Talk:History of the steam engine

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History of the steam engine was created in May 2008 by moving the "History" section of steam engine to a new article.

The comments on this talk page, down to "New talk page created" were 'archived' here from Talk:Steam engine, as they all relate directly to the text and subject matter of this article. In due course they should be archived here. This course of action was taken to assist with information retrieval in the future -- editors wishing to examine archive of talk about history topics being better served looking on this page. (EdJogg (talk) 16:59, 14 May 2008 (UTC))


Reverted Chinese steam turbine claim[edit]

I reverted text, added by an anon IP user, that the Chinese had developed a steam turbine by the seventeenth century. While this is not impossible, I've never heard of it and an online search turned up nothing. I'd like to know a bit more about this before we claim it here. For one thing, if this turbine existed, did it actually perform real work or was it another aeolipile-like demonstration? This affects the prominence we should afford such a claim. —Morven 16:47, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)

Better late than never – this could refer to an invention by Ferdinand Verbiest, a jesuit missionary in China. [1]. As User:Morven suggests, it seems to have been more of a toy than anything else. --Old Moonraker 11:36, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

Thoughts of the king of Greece[edit]

Text added (highllighted):

Incidently 700 years earlier in Corinth, Greece, rail tracks were invented; however the Greeks never thought of putting the two together. The King of Greece at the time thought the invention was useless because they had enough slaves and it would be bad economicaly.

Which king of Greece was that? Can you provide a citation? Gaius Cornelius 23:06, 7 November 2005 (UTC).

"Incidentally, 700 years earlier in Corinth, Greece, rail tracks were invented; however the Greeks never thought of putting the two together."

I removed this text from the article. Firstly, it isn't referenced. Secondly, I amn't sure what the invention of rails has to do with the invention of the steam engine; rails were in use around the world for many hundereds of years before steam engines ran on them. If it can be referenced, and if somebody deems this particularly beneficial to the article then by all means put it back. Emoscopes 00:33, 25 February 2006 (UTC)

I read a story like this elsewhere somehow related to a Roman Emperor and water mills. The emperor disapproved of a labour saving device, because the workers needed work, and so executed the inventor. However, it is probably an urban myth. Peterkingiron (talk) 21:59, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Ivan Polzunov[edit]

I didn't see him mentioned in the text, although separate article clearly states about his achievements a few years before Watt's --- Anon

This appears to have been added, but this is a mere curiosity, as the section makes clear that it was not a commercial success, or at least no one followed it up. The article needs clearly to set out the development of the engine, which is primarily a British phenomenon. I would like to see this placed in a section perhaps called "other innovations" (about promising ideas that went nowhere. This might also include the French man who had an early steam road vehicle. Peterkingiron (talk)

James Watt[edit]

Sorry, James Watt did not invent the modern steam engine, he invented an improved version of the condensing engine, and in fact patently (hehe) refused to use high pressure or drive a crank with his engine, things that are essential to any modern steam engine.

So, I changed the section to be more honest. --Regebro 22:05, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Seconded. Watt's "invention" was to separate the condenser from the cylinder, the article even mentions this later, so there is no reason that it should be contradicted in the preceding section.. Emoscopes 23:19, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
The reason he did not drive a crank is not because he "refused" to do so, but because of pattent infringement on the Newcomen engine. After the Newcomen patent expired, Watt engines started driving a crank. Dullfig
Watts original engines drove the shaft and flywheel via his own patent, the sun and planet gears. Emoscopes Talk 07:49, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
It was not Newcomen's patent. He operated under Savery's patent, but there was a patent on the use of a crank with a steam engine. Peterkingiron 20:56, 19 April 2006 (UTC)
'The increased efficiency of the Watt engine finally led to the general acceptance and use of steam power in industry'. Not so. A review of LTC Rolts' book on Newcomen will show that by 1800 there were many more Newcomen engines than Watts' condensing engines. The Boulton and Watt royalty was so expensive as to deter most users.

James Watt gets way too much historical credit for his superb development of Thomas Newcomens' engine.

Thomas Newcomen developed the worlds first engine to convert heat into useful mechanical work. He did it without government intervention or external finance. He did it without Savery - who later argued that Newcomens fire engine infringed his fire engine patent. Saverys' fire engine had no moving parts other than manually operated valves and represented nothing new.

Newcomen developed his engine between 1705 and 1712. The technical challenges he faced had no known solutions. When Newcomen developed his engine, there was no such thing as high pressure steam, first because there was no application and second because there was no way to build a boiler to withstand pressure. So it was atmospheric steam or nothing and therefore the power cycle of his engine had to be condensing. In 1705 there were no lathes, milling machines or any metal working machinery. Other than casting all else was performed by hand. This is a time when there were no over the counter nuts and bolts.

Newcomen's engine was so well received that it was present in greater numbers than any alternative for more than 100 years. That it was 50 years after Newcomens first commercial engine had started life when James Watt developed the first significant improvement is a testament to the genius of Thomas Newcomen.

Newcomen and Watt made great advances but Savery's design was basically a rip-off of Ayant-Beaumont's and Papin's work was what really laid the foundations for successful industrial steam power shortly after his death. Provocateur (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 23:01, 7 March 2011 (UTC).

