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James Watt: Making the World Anew by Ben…
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James Watt: Making the World Anew

by Ben Russell

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"Among the many treasures in the collections of the Science Museum in London is the complete workshop of the Scottish engineer James Watt (1736-1819), acquired in its entirety from the attic of Watt's Birmingham home in 1924, where it had been left as an industrial shrine since his death in 1819. Though Watt is best known for his pioneering work on the steam engine, the workshop contains very few engine-related items. Instead, it is filled with jars of chemicals, sculpture-copying machines and materials, a profusion of pieces of scientific and even musical instruments, and objects and evidence from Watt's many diverse projects. This book explores Watt's early years and interests as well as his highly successful 25-year partnership with the industrialist Matthew Boulton. But while traditional biographies of Watt concentrate on the steam engine, James Watt: Making the World Anew tells a richer story: it explores the processes by which ephemeral ideas were transformed into tangible artefacts, and places Watt within the context of Britain's early industrial transformation. Watt's work is emblematic of a wider culture of multi-faceted artisanship, and this book probes the motivation for making things, looking not only at what was produced but also why. It draws on a rich range of resources--from archival material and biographies on Watt to objects themselves, and sources from fields as diverse as ceramics, antique systems of proportion, sculpture and machine making. This book uses Watt's life as a lens through which the broader practices of manufacturing in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are explored. Generously illustrated, James Watt is a unique, expansive exploration of the engineer's career."--Jacket.… (more)

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