James Watt's home in Delftfield Lane, Glasgow. He moved there in July 1764. Engraving from 'Lives of Boulton and Watt' by Samuel Smiles, 1865.
Image: Science Museum/SSPL

James Watt - life and work

James Watt was the son of a shipwright in Greenock, Scotland. Watt mixed mechanical work with mathematics and science. His friend James Keir said 'everything became science in his hands'.

In 1755 Watt spent a year in London training as a scientific instrument maker. The experience affected Watt badly. He developed a 'racking cough, a gnawing pain in the back and weariness all over the body', and poor health that dogged him for the rest of his life.