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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.
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.
We celebrated two bicentenaries in 2009: Matthew Boulton's death and Charles Darwin's birth. Is there a link between these two illustrious Englishmen? The key is the Lunar Society of Birmingham, which counted amongst its members Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin.