Thomas Newcomen

Thomas NewcomenThomas Newcomen was an ironmonger of  Dartmouth. Unlike many of his predecessors he was a practical tradesman instead of a nobleman or philosopher.

He worked together with his assistant John Calley (1663-1717), a plumber. Together they possessed precisely the right combination of commercial ability and practical craftsmanship.

There are lots of discussions about the extent to which Newcomen used the experiences of his predecessors. He will have done, for sure, but their engines had little similarities with the Newcomen engine.

Newcomen never applied for a patent, but instead joined in in the patent of Savery. After the death of Savery this patent was managed by the 'Proprietors of the Invention for Raising Water by Fire'. After the death of Newcomen the proprietors went on selling the Newcomen engines. The patent ended in 1733.

It was Watt who seriously improved the Newcomen-engine in 1776, but despite the benefits of the Watt-engine far more Newcomen-engines were sold. The Newcomen-engine was simple and cheaper to buy, but used a lot more fuel.

In 1712 he presented his first commercial and working engine and immediately this engine was a success. Within ten years the first engines were exported abroad and in 1729 already a 100 engines were sold.

He was born in 1663 and died in 1729.

His invention was something completely new, an immense advance upon anything which had gone before.

His combination of major components would persist for many years. In the whole history of technology it would be difficult to find a greater single advance than this and certainly not one more pregnant with significance for all humanity.