James Watt

Good character: James Watt (1736-1819)

James Watt was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements in steam engine technology helped to drive the Industrial Revolution. Samuel Smiles admired Watt for his hard work, perseverance and application to developing his skills. Although Watt did not invent the steam engine, his improvements made them cheap and efficient to run, which led to many inventions that supported the Industrial Revolution.

A passion for learning

Smiles described Watt as a sickly child, but one who always had a passion for learning and showed great skill and promise in the field of engineering. As an adult, Watt spent many years working hard and supporting his family before he made his improvements to the steam engine. This is what Smiles admired him for.

In the 19th century Britain started rapidly on the path to modernisation. Scientists, inventors and engineers created a new industrial world. For the first time the wider public came to recognise and admire their work. For Smiles these men were the greatest heroes of the age. He saw them as pioneers of British civilisation whose individual struggles and work ethic were truly heroic.

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