William Murdoch

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William Murdoch (sometimes spelled Murdock) (21 August 1754 – 15 November 1839) was a Scottish engineer and long-term inventor. It is believed he Anglicised his name to "Murdock" when he moved to England.

Murdoch was employed by the firm of Boulton and Watt and worked for them in Cornwall, as a steam engine erector for ten years, spending most of the rest of his life in Birmingham, England.

He was the inventor of the oscillating steam engine, and gas lighting is attributed to him in the early 1790s, also the term "gasometer". However, Archibald Cochrane, ninth Earl of Dundonald, had already in 1789 used gas for lighting his family estate.[1] Murdoch also made innovations to the steam engine, including the sun and planet gear and D slide valve. He invented the steam gun and the pneumatic tube message system, and worked on one of the first British paddle steamers to cross the English Channel. Murdoch built a prototype steam locomotive in 1784 and made a number of discoveries in chemistry.

He remained an employee and later a partner of Boulton & Watt until the 1830s, and his reputation as an inventor has been obscured by the reputations of Boulton and Watt and the firm they founded.


Early life

William Murdoch was born in Lugar near Cumnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland, the third of seven children and the first son to survive beyond infancy. A son of John Murdoch, a former Hanoverian artillery gunner and a Millwright and tenant of Bello Mill on the estate of James Boswell in Auchinleck, he was educated until the age of ten at the Old Cumnock Kirk School before attending Auchinleck school under William Halbert, author of a highly regarded arithmetic textbook. Murdoch excelled in mathematics.

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