(January 30, 1736 – August 25, 1819)
With several patents to his name, James Watt was among the leading inventors of his generation. And as the pioneer whose steam engines powered the Industrial Revolution, his influence was enormous. Although he abandoned his apprenticeship (as instrument-maker) before the recommended 7-year period, he learnt enough as to invent the modifier, which enabled telescopes to be used for measuring distances. He dwelt on practicality: striving to find applications for whatever science he learned. That was why his preoccupation with chemistry centered on devising a way of making bleaching agent. He succeeded with his father-in-law, but failed to make his method cost-effective (on an industrial scale). Watt also made inroads in his quest for a copier. But the cumbersome techniques involved diminished demand for his contrivance. As obvious today, it was the steam engine technology that immortalized his name. After seeing how inefficient Thomas Newcomen’s engines were, Watt designed an efficient machine: equipped with separate condenser. This trumped Newcomen’s, whose cylinders needed cycles of cooling and reheating. The multipurpose use of his engines was further enhanced by the rotary motion he incorporated into them. Thus, his design dominated and transformed both industries and transportation. Apart from steam engine, James Watt is remembered for establishing the imperial unit of measuring power, known as the Horsepower. He used it to compare the outputs of steam engines: long before pistons, turbines and electric motors were invented. Honors were showered upon him; and the term Watt was designated the S.I. unit for power.