Marquess of Worcester[edit]

It's possible that Somerset actually built an engine though I don't believe that's a certainty. He wouldn't have built it at Raglan Castle, though, since that was destroyed during the Civil War - it's more likely to have been at Vauxhall. Mucky Duck 11:40, 5 January 2006 (UTC)


No mention of the "Babcock & Wilcox Non-Explosive Boiler"

Watt v Gainsborough[edit]

In the Invention section, it is suggested that Humphrey Gainsborough invented the condensing steam engine while James Watt patented it. In the Use and Development section it is stated that Watt invented the condensing engine. A quick Google confirms that there are a number of sites crediting Gainsborough with the invention. If the external condenser was not in fact Watt’s original idea then it throws a rather different light on his achievement (and character.) Though, to be fair, Gainsborough ought to have had more sense than to show his idea to anyone before patenting it. Is there a definitive version of events? Whatever the truth of the matter, this article is currently self-contradictory as is the wider encyclopaedia. PS. I will also add this comment to the James Watt discussion. (Added 21 Feb 2006)

James Watt is the man who goes down in history. One could argue endlessly over who first came up with the idea of the condensing engine but Watt had been experimenting and tinkering with Newcomen engines since 1763. The James Watt article states that he began making improvements with regard to separating the condenser in 1765. The Gainsborough article claims he showed Watt the engine in 1768 and Watt patended it in 1769. Clearly something is amiss. However, Watt patented, developed - and with Boulton - succesfully built, marketed and refined the condensing engine into a practical industrial machine. So long as the article does not credit him with the original idea there seems to be little problem to me. Any suggestion of a slur on Watt's character does not belong in this article, or even on wikipedia IMHO. Emoscopes Talk 07:58, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Oliver Evans[edit]

Oliver Evans invented the superpressure steam engine. Watt did next to nothing,and does not deserve mention.

George Stephenson[edit]

Where is George Stephenson in all this? I don't have a great deal of knowledge about the man, but I was led to believe that he created the first steam-powered locomotive, named 'Rocket'? It might not be the 'first' as such (or it could be, no idea), but surely he made a massive contribution to the field and therefore worthy of a mention here? MathiasFox 17:53, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

A common received notion is that George Stephenson invented the steam locomotive. The first locomotive to run on an iron road (a plateway) was built in 1804 by the Cornishman Richard Trevithick. The celebrated Rocket was a demonstration locomotive built in 1829 at the works of Robert Stephenson and Co. for the Rainhill trials and must have been about the 30th built. Rocket is nevertheless important as it showed that steam locomotives could reliably work public rail services. Robert, a contempory of Brunel was George's son and is a more important figure in the history of rail traction than his father. Other important pathfinders were another Stephenson locomotive, Planet of 1830 and Edward Bury's Liverpool built in 1829 too late for Rainhill and developed, also in 1830 to a configuration similar to Planet's. Bury was the first to employ bar frames that became universal in North America. Anyway, if you want to know more, just click on the links I've given you as here is not a place for a treatise on the steam locomotive.--John of Paris 01:33, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

First Newcomen steam engine?[edit]

Could someone add appropriate dates to the Newcomen steam engine article please?

The steam engine article states that his invention was 1712, but the afore-mentioned page gives no dates as to when the first engine/s were built.

EdJogg 10:53, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

More missing information[edit]

Some history from paddle steamer has got me puzzled. There is a reference to the French Pyroscaphe, which used a "horizontal double-acting steam engine driving two 13.1 ft (4 m) paddle wheels". This vessel is not mentioned in the steam engine history, yet it would appear to precede the first boat described.

Secondly, it mentions use of a horizontal engine, and having looked at steam engine, I cannot find confirmation on when the first horizontal engine was built and by whom. My understanding was that the horizontal engine was a much later development (19th century) as there were fears of uneven cylinder wear.

Thirdly, paddle steamer also mentions someone having had the idea of a steam-powered ship in 1543 – surely this deserves a mention here (unless someone creates a History of the steam engine main article to include this additional information...)

EdJogg 11:04, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

There's ten times as much history at steamboat and virtually none covered here! Still doesn't answer my earlier queries though...
Having already struggled (and so far, failed) to piece together the snippets about the history of steam-powered road transport development, these pages about water-borne steam power really do suggest that a page split would be a sensible idea. Steam engine would then concentrate on describing the various different types and significant components, as a 'main article', and History of the development of the steam engine (or something like it) would draw together the various different articles that include part-coverage of such matters. My reasoning being that the experiments and developments on land, on water, and in industry were cross-fertilising. It would be useful to see how steamboat development tied-in chronologically with Watt and Trevithick, for example. But it would also be useful to see the subject from both the history and technology viewpoints.
EdJogg 16:39, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Cornish engines - recommended 'reading'[edit]

Someone recently added details about the Cruquius Pumping Station to the Cornish engine page. The new detail included a link to the original website for the museum, which contains a wealth of information about the Cornish engine there, including superb 3D simulations of this stunning piece of machinery (which drives eight pumps from one 3.5m diameter cylinder) and an exceptional animation showing the operation of the concentric-cylinder engine. Thoroughly recommend a browse around the website!

