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Thomas Newcomen(1663) - Essay Example

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Thomas Newcomen(1663)

However, he apprenticed as a hardware dealer and blacksmith also termed as ironmonger (Kras 22). He then entered into business in Dartmouth in 1685 as a blacksmith with a partner John Calley, a fellow Baptist. He married only in 1705 at the age of forty-two years, after which he frequently hosted meetings at his home for dedicated Baptists. At the same time, he took great interest in the mining industry and the problem of the mines flooding frequently (Baker 278). Thesis Statement: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the life of Thomas Newcomen and examine his contributions to society as an inventor of the steam engine. Newcomen’s Invention of the Steam Engine “In Dartmouth, Newcomen had ample opportunity to learn about the technology of mining, frequently visiting the mines at Cornwall and Devon” (Baker 278) of the rapidly growing coal mining industry; he also visited tin mines. From the miners he came to know that there was a requirement for a machine to remove water from the deep mines. Some of the mine shafts extending under the sea got filled with water seepage and had to be pumped out. The miners did not have access to large streams that could be used for powering water wheels, and draft animals were not strong enough to pull the water up from the great depths (Kras 22). Thomas Newcomen’s earliest experiments are not documented, because he did not belong to a group of inventors, and he did not have a wealthy patron to promote his work (Kras 23). The results of his experiments led him to design and build the first really usable steam engine. “Though it was hampered by high fuel consumption and frequent breakdowns, Newcomen’s engine became only the second self-acting machine in history (after clocks)” states Shectman (p.xxix). Even more significantly, it became the first source of energy not known since antiquity. Newcomen’s machine was entirely propelled by atmospheric pressure. A blast of steam at greater than atmospheric pressure was forced to the bottom of a brass cylinder which held the engine’s piston. According to Marshall (p.18), Newcomen created a vacuum as the steam cooled, thereby drawing down the piston as well as one arm of the heavy beam to which it was attached. The other arm of the heavy beam rose up to work the pump. After this, a jet of cold water was injected to rapidly condense the steam. The vacuum created caused the pressure of the atmosphere to slam the piston downwards, producing a power stroke. For every successive power stroke the same brass cylinder had to be reheated by steam and the process began again. “At its prime, a Newcomen engine was capable of pumping over 3.5 million gallons of water a day” (Shectman 225), thereby greatly helping transportation. Thus, as compared to any other invention, steam engines supplied the power to support the late-century Industrial Revolution, first in England and then in every major European country. Thomas Newcomen’s Technological Contribution to Society In 1698 Thomas Savery had made an operational pump that used the vacuum created by condensing steam. Following this, Thomas Newcomen’s developed his steam engine a few years later on the same principle, and this led to the examination of new methods of power generation (Lienhard 75). The main basis for the eighteenth century revolution was the realization that workers should lay claim to the fruits of production. “On an almost visceral level, the citizens of Europe, ...Show more


Name and Number of the Course Date THOMAS NEWCOMEN Introduction: The Early Life of Thomas Newcomen Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729), the Englishman associated with the invention of the steam engine was born in Dartmouth, England into an aristocratic family whose wealthy status had declined…
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