Thomas Savery

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Thomas Savery (c. 1650–1715) was an English inventor, born at Shilstone, a manor house near Modbury, Devon, England.

Contents

Career

Savery became a military engineer, rising to the rank of Captain by 1702, and spent his free time performing experiments in mechanics. In 1696 he took out a patent for a machine for polishing glass or marble and another for "rowing of ships with greater ease and expedicion than hitherto beene done by any other" which involved paddle-wheels driven by a capstan and which was dismissed by the Admiralty following a negative report by the Surveyor of the Navy, Edmund Dummer.[1]

Savery also worked for the Sick and Hurt Commissioners, contracting the supply of medicines to the Navy Stock Company, which was connected with the Society of Apothecaries. His duties on their behalf took him to Dartmouth, which is probably how he came into contact with Thomas Newcomen.

First steam engine mechanism

On 2 July 1698 Savery patented an early steam engine, "A new invention for raiseing of water and occasioning motion to all sorts of mill work by the impellent force of fire, which will be of great use and advantage for drayning mines, serveing townes with water, and for the working of all sorts of mills where they have not the benefitt of water nor constant windes."[2] He demonstrated it to the Royal Society on 14 June 1699. The patent has no illustrations or even description, but in 1702 Savery described the machine in his book The Miner's Friend; or, An Engine to Raise Water by Fire[3], in which he claimed that it could pump water out of mines.

Savery's engine had no piston, and no moving parts except from the taps. It was operated by first raising steam in the boiler; the steam was then admitted to the working vessel, allowing it to blow out through a downpipe into the water that was to be raised. When the system was hot and therefore full of steam the tap between the boiler and the working vessel was shut, and if necessary the outside of the vessel was cooled. This made the steam inside it condense, creating a partial vacuum, and atmospheric pressure pushed water up the downpipe until the vessel was full. At this point the tap below the vessel was closed, and the tap between it and the up-pipe opened, and more steam was admitted from the boiler. As the steam pressure built up, it forced the water from the vessel up the up-pipe to the top of the mine.

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