James Watt (1736-1819)

James Watt is the most famous person to have been born in Inverclyde. He was born in Greenock on the 19 January 1736. When he was 18 he travelled to London to learn the skills of a scientific instrument maker and return to Glasgow to set up a business. However he was blocked by the Glasgow Guild of Hammermen for various reasons but eventually he managed to work for Glasgow University, maintaining astronomical instruments and other apparatus.

It was at Glasgow he began experimenting with steam leading to several important insights. However he lacked the capital to develop his ideas and after various false starts eventually moved to Birmingham, becoming, in 1775, a partner with Matthew Boulton, a leading industrial producer. He was to have a successful partnership with Boulton, producing steam engines and fending off the patent infringements of his rivals and transforming the industrial landscape.

Watt died on 25 August 1819 at his home in Birmingham.

For a full biography of Watt and other links to Watt material use the links under External links section on this page.

See thousands of images and records from the collections of the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives on our Collections Online website. Use the link on the left of this page to take you there.