The Victory of the Steam Engine (Episode 2)
In London, the heart of the British Empire, a contraption was patented on the 5th of January, 1769, that would change the world like no other device before or after. An ingenious Scotsman by the name of James Watt had developed the pre-modern steam engine from a primitive “infernal machine” into an efficient power generator, laying the foundation for one of the most profound changes the world had ever seen: the Industrial Revolution.
In the mining industry, so-called “atmospheric engines” had already been in use at the time to pump out water that was seeping into the mines. Many of these fire-powered monsters, however, were consuming more coal than the mines could produce. Mining ore became unprofitable in some locations, because these machines swallowed too much of this expensive raw material, and mining accidents kept claiming human lives as miners, trapped in flooded tunnels, died horrible deaths when the pumps malfunctioned.