First Patented Steam Engine

The steam engine was first patented in 1698 by Thomas Savery, a British military engineer from Devon, England. Savery seeking a cheaper method to pump water from flooded coal mines versus the expensive horse-powered pump methods in use. He patented the steam engine with the description, “new invention for raising of water and occasioning motion to all sorts of millwork by the impellent force of fire.” The vessel comprised of a steam boiler with a separate pumping mechanism with an intake valve located at the canister’s bottom. A vacuum was created by adding pressurized steam into the vessel allowing drawn water to expel through an outlet at top of the vessel. The water sprinkler added to the pumping effect by condensing the steam. However, due to design issues this steam engine lacked the sufficient power and efficiency found in future pumps. Italian philosopher, Giambattista della Porta described a similar steam engine in his book I Tre Libri De’ Spiritali (1606).

      Thomas Savery
      Military Engineer
      Devon, England

Additional Information:

  • Giambattista della Porta
    Giambattista della Porta was born at Vico Equense, near Naples, to the nobleman Nardo Antonio della Porta. He was the third of four sons and the second to survive childhood, having an older brother Gian Vincenzo and a younger brother Gian Ferrante.

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