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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:Power

scene:Power


I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have – Power

Matthew Boulton, 1776

The industrial revolution saw a shift away from natural energy sources like wind- or water-power to a new one that used coal – the steam engine.


Model of Thomas Savery’s steam pump, c.1740. This model was constructed by Dr JT Desaguliers for Stephen Demainbray. Savery’s was the first steam pump. picture zoom © Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

In Britain, coal and steam came hand-in-hand. By 1700 miners needed a new, more powerful way of draining mines as they got deeper. Later, engineers like John Smeaton and James Watt strove to improve fuel efficiency so that engines would use less of this expensive fuel.


Chelsea waterworks, 1752. The pair of atmospheric engines seen here were erected in 1741-2, to replace tide-driven pumps that provided water to Westminster. picture zoom © Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

Without the steam engine, coal production and industrial growth would have been far less.

Here we will look at the development of new power sources in Britain – from muscle power to the steam turbine.

Resource Descriptions

Model of Thomas Savery’s steam pump, c.1740. This model was constructed by Dr JT Desaguliers for Stephen Demainbray. Savery’s was the first steam pump.
Chelsea waterworks, 1752. The pair of atmospheric engines seen here were erected in 1741-2, to replace tide-driven pumps that provided water to Westminster.
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