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MR. WATT'S INTRODUCTION TO DR. BLACK, AND TO PROFESSOR ROBISON
DR. BLACK'S HISTORY OF THEIR FRIENDSHIP, AND OF MR. WATT's IMPROVEMENTS ON THE STEAM-ENGINE — DR. ROBISON'S HISTORY OF HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH MR. WATT ACCOUNT OF HIS CHARACTER, ABILITIES, DISPOSITIONS, HABITS, AND PURSUITS EXPERIMENTS ON MODEL OF NEWCOMEN'S ENGINE — INVENTION OF SEPARATE CONDENSER, AND FURTHER IMPROVEMENTS ON THE STEAM-ENGINE,
It was at this time that the young artificer's earnest devotion to philosophical pursuits, as well as his amiable and virtuous dispositions, had gained him the approving notice and enduring friendship of Dr. Black; who, in 1756, was appointed Professor of Anatomy, and, in 1757, Professor of the Practice of Medicine, in Glasgow College. It was also in the commencement of the winter of 1758-9 that he made the acquaintance of another able and ardent student, imbued with predilections similar to his own, Mr. John Robison, afterwards, by Dr. Black's recommendation, appointed to succeed Dr. B. as Lecturer on Chemistry in the University of Glasgow; and who subsequently became eminent as Professor of Natural Philosophy in that of Edinburgh. Both of those learned persons, owing to the accidental circumstance of their testimony having been called for on occasion of infringements of Mr. Watt's patents, at a period nearly forty years subsequent to their first meeting at Glasgow, have left interesting narratives of the rise and progress of their intercourse with Mr. Watt, and of the origin of his first and greatest invention ; which, as
; they do honour alike to their authors and their subject, we do not hesitate to place before our readers. That by Dr. Black, which is by much the shorter of the two, had never been noticed by any of the previous biographers of Watt, nor, indeed, did its existence appear to have been known to them; while from Dr. Robison's longer, but highly curious and important narrative, only a very brief extract was published by
History of Mr. Watt's Improvement of the Steam-Engine.
By JOSEPH BLACK, M.D.* “I became acquainted with Mr. James Watt in the year “ 1757 or 1758, at which time I was Professor of Medicine “ and Lecturer of Chemistry in the University of Glasgow. “ About that time Mr. Watt came to settle in Glasgow as a “ maker of mathematical instruments; but being molested
by some of the corporations, who considered him as an “ intruder on their privileges, the University protected him
by giving him a shop within their precincts, and by con
ferring on him the title of Mathematical Instrument Maker “ to the University.
“ I soon had occasion to employ him to make some things “ which I needed for my experiments, and found him to be a young man possessing most uncommon talents for mechanical knowledge and practice, with an originality, readiness, and copiousness of invention, which often surprised and delighted me in our frequent conversations together. I also had
many opportunities to know that he was as remarkable for “ the goodness of his heart, and the candour and simplicity “ of his mind, as for the acuteness of his genius and under
standing. I therefore contracted with him an intimate
friendship, which has continued and increased ever since “ that time. I mention these circumstances only to show “ how it happened that I was thoroughly acquainted with the
progress of his inventions, and with the different objects " that engaged his attention, while I remained at Glasgow, and, in a great measure, ever since. “ A few years after he was settled at Glasgow he was employed by the Professor of Natural Philosophy to examine “ and rectify a small workable model of a steam-engine, which
* The original document is in the Dr. B. has written, “Mr. Watt's lawhand-writing of Dr. Black. On the “suit, 1796-97." envelope in which it is enclosed,
“ was out of order. This turned a part of his thoughts and “ fertile invention to the nature and improvement of steam
engines, to the perfection of their machinery, and to the “ different means by which their great consumption of fuel “ might be diminished. He soon acquired such a reputation " for his knowledge on this subject, that he was employed to “ plan and erect several engines in different places, while at " the same time he was frequently making new experiments 6 to lessen the waste of heat from the external surface of the “ boiler, and from that of the cylinder.
“ But after he had been thus employed a considerable “ time, he perceived that by far the greatest waste of heat proceeded from the waste of steam in filling the cylinder “ with steam. In filling the cylinder with steam, for every “ stroke of the common engine a great part of the steam is “ chilled and condensed by the coldness of the cylinder, before " this last is heated enough to qualify it for being filled with “ elastic vapour or perfect steam; he perceived, therefore, " that by preventing this waste of steam, an incomparably “greater saving of heat and fuel would be attained than by
any other contrivance. It was thus, in the beginning of " the year 1765, that the fortunate thought occurred to him “ of condensing the steam by cold in a separate vessel or
apparatus, between which and the cylinder a communi“cation was to be opened for that purpose every time the
steam was to be condensed ; while the cylinder itself might “ be preserved perpetually hot, no cold water or air being ever admitted into its cavity.
