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JAMES PATRICK MUIRHEAD, M.A.,
AUTHOR OF 'THE ORIGIN AND PROGRESS OF THE MECHANICAL INVENTIONS OF WATT;' 'CORRESPONDENCE
ON THE DISCOVERY OF THE COMPOSITION OF WATER,' ETC.
LONDON: PRINTED BY W. CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET,
AND CHARING CROSS.
THE present volume may, it is hoped, supply a want which has long been felt; that, viz., of a full, yet compendious and authentic biography of James Watt. In a recent work,* prepared by the author from the MSS. of the great engineer preserved by his son, as well as from others, of no less value, in the possession of Mr. Boulton, there were comprised, (1.) a Biographical Memoir of Mr. Watt; (2.) a Selection from his Correspondence; and (3.) the Specifications of all of his Patents. The favour with which that work was received by the press and the public is gratefully acknowledged. The long series, however, of large copper-plate engravings of machinery by which it was illustrated,—(thirty-four in number, delineating no fewer than sixty-eight separate figures),— necessarily raised its cost above the means of many who might otherwise have desired to possess it; while the minute descriptions contained in the specifications of patents, and their relative drawings, are of course more desirable for the use of the scientific engineer and the mechanical philosopher, than of the general reader.
The author has now, therefore, ventured to remodel, and to reproduce in a form at once more comprehensive, more convenient, and less costly, the Biographical Memoir above referred to. A few unimportant pages have been omitted;
* 'The Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James 'Watt.' 3 vols. 8vo. and 4to. London: John Murray, 1854.
many of the most interesting passages from the correspondence of the great engineer have been incorporated; and other large additions, from various sources, have been made,—a considerable portion of the new matter relating to Mr. Watt's family and private history; while the principle has been adhered to, of allowing his inventions and discoveries to be explained, as far as possible, in his own plain, clear, and forcible language.
Of the immense results of those inventions, and their present and future value to the world, it is already difficult to form any adequate conception. But some faint idea of their magnitude may be gathered from such facts as these:-that less than a single century ago, only a few clumsy and imperfect "fire-engines," of the old atmospheric sort, were employed in pumping water out of some widely-scattered coal-pits and mines; that they did their task laboriously, expensively, and badly; that steam was not then applied directly, nor, as then used, was it capable of being applied with advantage, either to Manufactures, to processes in the Useful Arts, to Navigation, to Land Transport, to War, or to Agriculture;-and that now, the united steam power of Great Britain alone, employed in all of those different ways, (every engine having been constructed since the improvements of Watt were first made known), is estimated as equivalent to the manual labour of upwards of four hundred millions of men, or more than double the number of males supposed to inhabit the globe.* How startling are such statistics;-how eloquently is the panegyric of the inventor thus expressed by the stupendous works of his genius!
As a kinsman of the illustrious engineer,-as long the intimate friend and now one of the executors of his son,and as the son-in-law of the late Mr. Boulton, the author has
"Quarterly Review,' vol. civ. p. 411. 1858.