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Digital Subscriptions > BBC History Revealed > July 2019 > Time Capsule: 1769

Time Capsule: 1769

Snapshots of the world from one year in the past


On 5 January 1769, a patent was granted for a “new invented method of lessening the consumption of steam and fuel in fire engines”. It would change the industrial world forever, and be James Watt’s greatest invention. While repairing a model Newcomen steam engine – that had been in use since 1712 – the Scottish engineer (right) noticed the amount of steam being wasted. He developed added a separate condensing chamber, which vastly improved the engine’s efficiency and enabled it to use less fuel. Watt’s engines could be used anywhere, from factories to mines, and once he was in partnership with manufacturer Matthew Boulton they soon were everywhere. Watt’s contribution became one of the driving forces behind the Industrial Revolution, and his legacy was remembered in the unit of power named after him.

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About BBC History Revealed

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