IT is a fact not generally known,
that it was in Glasgow Green, near the site of the Humane Society House,
that the idea of his great improvement on the steam-engine first flashed
on the mind of our immortal James Watt.
The great engineer was at that
period philosophical instrument maker to the University. In this
capacity a small working model of Newcomen’s atmospheric engine was sent
to him for repair by Professor Anderson. While the machine was still in
his possession for this purpose, he went out alone, on a Sunday
afternoon, to take his customary walk on the Green.
His mind was naturally enough
directed to the contemplation of the principles upon which the engine he
had been repairing was constructed, and just as he was passing Arn’s
Well, the happy thought struck him, that by condensing the steam in a
separate vessel instead of in the cylinder, as it had hitherto been
done, an immense saving of fuel would be effected.
Had Watt been an ancient Greek he
would probably, on such an occasion, have rushed across the Green,
shouting "Eureka! Eureka!" But canny Scot as he was, and probably in
wholesome dread of the kirk session, he pursued his leisurely thoughtful
walk, and (according to his own account of the matter, as related
to a highly respectable gentleman of this city), he fully mastered the
details of his great discovery before returning home.
Immediately thereafter, in concert
with his apprentice, Mr. John Gardner, who was subsequently for many
years a mathematical instrurnent maker in this city, he constructed a
model of the steam-emgine according to his new and improved method. This
wrought admirably. The first experiment on a large scale took place at a
coal mine near the Carron ironworks, when his expectations were fully
justified, and he was induced to take out a patent for "saving steam and
fuel in fire-engines."