Engineering's Great Achievements: The Steam Engine by Maureen McCoy

Imagine a world without cars to drive you to the amusement park, without planes to fly you to California, and without subways to take you from one side of New York City to another. This is the world where Denis Papin did not create the first steam engine. This is the world where engines do not exist. Papin created the first steam engine for the purpose of pumping water in 1690. Although it actually ran on air rather than steam pressure, it is considered to be the first because it used the same concept. Men such as Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen subsequently improved on Papin's design. Thomas Savery stated that such an engine may be made large enough to do the work required in employing eight, ten, fifteen, or twenty horses..." This led to the steam engine being used for more than pumping water. James Watt was another influential contributor to the modern steam engine. Watt discovered a way to avoid letting the engine lose so much steam, making it more efficient. He also added gears, controlling the speed of the vehicle, and a crankshaft, a primitive form of ignition. Thanks to the rotary movement of the crank, the steam engine was evolved for transporting; meanwhile, a stationary steam engine was adapted for industrial power. This made it a valuable tool in shaping the future of our world. In the 19th century, Richard Trevithick used his engine to fuel the first locomotive. Trevithick and an American named Oliver Evans, built the first "steam-powered carriages." Since most of the English designs by Trevithick and others were for the highway, they formed the foundation for the automobile. The steam engine was becoming employed universally, shaping the world into what it would become today. Locomotives and automobiles powered by the steam engine were popping up everywhere. Steam engines are the reason we have a variety of transportation systems today. Other engines have sprung up from this idea, such as the gas engine and the electric motor. These have now replaced the steam engine because they are more efficient, but the fact remains: the steam engine was the forerunner to all modern engines. The steam engine is engineering's greatest achievement. Bibliography -Steam Engine, Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation -The Steam-Powered Locomotives. < http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/6914/stephe.htm> -Thomas Savery - The Miners Friend - Or An Engine To Raise Water By Fire -Richard Trevithick 1771 - 1833 < http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blrailroad8.htm> -The Steam Engine: What's a steam engine?? Wilescoe Steam Engines.