(January 30, 1736 – August 25, 1819)
With several patents in his portfolio, James Watt was among the leading inventors of his generation. As the pioneer whose steam engines powered the Industrial Revolution, his influence was enormous. Although he abandoned his apprenticeship (in instrument making) before the recommended 7 years period elapsed, 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 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. Aware of how inefficient Thomas Newcomen’s engines were, he 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 established the imperial unit of measuring power, known as the Horsepower. He used it to comparatively evaluate the outputs of various steam engines: long before turbines, pistons, and electric motors were invented. Various honors were showered upon him; and the term Watt was designated the S.I. unit for power.