Thomas Newcomen (1663 – 1729)
An English blacksmith, iron merchant, engineer and inventor of the first economical steam engine…the atmospheric steam engine. He was born in 1663 in Dartmouth, Devonshire (England).
Newcomen became aware of the high cost of using the power of horses to pump water out of tin mines. At the age of 35, Newcomen went into partnerships with Thomas Savery, an English inventor who had created a less efficient steam engine and obtained numerous patents. Under this association and patent, Newcomen manufactured engines of his own design. The most famous of the Newcomen-Savery engines was recognized near Dudley Castle, Staffordshire, in 1712.
Newcomen continued to pursue his goal to build an efficient and reliable steam engine. In 1705, he associated with another English inventor, John Calley (or Cawley), and succeeded in the creation of an engine. He and his assistant experimented for about ten years with a steam pump. He devised a model of an atmospheric engine, which employed both low-pressure steam and atmospheric pressure. It contained a piston that was moved by an atmospheric pressure, in a cylinder in which a vacuum had been created. The vacuum originated from the usage of cooling water to condense steam. This device was highly utilized for water pumping in most of Europe and later improved by Newcomen in 1725.
Newcomen's engine was used to drain mines and rise to power waterwheels for many years.
One of the characteristics that distinguish later steam engines from Newcomen's engine is that they rely on steam pressure to move the piston. The pressure of the steam in Newcomen's engine did not limit the intensity of pressure.
In 1755, his engine was exported to North America. It did not suffer any modifications until about 1769, when James Watt, a Scottish inventor and engineer, created a steam condenser that increased the efficiency of the engine.
The Watt engine had almost entirely replaced the Newcomen engine by 1790.
Thomas Newcomen died on August 5, 1729, in London.
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