1. Water as hydraulic power had been the prime source of energy for centuries, but it had been limited to certain areas, seasons and by the speed of flow of the water. Now it was used differently. Steam power provided pressure at high temperatures that enabled the use of a broad range of machinery.
This meant that steam power was the only source of energy that was reliable and inexpensive enough to manufacture machinery itself.
2. Steam power was first used in mining industries. As the demand for coal and metals expanded, efforts to obtain them from ever-deeper mines intensified. Flooding in mines was a serious problem.
Thomas Savery (1650-1715) built a model steam-engine called the Miner's Friend in 1698 to drain mines. These engines worked slowly, in shallow depths, and the boiler burst under too much pressure.
3. Another steam-engine was built by Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) in 1712. This had the major defect of losing energy due to continuous cooling of the condensing cylinder.
4. The steam-engine had been used only in coal mines until James Watt (1736-1819) developed his machine in 1796. Watt's invention converted the steam engine from being a mere pump into a "prime mover" capable of providing energy to power machines in factories. Backed by the wealthy manufacturer Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), Watt created the Soho Foundry in Birmingham in 1775.
From this foundry Watt's steam engines were produced in steadily growing numbers. By the end of the eighteenth century, Watt's steam engine was beginning to replace hydraulic power.
5. After 1800, steam engine technology was further developed with the use of ligter, stronger metals, the manufacture of more accurate machine tools and the spread of better scientific knowledge. In 1840, British steam engines were generating more than 70 per cent of all European horsepower.