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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

The first practical steam engine was developed by a Devon man, Thomas *Savery (c.1650–1715), who took out a patent for it in 1698. It was described in The Miner's Friend (1702) as suitable for pumping water from mines, but it seems to have been used mainly for supplying water to country houses and their gardens. It was the next generation of engine which became standard equipment in the mines for most of the 18C. This was developed by another native of Devon, Thomas *Newcomen (1663–1729); first documented in a mine in Worcestershire in 1712, his engine was almost certainly in earlier use in the Cornish tin mines. It was in its turn made redundant by the great improvements introduced by James *Watt.

Engines of the kind developed by Watt were used to propel boats from as early as the 1780s in both France and America. Britain's first practical steamboat was a tug, the Charlotte Dundas, designed by William Symington (1763–1831) and in use in 1802 on the *Forth-Clyde canal. The first passenger-carrying steamboat in Britain was also on the Clyde – the Comet, designed by Henry Bell (1767–1830) and launched in 1812.

The successful application of steam to travel on land came a little later, complicated by the great weight of the engines, but it was in these same years that the first steps were being taken by Richard *Trevithick. The era of the practical steam locomotive began with *Puffing Billy, followed by the machines of George and Robert *Stephenson. By the early 19C steam was also replacing water power in the cotton mills. The *Times was printed on a steam press as early as 1814.

The final major advance in the development of steam power was the perfecting by Charles Parsons (1854–1931) of the steam turbine, in which jets of steam drive a bladed rotor (patented 1884). Parsons' interest was in providing power to generate electricity, for which the steam turbine is still the main method. The principle soon found another use in marine engines, first demonstrated when Turbinia broke the speed record at a naval review for Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1897.

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