on the weeack before but I hoped for the copper smiths worck and set on with out it at last the clarkes and the engin house was full but thank god I found very lille defects sir I think a are vessel of a good sise is better than a small one a engin will set an better Mr Witebread and a Lord and Ladys came to see the engin stand and do see me ow soon I colde set it to worke which we did very well…' Without pausing to draw breath, let alone start a new paragraph, Law goes on to complain about the cost of living ('washing, mending and vitles') in London.

James Watt and the problematic watt

January 18, 2010

Debbie Rudder
19th January is James Watt's birthday. Born in 1736, he is remembered mainly for improving the steam engine. This medal was minted in London in 1827 as one of a series celebrating great men. Watt is also celebrated by several statues and paintings, a university and a library, a shipping dock, at least two engineering awards, an Austrian coin and a (yet to be released) British banknote.