EdJogg 14:06, 5 April 2007 (UTC)

High pressure engine[edit]

It is not quite right to say that the high-pressure engine "displaced" the vacuum engine. It's not so simple as that because any use of a condenser means that there is some vacuum effect; moreover steam is still condensed in most modern installations. The Cornish System could be called a vacuum engine in the way that Watt's engines could be. Even Watt's earliest productions used low-pressure steam to push down on top of the piston instead of atmospheric pressure as did Newcomen's engines. Trevithick's Cornish system was pretty well identical to Watt's except that instead of 5-7 psi there were from 20 - 40 psi above the piston; steam was then transferred to the underside of the piston and condensed, creating a vacuum in exactly the same way. The pressure differential on either side of the piston was greater and that's what increased power, — about all the difference I can see. Engines working on the Cornish system have always been considered very efficient and many lasted into recent times until replaced by electric pumps that do not require permanent staffing. Sure Trevithick's "puffers" were driven by steam pressure alone, but in no sense could any of his productions be called "high-pressure" or "super-pressure" engines as I have seen them referred to in this discussion. As did Oliver Evans before him, Trevithick spoke of "strong steam".--John of Paris 12:58, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Early engines - a few facts and figures[edit]

I am just back from a spell in the U.K. where I managed to pull in visits to the Black Country Museum replica at Dudley, to the "investigative modeller", David Hulse and to the Crofton steam pumps. I spent a whole steam day watching the Dudley engine working and talking to the plug-man Mike Dunn who has considerable practical experience and enthusiasm for the engine. Mike introduced me to a leading figure in the design of the replica engine, Allan Carter who was also present. The outcome of all this is that it confirms what I have long suspected: that the key to understanding all these very early engines is the pump itself and it is on this point that right from the very beginning in the 18th Century there has been the least amount of solid information, attention always having being focussed on the engine side - as it still is. Anyway I have gleaned a few facts and figures that were lacking in WP up to now and I will try to incorporate them in the various relevant articles. Regarding the Newcomen engine, and continuing the discussion with Chenab, it is an indisputable fact that gravity plays a major role in its workings, as the power stroke of engine side does not drive the pump; this is a “pole” or “dead-weight pump” i.e. a force pump relying on its own weight and thus gravity for the downward pumping force (this is the first bit of information they give to all visitors at Dudley) The atmospheric engine produces only enough power to assure the return stroke and lift the weight of the gang of pumps, which could be quite considerable depending on the height of lift; to this you would have to add the resistance of drawing the water into the pump body by vacuum. In the Dudley replica, which for demonstration purposes has only a short lift, considerable weight had to be added to the pump rods. The Watt engine on the other hand, powered a lift pump. This was no doubt made possible by the relatively constant low steam pressure (about 3 psi) above the power piston combined with the vacuum below, making a pressure differential of about 15 psi (?). The power of a Newcomen engine was of course dependent on the weather and the barometer reading. Why the lift pump should have been adopted by Watt is still a mystery to me; even so his first production engine of 1779 working the Smethwick pump could manage almost 160 gallons per stroke, compared with the early Newcomen’s 10. This gives a rough idea of the progress the Watt engine represented for a comparable steam pressure - it did not just save coal. The updated Watt engine still in working order at Crofton, modified to the Cornish system, reportedly manages the same as its 1846 fellow by Harvey of Hayle - about a ton of water (224 gallons) per stroke. The latter, for reasons of ease of maintenance, works a force pump as did the Newcomen; originally both the pump and engine were double-acting, being later converted to single force-pump action in 1903. The two pumping systems can be seen at working side by side at Crofton with both engines working at 20 psi and appear to be about equal in output, but I would like more info on that. All the engines mentioned here, Newcomen’s, Watt’s and Harvey’s, had about the same stroke rate of about 11.5 - 12 per minute; It would seem however that the early Newcomen engines were not able to work continuously, but required occasional pauses to make steam so this would affect their overall pumping rate; even this was automated very early on (no later than 1719) by means of a “buoy” that rose and fell in a tube projecting from the boiler according to steam pressure causing the engine to stop and start automatically. The descriptions at the excellent Crofton web site [[2]] are well worth close study and they have also published a very informative brochure. For the moment at Dudley, there is only a large fact sheet available, otherwise I am adding new references to the relevant WP articles. David Hulse’s little books are particularly well researched, and a mine of information.--John of Paris 20:10, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

Hero of Alexandria and the early history of steam[edit]

