Reminiscences of James Watt
IMAGES OF ORIGINAL ARTICLE
John W. Stephens
This article is copied from Robert Hart, "Reminiscences of James Watt:," Transactions of the Glasgow Archæological Society, 1st Series, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 1-7 (1859). It was the first article published by the journal. In the text version of the article, the original pagination is shown; and generally speaking, the original line and page formatting is retained, except for the indentation at the start of each paragraph. (In the original, the start of the first paragraph of the article is not indented. All other paragraphs are.)
This article contains the most-quoted account of the moment of Watt's invention of his steam engine. It is quoted, although never quite accurately, in such Watt/steam engine works as H.W. Dickinson, Short History of the Steam Engine, with a new introduction by A.E. Musson, (1963), p. 69; H.W. Dickinson, James Watt, Craftsman & Engineer (1936), p. 36; H.W. Dickinson and R. Jenkins, James Watt and the Steam Engine (1927), p. 23; and R.H. Thurston, History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine (1878), p. 87-88, among others. It is also quoted in such works on invention as the classic A.P. Usher, History of Mechanical Inventions (rev.ed. 1954), p. 71; E.K. Von Fange, Professional Creativity (1959), p. 94; and H.R. Buhl, Creative Design Engineering (1960), p. 100.
Although the account found in the article is quoted often, the article itself is difficult to find. According to WorldCat, the Library of Congress is the only library in the United States that has the particular volume in which the article is found.
Dickinson says the brothers Robert and John Hart were Glasgow engineers. James Watt, Craftsman & Engineer (1936), p. 36. Muirhead describes John Hart as "an ingenious tradesman of Glasgow" and the brothers Hart as being "distinguished by a predilection for the practical arts connected with science." J.P. Muirhead, Life of James Watt (facsimile ed. 1987; originally published 1858), p. 82; Muirhead, Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James Watt (1854), vol. 1, p. lxxix. They were natives of Borrowstoness (id.), referred to as "Bo'ness" in the article. Dickinson describes Robert Hart as a "hero worshiper of Watt," no doubt based upon Robert Hart's statement in the article that the brothers Hart "looked upon [Watt] as the greatest and most useful man that ever lived." James Watt, Craftsman & Engineer (1936), p. 36.
There is another account of the moment of Watt's invention of his steam engine that is also derived from meetings between Watt and the brothers Hart, these being dated to 1817, rather than 1813 or 1814 as reported in the article. This other account has been published in E. Robinson and A.E. Musson, James Watt and the Steam Revolution (1969), p. 41-45; J.P. Muirhead, Life of James Watt, p. 82-83; and Muirhead, Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James Watt, vol. 1, p. lxxix. This other account was taken down by John Smith and was sent by him to James Watt, Jr. in 1845. Robinson and Musson, James Watt and the Steam Revolution, p. 40. This other account is generally consistent with the account found in this article, but it does not end with the wonderful concluding sentence: "I had not walked farther than the Golf-house...when the whole thing was arranged in my mind."
Other accounts of Watt that describe his conception of his invention, but give no details about where he was or what he was doing at the time, are found in Watt's 1796 account prepared for use in his patent litigation published in Robinson and Musson, James Watt and the Steam Revolution, p. 194-95, and in Muirhead, Life of James Watt, p. 87-88; and are found in Watt's 1813-14 account prepared as notes to Dr. Robison's "Dissertation on Steam-engines" for the Encyclopædia Britannica published in Muirhead, Life of James Watt, p. 79-80.