Physics/History GCSE: The invention of the steam engine

Michael Mosley, Cassie Newland and Mark Miodownik describe the scientific achievements of Thomas Newcomen and James Watt.

These two geniuses were the first to transfer heat energy into useable power using steam engines.

Mark Miodownik shows a working model of a steam engine originally made the blacksmith Thomas Newcomen in 1712.

These early steam engines produced a vacuum to generate power and were commonly used for pumping water out of mines.

In 1763 James Watt was repairing a model of a Newcomen engine. He developed this idea in 1765 to include a separate condenser making the engine more powerful, portable and efficient.

This clip is from the series The Genius of Invention.

Teacher Notes

This clip would be ideally suited to showing students the significant achievements of Newcomen and Watt.

It could set the scene for a project on this or other famous historical scientists.

Students could stain their written work with tea bags to make it look as if it were written many years ago.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Physics and History. This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

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