Jagged 85’s recent contributions are welcome as I for one was not sure what to do about the previous edits by 80.60.82.167. For some time I had been thinking of looking for a broader approach of Heron’s treatise and including the devices referred to in the edits for opening and closing temple doors etc, but the question is: do these qualify as steam engines any more than a coffee percolator does? Whilst we can say that they did “useful” work, that work was done by gravity, water being transferred into or evacuated from a bucket by heating or cooling, varying its weight. One of Hero’s main concerns was the study of siphons and communicating vases and it is surely that side of his work that is most relevant to the develoment of the steam engine. The aeolipile seems to have served no useful purpose other than to rotate itself and create pretty vapour effects and I have always thought it a bit of an exaggeration to hype it up as the “first steam engine” as many authors have done in the past. Many have also called it a “toy” which I think is a mistake, as it does not take into account the context of the ‘’Musaeum” of Alexandria, the intitution for which the treatise was apparently written; the same applies to a lesser degree to “mechanical curiosity” in the WP article. Going back to the “coffee percolator question”: is the Worcester/Savery device strictly speaking an engine? Dictionary definitions of “engine” generally refer to “mechanisms” or “moving parts” of which these devices have none. Rather than race to claim which nation invented the steam engine - which is a bore, it would surely be better to get things into perspective as to the way steam technology developed. In this context, recent references to Taqi al-Din are certainly of interest and can perhaps be related to Branca's device of 1629.--John of Paris 09:44, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

By this logic, a piston engine that isn't connected to anything isn't a steam engine either. I think the fact that the steam gives rise to consistent motion, makes it an engine.- (User) WolfKeeper (Talk) 06:05, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
The Worcester/Savery device is a water pump. A rocket engine doesn't necessarily have any moving parts either.- (User) WolfKeeper (Talk) 06:08, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
As to who 'invented the steam engine' it depends...- (User) WolfKeeper (Talk) 06:08, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Aeolipile gives rise to consistent motion but no power output - that's what counts surely. Worcester/Savery engine used pressurised steam. the pressure differential on either side of the reservoir was greater, that's all. " Invention " of steam engine was incremental. --John of Paris (talk) 06:41, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

No, if I take any jet engine or internal combustion engine and simply bolt it down, it has no useful power output either; that doesn't make it not an engine. I thought I saw a picture of an aeolipile with a pulley on it somewhere.- (User) WolfKeeper (Talk) 08:38, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

I think you are clutching at a straw here. What about the flywheel on the IC? - not needed on a steam engine, nor a temple door opener.--John of Paris (talk) 08:45, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Just try building one: I suspect it will squirt steam all over the shop, but doubt if it will shift the doors.--John of Paris (talk) 08:50, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Actually, I've built aeolipile's before, I learnt how to do that in physics class; via simple glass blowing. And there's no reason at all it couldn't do work. The romans didn't need to do that because they had slaves to do their work for them.- (User) WolfKeeper (Talk) 09:03, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Many people have built them, judging by the number of videos at YouTube. Is it a standard part of the curicculum in some locales? I was looking for a really good clip to link to, to show the device in operation, but didn't dig very deeply (so one hasn't been added yet). Would be interesting to see a video of a device driving something other than just itself...
EdJogg (talk) 11:33, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

More on very early sources[edit]

Took out text about Gerbert and Jacques Besson. Both these sources need more detailed research. Gerbert died in 1003; the 1120 date seems to come from Thurston [3]: 
‘’“Malmesbury states that, in the year A. D. 1120, there existed at Rheims, in the church of that town, a clock designed or constructed by Gerbert, a professor in the schools there, and an organ blown by air escaping from a vessel in which it was compressed " by heated water."’’ Until somebody takes the trouble to go further into this, for the time being I think we are scraping the barrel and should “include them out”. The same goes for Jacques Besson. Here is a translation of a paragraph in the French book “L’Aventure de la Vapeur” published by the CNRS in 1986 - ‘’“A professor of mathematics at Orleans, Jacques Besson, published from 1571- 1578 various works on mathematics and machines. Arago attributes to Besson a attempt to determine the relative volumes of water and steam. This affirmation seems rather rash and needs verification through deeper research.”’’’ (I think it is well worth following up). On the other hand I am for reinstating the recent reference to Taqi al-Din (reverted by user: 89.155.102.86 ) as the source is adequately researched. It should be noted that Taqi al-Din does not claim to have invented a steam engine; all he does is to describe what “people do”. The same is true of many of these early sources, including probably Hero of Alexandria. One thing is sure: it was long ago established that motive power could be obtained from steam pressure, also that condensing steam in a sealed container created a vacuum that could also be exploited. Whether Taqi al-Din or Branca’s apparatus merits the term steam turbine is a moot point to be discussed, but I think attaching the term “prime mover” to the former is going a bit over the top.--John of Paris 09:44, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

ya the word prime over is definitly a stretch —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.36.181.171 (talk) 03:17, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

I reverted the edit in question by user 89.155.102.86 (talk · contribs) before seeing this talk page. (Was offline on Sunday - big backlog in watchlist!) This user's edits in several articles consisted of 'unexplained deletions' and wikilinking almost random terms (I didn't follow them up, didn't see much point in most cases). From a WP POV they needed reverting -- I'll leave it to others to decide the action required from a 'steam engine' POV!
EdJogg 12:06, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

