On this day in history : 2nd July 1698 – English inventor and engineer Thomas Savery patents an early steam engine which becomes a revolutionary method of pumping water….

Thomas Savery – Public domain

Savery, a military engineer, had become interested in the problem of pumping water out of coal mines during the 1690s…. He designed a piece of apparatus which consisted of a closed vessel, which was filled with water and then heated…. Steam under pressure was produced, forcing the water to a higher level; as the water was expelled a sprinkler then condensed the steam producing a vacuum which was capable of drawing water through a valve…. to make this more efficient two closed vessels were incorporated into the same apparatus….

The 1698 Savery Engine – Institute of Human Thermodynamics and IoHT Publishing Ltd – Public domain

Savery described his creation as “A new invention for raising water and occasioning motion to all sorts of mill work by the impellent force of fire, which will be a great use and advantage for draining mines, serving towns with water, and for the working of all sorts of mills where they have not the benefit of water nor constant winds”….

Following an advertising campaign Savery sold his engine not only for pumping out mines but also to supply water to large buildings, particularly those housing manufacturing operations…. In his 1702 book Savery described the engine as “The Miner’s Friend; or, An Engine to Raise Water by Fire”….

Fire pump, Savery System, 1698 – PHGCOM CC BY-SA 3.0

Savery’s engine was not without its faults…. Under high pressure it had weaknesses as the soldered joints were put under immense strain…. In 1712 a more advanced atmospheric-pressure piston engine was developed by Thomas Newcomen…. However, as Savery’s 1698 patent gave his design protection for 14 years – and then a year later the Fire Engine Act was passed, extending this protection a further 21 years – (his patent covered all engines that raised water by fire) – Newcomen had little choice but to work in partnership with Savery….

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