James Watt was born on 19 January 1736 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, a seaport on the Firth of Clyde. He died in 1819 in Heathfield, near Birmingham, aged 83.
In 1774, Watt started a business in Birmingham with investor Matthew Boulton to manufacture his improved steam engine.
The Boulton & Watt Company produced steam engines that could be used anywhere, and demand for them was high. Watt and Boulton became leading figures in the Industrial Revolution.
Watt continued to make improvements to steam engines, and patented other important inventions, such as the rotary engine and a steam locomotive.
His achievements were recognised by fellow scientists. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of London, and became a Foreign Associate of the French Academy of Sciences.
Watt's father, James Watt (1699–1782), was a shipwright, ship owner and contractor, and served as the town's chief baillie, while his mother, Agnes Muirhead, came from a distinguished family and was well educated. Both were Presbyterians and strong Covenanters. Watt's grandfather, Thomas Watt, was a mathematics teacher and baillie to the Baron of Cartsburn.
Watt's first wife, Margaret, died in childbirth in 1773, leaving him with two young children. He married Ann in 1776 and had a son and a daughter, who died of consumption before their father's death.
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