Physics/History GCSE: The invention of the steam locomotive

Michael Mosley, Cassie Newland and Mark Miodownik describe the scientific achievements of Richard Trevithick.

In 1801 he built the first steam locomotive. An explanation of mechanics of this atmospheric steam engine is given.

These were thought by many to be thought too dangerous due to the high pressures required, but Trevithick’s father in law was a master blacksmith and forged a cylindrical boiler.

This made Trevithick’s engine more powerful and much smaller and so could put on wheels. This heralded the beginning of powered travel.

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 Trevithick.

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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