i think whats missing in this whole discussion on early steam engines is the fact the heron's engine is listed as a steam engine and steam turbine by most encyclopedia's. This is the key point in this entire discussion, we can discuss are opinions on what constitutes real steam engine till the end of time but it doesnt much help resolve the issue. Whats at issue here is that wikipedia is a encyclopedia and therefore must match match what other encyclopdeia write on the topic. Wikiepdia is not a forum for us to come on and express are opinions on issues. One of the main ideas around wiki is to bold, but that doesnt mean were here to engage in revisionism since none of us here or the vast majority of us are not experts on the issue and are guidance on the topic needs to come from credbile sources such as other encyopedia's. A while back i attached a reference on the first steam turbine being invented by Heron, why because thats what the encylopedia brittanica claims, but of course others have taken upon themselves to just totally disregard what a credbile source claims and throw in their opnions on the matter. The bottom line is that if anyone here were to go on the internet and type in Heron;s name or read any article on the net about the history of steam engine's heron's device is always mention as a steam engine/turbine. Why? Thats because thats what all the credible sources claim. Am goin to repeat this one more time for others who seem to have tough time understanding this one point WIKI IS NOT A FORUM TO DISCUSS AND IMPOSE YOUR OPINIONS. IT A PLACE WERE CASUAL READERS OF ALL SORTS CAN COME AND GET INFO. THAT IS ACCURATE AND REFLECTS WHAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF SCHOLARS ON THE TOPIC HAVE. When users come on here and make claims that well lets face it none of us have ever heard of you do a diservice to wiki by reinforcing the idea that wiki cannot be trusted and such will always remainded shunned by academia.Tomasz Prochownik (talk) 23:38, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

The author's WP:POV has no place in Wikipaedia; it constitutes WP:OR: an exception to this may possibly exist, but only where a contributor cites ALL the primary sources on which he relies. The benchmark is verifiability WP:V: that does not just mean what other encyclopaedias say, but the best academic literature. Where there is a genuine disagreement among academics (not merely that some maverick contradicts every one else), WP should set out both views, and possibly explore the strengths of the two positions, though such exploration may itslef offend against the rule against WP:OR. On the other hand, I would caution against excessive space being devoted to precursors of the steam engine in this article. Otherwise that may in its turn have to be forked off. Peterkingiron (talk) 22:09, 22 June 2008 (UTC)
I have refined the description of the aeolipile as a steam engine/turbine. The construct in the lead was horrible to look at, and as a steam turbine is a sub-type of steam engine anyway (in its widest sense) you do not need to define it as both. As a compromise I have taken the description from the aeolipile article and placed it in the relevant section here, which now encompasses both descriptions neatly (although the first sentence is becoming a little elongated).
It should also be noted that both Hero and Taqi al-Din describe the steam engines concerned, but do not claim to have invented them. This is determined by going back to the original sources (which, surely, our other sources will have done?) to confirm details.
Furthermore, I see it as our duty to question the reliability of source information. For example, as a result of Wikipedia editing, we have determined that a book published at the beginning of the 20th century printed the date of James Watt's death incorrectly. Many subsequent sources have misquoted this date ever since (see James Watt talk page). Is this 'revisionist', or 'original research'?? It might be classified as both, potentially, but should we therefore ignore obvious inaccuracies in our sources and perpetuate them? </rant>
It would be very good if we could stop worrying about this 'who invented it first' business, and concentrate on the missing period -- the development of the steam engine post-Trevithick, which coverage is woefuly inadequate here.
EdJogg (talk) 12:47, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

Potter cord[edit]

I would question whether the details of the potter cord ought to appear in this general article. I acknowledge tha the story quoted exists, but like many legends, it is not necessarily correct. The identity of Humphrey Potter is known and he was associated with the early years of the steam engine, but (if I remember correctly) he was no a bou at the time in question. I would suggest that this detail should be removed from this article; a mention of it should be added to the newcomen engine article (if it is not there already); and possibly a separate article specifically on this subject should be written. Comments, please. Peterkingiron 14:29, 19 August 2007 (UTC)

Agree: too much detail for the general article. Furthermore, when I responded to an earlier {{fact}} request to support the tale I noted more than one account of how the development came about. I used the most academic, but confidence in the source is not great. The story is in newcomen engine, citing the same source. --Old Moonraker 14:43, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
In any case the anecdote - which is what it is - should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt as it is not easy to associate lengths of string with action of the plug beam - more like clock escapement - can't imagine what little Humphrey would have tied to what... At the same time I undertand that the Potter family (of Oldbury, I believe) was long associated with the Earl of Dudley's mines.--John of Paris 19:19, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
It actually doesn't particularly matter whether it's true or not. It only matters whether the story is verifiable, and whether it is notable in this particular context. I think that it is both notable and verifiable, but YMMV.WolfKeeper 16:33, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Trevithick's No. 14 Engine[edit]

There's not a shadow of doubt that the engine in the Science Museum is Double acting. I thought I'd edited the caption already, but someone seems to have reverted it. The semi-rotary valve is what is known as a 4-way cock connected to both ends of the cylinder[4]. This device was already very old in Trevithick's day and has been attributed to both Leupold and Papin but it may go back even further.--John of Paris (talk) 11:26, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

The engine was found in a South Wales scrapyard by Francis Webb and displayed at Crewe works until being donated to the Science Museum. The following article from the Scientific American supplement of 1885[5] contains the following statement: "The admission of the steam to and its release from the cylinder is effected by a four-way cock provided with a lever, which is actuated by a tappet rod attached to the crosshead, as seen on the back view of the engine." Not easy to see on the image as it stands, but a four-way cock goes with a double acting engine.--John of Paris (talk) 12:08, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

Temple Doors opened by Fire on an Altar[edit]

I've just added "Temple Doors opened by Fire on an Altar" to the "Historical Overview" section, but although the device used heat, a sealed chamber and water it wasn't a steam engine and I'm not sure it should have a place. Any views, please? --Old Moonraker (talk) 17:13, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

It involves communicating vases filling and emptying buckets on the coffee percolator principle. Very ingenious and not so far from the Papin/Newcomen principle IMO--John of Paris (talk) 17:42, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

Ferdinand Verbiest[edit]

The steam car manufactured by Verbiest in 1672.

