You Are At: AllSands Home > Potluck1 > Steam engine history : development and effects
In the Industrial Revolution, social and economic changes marked the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one. This revolution occurred in Britain between the 18th century and the middle of the 19th. Technology enhanced the Renaissance by providing it with powered machinery. The ground for the Industrial Revolution was prepared by the voyages of explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries, which led to the arrival of many precious metals from the New World. Industry was encouraged and a money economy emerged. Wood was the fuel, water and wind the power of early factories.

An important result of science was the invention of the steam engine. As the 18th century began, the wealthier population demanded more and better goods. Coal replaced wood as the fuel of choice. The crucial development of the Industrial Revolution was the use of steam for power, and the engine (1769) of James Watt marked the high point in this development.

Steam engines were invented to help raise coal from the mines. The presence of large quantities of coal and iron in Britain was a crucial factor in its rapid industrial growth. Factories and industrial towns sprang up. Canals and roads were built, and the railroad and the steamship widened the market for manufactured goods. Industry had become a dominant factor in the nation’s life. Dramatic changes in the social and economic structure took place as inventions and technological innovations created the factory system, economic specialization, and a new urban labor force comprised of former rural farm workers.

In a steam engine, hot steam expands under pressure, and the heat energy is converted into work. The steam may be condensed in a condenser, at a lower temperature and pressure. The best performance (work to heat) is achieved by using a low condenser temperature and a high boiler pressure. The steam may be heated further by passing it through a superheater between the boiler and the engine. The superheater consists of pipes exposed to the hot gases in the boiler furnace. The steam may be heated beyond the temperature at which it is produced by boiling water. In a steam turbine, steam is discharged through nozzles and then flows through a series of blades, causing a rotor to move at high speeds. The turbine is the means used to generate electric power with steam.

In 1698 Thomas Savery patented a pump with hand-operated valves for use in extracting water that built up in coal mines. This water build up was affecting the availability of coal. Englishman Thomas Newcomen developed a better steam engine in 1712 that used a piston to separate condensing steam from the water. In 1765 James Watt improved the Newcomen engine by adding a separate condenser to avoid heating and cooling the cylinder with each stroke. Watt then developed a new engine using a crankshaft instead of the up-and-down motion of a pump. Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot built a steam carriage for roads in France in 1769. Richard Trevithick in England was the first to use steam power on a railway. In 1803 he built a steam locomotive that operated in Wales. British engineer George Stephenson, in 1829, successfully adapted the steam engine to passenger railways. William Symington of Scotland built the first practical steamboat in 1802. Robert Fulton developed and used a passenger boat in the United States in 1807.

Life would be different if it wasn’t for the creation of the steam engine. The Wright brothers would not have the opportunity to create an engine to fly an airplane. The idea of using steam engines in boats wouldn’t have been developed. This great invention has led to many of the great developments of today.