“ This capital improvement flashed on his mind at once, “ and filled him with rapture; and he immediately made a " basty trial of it, which satisfied him of its value, employing “ for this purpose a large brass syringe which he borrowed “ from a friend.”
Such is the first part of the concise, but emphatic and comprehensive account given by Dr. Black; the remainder of which we reserve till somewhat later in our narrative. In the meantime, we proceed to give the greater portion of that of Dr. Robison, which, entering more into detail, seems more
entirely to place us, as it were, in the very presence, and reveal to us the whole course of thought and inquiry, of his inventive companion and friend. According to Mr. Watt's own statement, to Robison belongs the honour of having been the first who drew his attention to the subject of steamengines ;-in 1759 even suggesting their application to “ the “ moving of wheel-carriages,” and to other purposes.
Narrative of Mr. Watt's Invention of the Improved Engine.
By PROFESSOR ROBISON.* “My acquaintance with Mr. Watt began in 1758. † I I “ was then a student in the University of Glasgow, and
studying the science which I now profess to teach, Natural
Philosophy. The University was then building an astro“nomical observatory. Mr. Watt came to settle in Glasgow
as a mathematical and philosophical instrument-maker, “ and was employed to repair and set up a very noble collec“ tion of instruments bequeathed to the University by Mr. “Macfarlane of Jamaica, a gentleman well known to the " scientific world. Mr. Watt had apartments and a work
shop within the College. I had, from my earliest youth, a
great relish for the natural sciences, and particularly for “ mathematical and mechanical philosophy. I was eager to “ be acquainted with the practice of astronomical observation, “ and my wishes were much encouraged by the celebrated “ Dr. Simson, Professor of Geometry, Dr. Dick, Professor of “ Natural Philosophy, and Dr. Moor, Professor of Greek ;“ gentlemen eminent for their mathematical abilities. Those “ gentlemen brought me with them into Mr. Watt's shop; and
* The original is in the hand. some astronomical instruments, bewriting of Professor R., and is in- queathed to the University by Mr. dorsed “ Versus Hornblower and “ Macfarlane of Jamaica." One of Maberly, 1796."
these earlier dates is no doubt the + Mr. Watt, in his ‘Recollections correct one, as Dr. Robison asso • of his friend Dr. J. Robison,' written ciates Dr. Dick's name with his first in April, 1805, says, our acquaint- acquaintance with Mr. Watt, and Dr. “ance began in 1756 or 57, when I Dick's death, as mentioned above, “ was employed by the University of took place in 1757.
Glasgow to repair and put in order
“when he saw me thus patronised, or introduced, his natural complaisance made him readily indulge my curiosity.”
Elsewhere,-in a letter to Mr. Watt, in 1799, on the death of Dr. Black,-Robison says, “My first acquaintance with “ Dr. Black began in your rooms, when you were rubbing up “M‘Farlane's instruments. Dr. Black used to come in, and,
standing with his back to us, amuse himself with Bird's " quadrant, whistling softly to himself, in a manner that “ thrilled me to the beart.
In the end of 1758, “ when I went to sea, and had a favour to ask of the Pro
fessors, Dr. Black spoke very handsomely of me. This “I learned at my return; but we had no further
acquaintance till then, or rather till 1764; and his “ marked attention to me, as he told me not long ago), was “ owing to my saying distinctly, and giving reasons for it, " that Dr. Dick, my Professor, had infinitely more know“ ledge than his successor, who was much more popular. “ Indeed, Dr. Black has often said to me, that Dick
was one of the most sensible and manly fellows he ever “ knew."
“ After first feasting my eyes with the view of fine instru“ments, and prying into everything, I conversed,” continues Professor Robison, “ with Mr. Watt. I saw a workman, and
expected no more ; but was surprised to find a philosopher,
as young as myself, and always ready to instruct me. I “ had the vanity to think myself a pretty good proficient in
my favourite study, and was rather mortified at finding “ Mr. Watt so much my superior. But his own high relish " for those things made him pleased with the chat of any
person who had the same tastes with himself, or his innate complaisance made him indulge my curiosity, and even
encourage my endeavours to form a more intimate ac" quaintance with him. I lounged much about him, and, “I doubt not, was frequently teasing him.
Thus our acquaintance began. “ It was interrupted in 1759. I left the College for the navy, where I was a midshipman four years, and was “ present in some of the most remarkable actions of that