James Watt: The 3 Reasons He Is Famous Today

Born19th of January, 1736
Died25th of August, 1819
Known ForInventing separate condenser for steam engine, transferring steam engine power to mechanical energy, invented concept of horsepower
Region of WorldEngland, 18th century
Further ReadingSteam Engine: 3 Reasons Why It Changed The World and The 5 Most Important Inventions In Human History

James Watt remains one of the most famous inventors of the modern era. Most people are not aware of his inventions but they have interacted with them on a daily basis. To this day the influence of Watt continues to drive and power our society.

James Watt is famous today for 3 reasons. First, Watt invented the steam condenser for the steam engine. Second, Watt figured out how to create a radial steam engine that began the Industrial Revolution. Third, Because of his fame the modern unit of power measurement is named in his honor.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons James Watt is famous today.

James Watt Invented The Steam Condenser Which Started The Industrial Revolution

One of the main reasons that James Watt is famous today is because he invented the steam condenser system for steam engines.

Before James Watt steam engines ran into one major problem. This was that both the compression and vacuum occurred in the same chamber. This made it so that steam engines were not effective for anything other than pumping water out of mines.

In 1763 James Watt was tasked with working on a Newcomen steam engine when he had a moment of discovery. If he made a separate cylinder that the exhaust steam would go through he could save the heat energy for the next compression. This nearly doubled the efficiency of the steam engine.

Without this discovery it would be doubtful that the steam engine would have taken off as one of the major inventions to jumpstart the industrial revolution. As such James Watt would become both famous and wealthy during his time as an inventor.

One of the main reasons that James Watt is famous today is because he invented the condenser for the steam engine.

James Watt Created The Radial Steam Engine

One of the main reasons that James Watt is famous today is because he invented the world’s first radial steam engine.

Steam engines before Watt were only designed to pump water out of mines or other depressed water bodies. Watt envisioned a way to use the water and heat to power other machines.

From 1765 to 1775 James Watt would work on his design for a steam engine that would use a radial wheel to operate machinery. This would come to be called the Watt Steam Engine.

The Watt Steam Engine would end up saving so much fuel that it would be rated on the amount of fuel it would save when compared to normal steam engines.

However, the reason Watt is so famous today is because he continuously improved upon its design. From 1775 up through the remainder of his life Watt would continuously work on the steam engine to improve its efficiency.

Much of what we know about engines comes from Watt and his lifetime of achievements.

The Watt Steam Engine would be used throughout mines in Europe to help miners dig deeper to find more coal. This coal would be used to power the factories of Europe which lead to the industrial revolution.

Later on in Watt’s life he would make further improvements upon the steam engine design by adding pistons and a centrifugal governor. Both of these inventions helped the steam engine replace the waterwheel and horse as England’s primary source of energy.

As such the fact that James Watt created the worlds first efficient steam engine is the reason he is so famous today.

One Of The Main Reasons Watt Is Famous Today Is Because The Unit of Measurement For Power Is Named After Him

One of the main reasons why James Watt is so famous today is because of his name for the unit of measurement… horsepower.

Chances are you have interacted with a machine that measures its units of force in Horses. Most cars in the world today measure their output in horsepower.

James Watt created this unit of measurement because he wanted to compare his steam engine to the power created by one draft horse. The reason for this was marketing purposes across Britain.

Previously businessmen measured the force needed to move an object by the amount of people or horses they would need to create the force. This was an arbitrary guess. Something around 20 people or so might be needed to move a stone for example.

James Watt forever changed this by stating that his steam engine could raise the water of two draft horses.

Watt figured this out by calculating the amount of times a draft horse and his steam engine could turn a mill wheel. Watt draft horses could only pull with enough force to turn the wheel with 180 LBS of force. His steam engine on the other hand could pull with a constant force of two draft horses worth of force.

Thus the concept of horsepower was invented.

As a result of this in 1882 William Siemens, president of the British Association for Advancement of Science, proposed that the international unit to measure power should be named Watts in James Watt’s honor.

As such, this remains one of the primary reasons why James Watt is so famous today.


There you have it; an entire article dedicated towards the 3 reasons why James Watt is famous today.

The history of inventions and science is a fascinating subject of debate. Historians across the world have made their entire career from studying scientific discoveries and inventors. If your looking for a good research topic then I think James Watt would be a great idea.

Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the web.

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