James Watt Facts and Biography

James Watt

James Watt Biography Summary: James Watt (1736 - 1819) was famous for improving the Newcomen Steam Engine with his Watt Steam Engine which were fundamental to the Industrial Revolution. He was also responsible for developing the idea of horsepower and the 'watt', the SI unit of power, was also named for him. Although James Watt wished to begin business making musical instruments he ended up working for the University of Glasgow where he was asked to repair a model engine developed by Newcomen and although he made the repair the engine still did not work effectively.

Watt’s would made the improvements on the engine that would see it become the workhorse of the Industrial Revolution.

James Watt Fact Sheet: Who was James Watt? The following short biography and fact sheet provides interesting facts about the life, times and history of James Watt.


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James Watt Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1736 - 1819 *** Full Name: James Watt *** Occupation: Scottish Inventor, Mechanical Engineer and Chemist *** Date of Birth: James Watt was born on January 19th 1736 *** Place of Birth: James Watt was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland *** Family background: His father was a ship owner as well as a ship builder and contractor, he was also the towns chief baillie who was an officer of the local government while his mother, Agnes Muirhead was from a wealthy family. Both of his parents were well educated and of the Presbyterian faith and strong Covenanters *** Early life and childhood: He grew up with his parents in Greenock *** Education: James Watt was educated by his mother in their home but eventually went to Greenock Grammar School, here he showed a strong aptitude for manual dexterity and engineering skills *** James Watt died on August 25, 1819.

James Watt Fact 1: James Watt was born on January 19th 1736 and during the century period in history when many innovations were being made in science, medicine, technology and industry.

James Watt Fact 2: Sadly when he was just eighteen years of age his mother died and his father’s health began to deteriorate.

James Watt Fact 3: To study instrument making he travelled to London and spent a year there before returning to Scotland.

James Watt Fact 4: He settled in Glasgow with the intention of setting up his own business in making instruments.

James Watt Fact 5: Regardless of the fact that Glasgow had no other instrument makers the Glasgow Guild of Hammermen refused to grant his application because he had not served a seven year apprenticeship.

James Watt Fact 6: Instead, he began repairing astronomical instruments for the University of Glasgow in which he could still utilize his expertise without needing the Guilds approval.

James Watt Fact 7: While working for the University became friends with two of the professors he was working with, Joseph black and Adam Smith, who gave him the opportunity to put together a small workshop inside the University.

James Watt Fact 8: In 1759 John Craig and James Watt set up a partnership in which they sold toys as well as musical instruments. They would employ sixteen people and the pair were partners for six years until Craig died. Alex Gardner, one of the employees, Alex Gardner, took over the business which thrived into the twentieth century.

James Watt Fact 9: During 1764 he married Margaret “Peggy” Miller, together they had five children of which only two survived to adulthood. Peggy died giving birth in 1772. Five years later, James married again, Ann MacGregor and he had two children together.

James Watt Fact 10: Although the Newcomen engine had been in use for fifty years primarily for pumping water out of mines.

James Watt Fact 11: What James Watt developed was a serious improvement in performance and output.

James Watt Fact 12: He came up with the idea having been asked to repair a model of the Newcomen engine for the University. Even after he made the repairs the engine did not work very well. Upon further investigation Watt began to understand how the engine worked and what was causing the poor performance.

James Watt Fact 13: Over the next few years, he conducted various experiments and came up with solutions to correct the areas that were causing the poor performance.

James Watt Fact 14: He was assisted by John Roebuck who was the founder of the Carron Iron Works and they formed a partnership. Unfortunately Roebuck would go bankrupt and Watt’s had to look for work.

James Watt Fact 15: Watt’s patent rights were taken up by the owner of the Soho Foundry works near Birmingham, Matthew Boulton.

James Watt Fact 16: It was through Boulton that he would gain contact with many of the world’s best iron workers. There was one more sticking point that he was able to overcome by himself and it would be John Wilkinson, a cannon maker from Bersham that assisted with precision boring techniques. The pair would go on to form a partnership that would last for twenty five years.

James Watt Fact 17: A commercial success, he became exceedingly busy with installations of these engines largely in Cornwall. Eventually Watt would sell the drawings to allow the purchasers to make their own and Watt became a consulting engineer.

James Watt Fact 18: In 1800 James Watt retired. At the same time his partnership and fundamental patent expired with Boulton and the two men transferred their partnerships to their sons, William Murdoch joined the younger men and the firm prospered.

James Watt Fact 19: After his success the scientist and his wife enjoyed various trips across Europe they bought an estate in mid-Wales.

James Watt Fact 20: James Watt died on August 25, 1819 at his home in Handsworth aged eighty three years. His body was laid to rest in St Mary’s Church graveyard in Handsworth.

Influence & Legacy of James Watt: With the alterations and improvements made by Watt to the Newcomen engine made the Watt steam engine the backbone of Industrial Revolution.

Short Facts about James Watt for Kids
The above short facts detail interesting information about the life, milestones, history and key events that occurred during the life of this famous character, James Watt. A fast, simple way to present a short biography of James Watt with important dates and info that provides details such as the date of birth (birthday), place of birth, education, family, work and career. An ideal educational resource for kids, schools, teachers and social studies.



Learn about this famous person, James Watt, with concise and facts which provide answers to all of your questions in an easy timeline format for kids. Our short, interesting fact sheet about James Watt contains all the facts and info you need to know and more! Enjoy our fast, fact sheet for kids  which helps to make the learning process fast and easy.

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