Would the steam engine developed by Ferdinand Verbiest in 1672 also deserve mention? PHG (talk) 06:28, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

Looks like the same idea as Branca's and Taqi al-Din- a lot of steam and spray - not much else! Use your imagination!--John of Paris (talk) 06:44, 4 May 2008 (UTC)
The problem is that this is a general article, and is on the long side. There might be a case for forking off Precursors of the steam engine into a separate article, where there would be room for this. The presetn article is cluttered with a lot of curiosities of their time, which are of trifling historical significance. If the article wer a book they could usefully appear, but it is supposed only to be an encyclopaedia article. Peterkingiron (talk) 17:17, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

Restructure needed of history section[edit]

At present the history section starts with a long description of the history. This is followed by a series of reasonably well-written sections on different developments. I would suggest that a good deal of this is too detailed for an introdcution and should be mereged inot more appropriate sections further down. I would suggest the following sections:

  • precursors - dealing with inventions and other novelties before the 1690s.
  • invention - covering Papin, Savery, etc.
  • Newcomen, including a subsection on later improvements to his engine
  • Watt - subsections on engines with a separate condenser, related devices (such as sun and planet motion), and his own improvements.
  • Strong steam - dealing with Trevithick and his successors.
  • (further sections as appropriate) Peterkingiron (talk) 17:10, 4 May 2008 (UTC)
Well you've just opened a door--John of Paris (talk) 05:39, 5 May 2008 (UTC)
Even so, the steam engine is so grossly misunderstood by today's youth; I think it really does need the full description -not just historical. --John of Paris (talk) 08:01, 5 May 2008 (UTC)
John, I presume you are still working on this restructure. Currently there are several significant problems:
  1. At some stage you have copied the text 'at the wrong level' - ie you did not open it as an edit window. Consequently you have acquired at least one rogue '[edit]' word in the text and you have lost your references. (Since there are some active wikilinks, this may have occurred at an earlier transition.)
  2. There is no 'lead' (1). From skim-reading the new paragraphs, it looks like we have some good text. I particularly like the 'water surrounded by fire' (etc) bit. Most of this needs to become 'the first section' with a suitable title (not just 'Overview' -- I quite like the idea of "What is a steam engine?", since it avoids the problematic word 'definition'.)
  3. There is no 'lead' (2). Like it or not, this article must start with some kind of simple 'definition' to be consistent with the rest of the encyclopaedia. We have to have a very good reason for not starting the article with something like: "A steam engine is a heat engine using steam as its working fluid." (for example). This needs to be as high-level and all-encompassing as possible. From recent experience it needs to avoid all the difficult or contentious terminology. Also, I think it only needs to be 2 or 3 sentences for now -- once the article structure has re-stabilised, we can re-visit it.
  4. It doesn't go far enough... I still reckon that the bulk of the history needs to be moved to History of the steam engine, leaving this page to cover some of the wider-ranging aspects (What it is, how it works, links to different types, modern usage, etc). I bumped into Cue sports last week, and this is an excellent example of a 'top-level' article that covers a huge number of topics through 'main' links. In particular, look at the level of detail covered by each section: one paragraph about the same height as a default-size picture. We could do a lot worse than to follow it as a model.
I hope this doesn't come across as too 'angry' or 'harsh', and I apologise for not yet reading your new submission in detail. This is a very hurried response to help you on your way. (I've got lots of non-WP stuff to do today, and reckoned I could afford 20mins at breakfast...I wasn't planning on having to tackle this today! I haven't got far with boiler (steam generator) yet! EdJogg's a very busy bunny just now...)
EdJogg (talk) 08:40, 5 May 2008 (UTC)

Forking off History of the steam engine into a separate article sounds a good idea to me. What is left should be preceded by a "main" template, directing those who want more to it. A brief history (perhaps one paragraph) should be left in the article. This may need to be accompanies by a hidden comment asking people not to expand the section. As I have said before, I did something like this is articles on the hiostroy of the iron industry, and these have now reached a reasonably stable state. Peterkingiron (talk) 21:35, 5 May 2008 (UTC)


New talk page created[edit]

Comments above this point were extracted from Talk:Steam engine. They were considered by me to be solely related to the History section of that article, and hence better served by being archived here. If it is felt that any sections really belong on the parent article, they should be copied back to that talk page.

Both talk pages should be archived 'soon', but this cannot happen until the major re-structuring has been completed.

