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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33



A plausible but most erroneous remark is frequently made by those who desire to disparage scientific studies, to the effect that the steam engine was originally invented, and that all great improvements in its construction have been made by purely practical men, and not by men of science.

The truth is, that the most approved steam engines of the present day differ but very little from those invented and constructed by James Watt; the principle is the same, and many of the details are the same; the main difference lies in a better proportioning of parts and a much higher finish. It is strange how small a field for improvement Watt left unexplored. And James Watt was not an engineer at all. He page 44 was by trade a mathematical-instrument maker, and was employed to repair and adjust certain philosophical apparatus belonging to the University of Glasgow. There he became intimate with several eminent men of science, under whose guidance he not only thoroughly mastered all the scientific principles bearing upon heat, evaporation, &c., that had then been demonstrated, but even launched out into a series of original investigations that would have preserved his memory had he never invented the steam engine.

Watt was a thorough man of science, and he treated the steam engine in such a thoroughly exhaustive and scientific manner that the combined ingenuity of three generations of engineers has failed to effect any radical improvement.