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The steam engine was arguably the most important machine technology in the Industrial Revolution The steam engine is a mechanical device that was used to transfer the energy of steam into mechanical energy This was used for a wide variety of applications including propulsion and generating electricity The basic principle of a steam engine involves transforming the heat energy of steam into mechanical energy This is done by permitting the steam to expand and cool inside a cylinder with a movable piston The steam that is used for power and heating purposes is called a boiler At its simplest form the boiler is a closed vessel containing water which is heated by a flame so that the water turns to steam The steam generating plants used for power are much more complex in design The use of steam for power was being experimented with prior to the 18th century As early as 1689 English engineer Thomas Savery created a steam engine to pump water from mines Another English engineer Thomas Newcomen developed an improved version by 1712 James Watt Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer made the most significant improvements allowing the steam engine to be used in many industrial settings not just in mining Before Watt early mills had run successfully with water power but the factory had to be located in close proximity to the water With the advancement of the steam engine the factory could be located anywhere After 1785 when a steam engine was first installed in a cotton factory steam began to replace water as power for the new machinery Manufacturers could build factories closer to a labor supply and to markets In 1775 Watt and manufacturer Matthew Boulton formed an engine-building and engineering partnership This partnership became one of the most important businesses of the Industrial Revolution For much of the British economy Boulton Watt served as a creative technical center Not only did they solve technical
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