The Discovery of Steam Power
How Change Happens: A theory of Philosophy of History, Social Change and Cultural Evolution (2009) Best Publications Limited
7 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2016
Date Written: October 21, 2016
This paper was written in order to examine the conditions needed, and the order of the discoveries made, for the invention of the steam engine. There were a number of conditions necessary for the invention of the steam engine. A vital one was the presence of a need, initially that of how to get water out of mines and later how to drive the new machinery that was being produced as part of the industrial revolution. But needs are common and they are not always met. The reasons why those needs were met was due to the scientific progress that was going on in 16th and 17th century Europe concerning the knowledge of atmospheric pressure, how to create vacuums and of the properties of gases. Allied to this scientific progress was a belief in Europe at the time that progress could be made and problems could be solved. The inventors at the time applied scientific knowledge to solving the problems that existed and after long periods of trial and error, including the development of new and better materials, were able to produce a working steam engine. Crucial to the progress made by the inventors was the diffusion of scientific and engineering knowledge which enabled them to build on each other’s work. The earlier development of printing was important to the diffusion process and the role of organizations such as the Royal Society was also important.
Keywords: discovery of steam power, invention of the steam engine, water out of mines, discovery of properties of gases, discovery of properties of vacuums, Newcomen steam engine, James Watt, Boyle's Law, Denis Papin, separate condenser, Thomas Savery
JEL Classification: A00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation