Who Invented the Steam Engine?

The history of steam engines points to Thomas Savery (1650-1715) as its inventor. He created the engine in 1698 but the basic principles were already known years before.
The Evolution of the Steam Engine
In the first century AD, Hero of Alexandria had detailed the fundamental principles of the steam engine. The steam turbines that Taqi al Din and Giovanni Branca made (in 1551 and 1629) were mainly for assessing the properties of steam. They were not actually put to any practical use.

Savery’s invention in 1698 was the first practical application of steam. It was a water pump and used in some pumping stations. The history of steam engines asserts that the early models sometimes failed to work.

In 1712, Thomas Newcomen invented the atmospheric engine. Newcomen’s design was actually an improvement over Savery’s machine. It was mostly used for water pumping too, but it could also be used for draining.

James Watt’s Engine
While Newcomen’s work help usher in the Industrial Age, it was James Watt’s innovations that helped make steam engine more practical. His pumping engine needed 78% less coal than Newcomen’s device.

Watt also included a rotary motion. This allowed the device to be used for moving factory equipment. This meant factories no longer had to be built near rivers or water sources.

Watt’s invention was still an atmospheric engine. This meant power was produced by the vacuum from the condensed steam. The history of steam engines changed with Richard Trevithick’s new engines.

Trevithick’s Engines
Trevithick’s engines utilized high pressure. Compared with Watt’s engine, this was much more powerful. Its small size also made it ideal for usage in transport. The engine came to be recognized as a power source.

In 1801 Trevithick created the Camborne road engine. Three years later Trevithick built the 1 cylinder flywheel locomotive. Trevithick followed this up with the passenger carrying railway in 1808.

Other Steam Engine Innovations
The success of Trevithick led to more improvements. The history of steam engines in the 1800s saw Thomas Waters create new versions of Trevithick’s locomotive. In 1812, Blenkinsop created a rack railway system.

The next important development occurred in 1815 when George Stephenson built the Blucher, the first steam locomotive. Ten years later his son Robert Stephenson created the Locomotion for Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The year 1827 saw Timothy Hackworth create the Royal George with the blastpipe in the midst of the chimney. In 1849 George Corliss created a steam engine with a four valve counterflow. The design was so effective it quickly became the standard.

The year 1865 saw Auguste Mouchout use an apparatus for changing solar energy into steam. Two years later Stephen Wilcox and George Babcock came out with boilers. In 1897 Charles Parsons patented his steam turbine.

In 1902, the Stanley Motor Carriage Company had begun making its Stanley Steamer. This would become one of the most well known steam powered cars ever made.

In 1899, the steam powered cars began to be produced and other improvements soon followed. The history of steam engines from that point on consisted of more inventions, making it the central source of power in the 19th century.