EdJogg (talk) 16:59, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

Good work on forking this part of the article. I have adjusted the headings slightly. I think that Trevithick's improvements to the Watt engine could conveniently be placed at the end of that section. The section on Watt's later engines looks rather short at present, and I have attached a "stub" tag to it. I would also like to see more on Trevithick's work and that of his successors: I presume there is more to come across from the other article yet. Peterkingiron (talk) 18:12, 14 May 2008 (UTC)
Thank you. Working out a reply to you has convinced me that this History section has been a major obstacle to resolving the problems in the steam engine article as a whole. There is more to come from there, but it is not so obvious, nor as easy to extract. For example, Woolf and his compounding must be mentioned here, and what about developments to horizontal engines? Cornish engines are mentioned in passing, but the Bull engine is not mentioned at all. In fact, we only just get to Trevithick!!!
Hopefully, having the two articles separated should allow both to flourish. EdJogg (talk) 00:23, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Keep up the good work. You may well be right that having the history in the main article has hindered its development. I will continue monitoring progress. The 19th century is not my speciality. Peterkingiron (talk) 11:27, 15 May 2008 (UTC)


Further information[edit]

The Newcomen steam engine article contains additional information about precursors, Papin and Savery. That article could easily cope with being pruned slightly, with the detailed history being brought here (the existing sections here could be further sub-divided, such that Papin and Savery can have their own sections (with suitable 'main' tags). While you're at it, it is possible that there are details about the engine on the Thomas Newcomen page which are missing from the engine page itself! -- EdJogg (talk) 00:15, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

King Cotton[edit]

There seem to four drivers in the search for the most efficient reciprocating engine.

  • Cornish pumping engines
  • Cotton Mills
  • Marine engines for ocean liners
  • Locomotive engines
  • Elecricity generation.

I am am the moment working on Cotton- and needed to learn about mill engines before I could write that subsection. I confess I bought a book- so I could catch up with you experts. There is so much to say- so many tables to be drawn... so if it doesn't offend anyone I will start chipping in with this page. My degree is not in Mech Eng, so feel free to correct any stupid mistakes.

I have started by adding a Bibliography of sources I often use.

If there is anyone still watching- please talk to me.--ClemRutter (talk) 15:36, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

I wouldn't stress a "search for efficiency" too much in connection with either pumping, electricity generation or even ocean liners (NB "liners", not steamships in general). The pumping engines were firstly about the struggle to manage to work at all! Then they wre mired in license fees and patent arguments - part of the cost of running such an engine from some makers was in paying the license for it, which was based on a small tally machine that counted every stroke, not just the coal costs. Now Cornwall's non-coal mining certainly cared a little more about fuel costs than the coal mines elsewhere did, but they had plenty of other issues to worry about first. Now liners and power generation were the opposite case - they were late period for reciprocating engines and although they cared deeply about performance, their main response to this search was to switch to turbines instead. Locomotives are constrained by the need to remain portable (so condensing was never popular) and availability (reliability) was always crucial. So it really is for spinning and weaving mills where the great search for efficiency of reciprocating engines was at its peak. Don't forget Yorkshire either - mills over that side were for woolens, not cotton, and nothing counts its brass like a Yorkshire mill owner. Andy Dingley (talk) 16:26, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Clem, there are people watching -- welcome aboard! You will appreciate the lack of history 'after Trevithick'... Feel free to chip in with this page. Ownership of a book will certainly help! EdJogg (talk) 21:56, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Not a lot on the engines yet- I have been distracted by inventing flowcharts in WP:table format and Child labour- but look at Cotton mill to see how it all links in.--ClemRutter (talk) 23:08, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

This article still needs more work. My impression is that new cotton mills were generally water-powered until about 1790, after which they normally had Watt engines. This depended on his development of the rotary engine during the 1780s. I am not clear on events after his patent expired in 1800, but suspect that other engine builders quickly adopted the separate condenser. It is unfortunate fact that technogical historians tend to focus on leading edge (and ahead of its time) technology, rather than the speed at which technology became widespread. This currently also applies to power loom (on which you have been working). I am looking forward to seeing the results of improvement there toe. Peterkingiron (talk) 21:56, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Expansion[edit]

I have added a further section and suspect that no very much will be needed on more recent technological change. What is needed is probably sections on

  • Special applications: marine engines; locomotives; steam-powered road vehicles; and possibly other particular uses.
  • I would like to see some of the curiosities that led nowhere moved into a separate section of their own. This would include the Russian who has a long section under low pressure. Perhaps that should be in a section on diffusion of the engine, with a subsection on each of country. Peterkingiron (talk) 18:48, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Hero of Alexandira ?[edit]

The article mentions that Heron of Alexandria described steam engines, but neither the referenced Britannica article, nor the wikipedia article about him information on that, besides Britannica seems to be turned into wiki, so the actual references from there may be better,if they exists. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 88.248.140.221 (talk) 23:30, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

'The first industrial engines'[edit]

This whole paragraph is weak, but I am particularly perplexed by 'plate technology'. But I don't have sufficient 'History of Technology' to improve it authoritatively. Globbet (talk) 20:48, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

