Savery, Thomas

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b. c. 1650 probably Shilston, near Modbury, Devonshire, England
d. c. 15 May 1715 London, England
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English inventor of a partially successful steam-driven pump for raising water.
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Little is known of the early years of Savery's life and no trace has been found that he served in the Army, so the title "Captain" is thought to refer to some mining appointment, probably in the West of England. He may have been involved in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, for later he was well known to William of Orange. From 1705 to 1714 he was Treasurer for Sick and Wounded Seamen, and in 1714 he was appointed Surveyor of the Water Works at Hampton Court, a post he held until his death the following year. He was interested in mechanical devices; amongst his early contrivances was a clock.
He was the most prolific inventor of his day, applying for seven patents, including one in 1649, for polishing plate glass which may have been used. His idea for 1697 for propelling ships with paddle-wheels driven by a capstan was a failure, although regarded highly by the King, and was published in his first book, Navigation Improved (1698). He tried to patent a new type of floating mill in 1707, and an idea in 1710 for baking sea coal or other fuel in an oven to make it clean and pure.
His most famous invention, however, was the one patented in 1698 "for raising water by the impellent force of fire" that Savery said would drain mines or low-lying land, raise water to supply towns or houses, and provide a source of water for turning mills through a water-wheel. Basically it consisted of a receiver which was first filled with steam and then cooled to create a vacuum by having water poured over the outside. The water to be pumped was drawn into the receiver from a lower sump, and then high-pressure steam was readmitted to force the water up a pipe to a higher level. It was demonstrated to the King and the Royal Society and achieved some success, for a few were installed in the London area and a manufactory set up at Salisbury Court in London. He published a book, The Miner's Friend, about his engine in 1702, but although he made considerable improvements, due to excessive fuel consumption and materials which could not withstand the steam pressures involved, no engines were installed in mines as Savery had hoped. His patent was extended in 1699 until 1733 so that it covered the atmospheric engine of Thomas Newcomen who was forced to join Savery and his other partners to construct this much more practical engine.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1706.
Bibliography
1698, Navigation Improved.
1702, The Miner's Friend.
Further Reading
The entry in the Dictionary of National Biography (1897, Vol. L, London: Smith Elder \& Co.) has been partially superseded by more recent research. The Transactions of the Newcomen Society contain various papers; for example, Rhys Jenkins, 1922–3, "Savery, Newcomen and the early history of the steam engine", Vol. 3; A.Stowers, 1961–2, "Thomas Newcomen's first steam engine 250 years ago and the initial development of steam power", Vol. 34; A.Smith, 1977–8, "Steam and the city: the committee of proprietors of the invention for raising water by fire", 1715–1735, Vol. 49; and J.S.P.Buckland, 1977–8, "Thomas Savery, his steam engine workshop of 1702", Vol. 49. Brief accounts may be found in H.W. Dickinson, 1938, A Short History of the Steam Engine, Cambridge University Press, and R.L. Hills, 1989, Power from Steam. A History of the Stationary Steam Engine, Cambridge University Press. There is another biography in T.I. Williams (ed.), 1969, A Biographical Dictionary of Scientists, London: A. \& C.Black.
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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