Thomas Newcomen

Thomas Newcomen

English inventor
Date of Birth: 28.02.1663
Country: Great Britain

Biography of Thomas Newcomen

Thomas Newcomen was an English inventor who revolutionized the process of dewatering flooded mines. Born in Dartmouth, Devon, England, Newcomen came from a family of traders. He started his career as a blacksmith but was deeply religious and eventually became a Baptist minister in 1710.

Thomas Newcomen

Newcomen's religious connections played a significant role in the spread of his invention throughout the country. He developed his legendary steam engine around 1710, building upon the work of Thomas Savery and Denis Papin. It is believed that Newcomen was acquainted with Savery even before this time.

The primary goal of both Savery and Newcomen was to solve the problem of dewatering flooded mines. This was a pressing issue, especially in coal and lead mines, as solving it would greatly increase resource extraction. Savery's "fire engine" was essentially a thermosiphon that used steam to create a vacuum, which would then suck water from the bottom of the mines. However, it had limited effectiveness and could only operate at depths of approximately 10 meters.

Newcomen's steam engine replaced Savery's steam receiver with a cylinder containing a piston developed by Papin. The vacuum in the new engine no longer sucked water directly but instead worked directly with the piston. This activated a beam engine, with a large wooden balance beam on one side and a chain connected to a pump on the other side, which was lowered to the bottom of the mine. As the steam cylinder filled with steam and prepared for the next cycle, water entered the pump cylinder and was forced to the surface under the weight of the device.

Newcomen's first working model of the machine was built with John Calley in the mines near Dudley. A functioning replica of this engine is still preserved in a nearby museum.

After 1715, the company "Owners of the Fire Engine for Raising Water" took over the production and supply of Newcomen's engines. The company's secretary was John Meres, a clerk of the London Society of Apothecaries. By 1733, there were already about 125 Newcomen engines produced under the Savery patent and installed in major mining regions in Britain and Europe. These engines were used to dewater copper, lead, tin, and coal mines across the islands and the European continent.

Newcomen passed away in 1729 at the home of Swedish Baptist Edward Wallin. His body was buried in a cemetery in North London, although the exact location of his grave is now unknown. Newcomen's engines continued to operate for at least three-quarters of a century, spreading throughout continental Europe and Britain. While some elements were improved over time, the fundamental design of the device remained largely unchanged.

Although it was difficult to call Newcomen's machine particularly efficient, it fulfilled its purpose quite effectively, successfully solving the problem of dewatering flooded mines.