Watt In The World: the Life and Legacy of James Watt

A major exhibition opens at the Library of Birmingham

‘Watt in the World - The life and legacy of James Watt 1736-1819’ forms the centrepiece of the Lunar Society’s James Watt Bicentenary programme and will run from Friday 12 July to Saturday 2 November 2019.

Featuring more than 100 internationally important archival and museum objects, the exhibition includes paintings, works on paper, furniture, silver, scientific instruments, personal items, notebooks, letters and Watt-related memorabilia.

Highlights include James Watt’s notebooks that detail his experiments, personal correspondence with friends and family, silverware by Matthew Boulton, a letter copy press designed by Watt; and Sir Thomas Lawrence’s 1812 portrait of the great engineer. The exhibition preview will be accompanied by the Birmingham launch of a major new book - ‘The Power to Change the World: James Watt - a life in 50 objects’ - edited by the University of Birmingham’s Dr Malcolm Dick OBE, a guest curator at the Library of Birmingham, and Dr Kate Croft and published by History West Midlands.

Born in Greenock in Scotland in 1736, James Watt moved to Birmingham in 1774 to enter into partnership with Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) to manufacture an improved steam engine that incorporated his innovation of the separate condenser. The Boulton & Watt engine was to become, quite literally, one of the drivers of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and around the world. Whilst best known for his improvements to the steam engine, Watt was a man of many other talents – scientific instrument maker, civil engineer, chemist, inventor and member of the renowned Lunar Society.


For more details about the Watt Bicentenary programme visit the James Watt 2019 website.

Article published 12 July 2019

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