"Plate technology" is simply wrong. The failures were mostly of operation, then of design, rather than of poor materials. Although boilers did fail through poor materials, the makers of known good quality could and did make reliable plates. However these plates were of limited size and it was poorly understood (until after the development of forensic engineering, driven in turn by boiler insurance) that the design principles of how to join them were better developed (butted joints being better than laps, the importance of avoiding grooving in service). Some of this also benefited from the work of people like Fairbairn who developed maths that could model pressure vessel stresses. Andy Dingley (talk) 21:42, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
I have substantially edited this whole section, but think I have left the phrase, eliminating a section about links between Newcomen and Papin via Hooke, which are WP:OR, as evidence is lacking as to how Newcomen developed his ideas. My guess is that the failures were in the way the plates were joined, but I do not think we even know what Savery's boilers were made of. The early Newcomen cyliners were brass, and the boilers may also have been. By the 1730s, they were being made of iron plates, in one case where there is evidence, imported from Sweden. Savery's pressure vessel could operate significantly above atmospheric pressure. All the low-pressure engines used steam at a few psi above atmospheric pressure, so that the risk from them was minimal. I suspect we have had peopel dabbling with this aritcle who do not entirely understamd the subject. I made my edit from what was then not quite the latest one. Peterkingiron (talk) 23:25, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Now reworded to be less specific as to why the pressure vessel exploded, for we can only surmise the reason which is WP:OR. Peterkingiron (talk) 23:29, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
I'd still avoid the whole "not strong enough" notion (and when I've worked through 50 smaller-scale steam & boiler articles, I might get to fixing the broader scope ones). Boilers from the very earliest times were constructed in a way that was adequate and safe for their immediate task. When they failed, it was for two reasons above all else: they were abused in the short time by working them at excessive pressure (i.e. weighting down safety valves) or they were worn out in service and either inadequately repaired, or not repaired owing to not realising the extent of their wear. Neither of these are really down to the boiler "being not strong enough". Andy Dingley (talk) 23:56, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
I doubt Savery has a safety valve. All we really know is that a boiler exploded. There was no inquiry as to why (as far as is known); indeed there were no boiler standards in the 1700s. AS I said above, I do not think we even know what the pressure vessel was made of. With your experiecne of boilers, perhaps you can find some neutral wording. Clearly the boiler was pressurised beyond what it could stand and exploded, but that is (I think) all we know. Peterkingiron (talk) 17:16, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Hunter discusses construction practices of boilers. The earliest boilers were hammered iron plate and were not uniform until rolled plats came into use. A major source of failure was using a drift pin to align holes for rivets. This stressed the plates. It was not until the late 19th century that twist drill bits came into use so holes were punched before then.Phmoreno (talk) 21:28, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

I believe Savery's first engine used soldered brass, which was unable to withstand the pressure.Phmoreno (talk) 21:28, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

I am still looking for information on the plates for the earliest boilers. I have yet to see any authorative academic account of the subject, nor have I seen much in any archival source, though I may not have looked hard enough. Sir James Lowther was using Swedish iron for this in the 1730s and 1740s, buying this in London. I have not seen evidecne that English blackplate was used for boilers: since it was a precursor for tinplate, I suspect that it was too thin to be useful. However, the atmospheric engines of the 18th cnetury operated at or just above atmospheric pressure, so that the danger of a boiler bursting was insignifciant. That changed with the high pressure engines of the 19th cnetury. Argumetns about what Savery did do not really take us far, as his invention was a dead-end, though his patent was useful for Newcomen to operate under. Savery's engine seems to have stopped its development for the very reason that a boiler did explode. Peterkingiron (talk) 21:28, 3 November 2012 (UTC)
What period are you thinking of for "the earliest boilers"? These pre-date iron plates, certainly rolled (as opposed to hammered) iron plates. The first iron plates, where the strength of the iron becomes a factor for real safety issues, are some period into the history of steam engines. Andy Dingley (talk) 21:42, 3 November 2012 (UTC)

Wrong focus[edit]

The article says; "In Newcomen's and Watt's engines, it is the condensation of the steam that creates most of the pressure difference, causing atmospheric pressure (Newcomen) or low-pressure steam (Watt) to push the piston; the internal pressures never greatly exceed atmospheric pressure. In a high-pressure engine, most of the pressure difference is provided by the high pressure steam from the boiler; the low pressure side of the piston may be at atmospheric pressure or, if it is connected to a condenser, this only provides a small proportion of the pressure difference."

It is not the internal pressure that moves the piston, it is the atmospheric pressure on the outside, which of course can never exceed one atmosphere. When the steam condensates, it creates a "vacuum", a pressure much lower on the inside than on the outside, which we all have seen have seen when a plastic bottle filled with steam is hold under cold water. Yes, the internal steam pressure would sometime exceed one atmosphere, but unless this pressure was directly involved in the process, that's irrelevant. If I should be wrong, the article should be written in such a way that I understand why. 84.210.29.167 (talk) 04:05, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

I think if you do a bit more reading you will discover the article is pretty accurate on this. Globbet (talk) 23:14, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Strcitly both Newcomen and Watt engines are atmospheric engines, as you imply. However they were known as fire engines at the time, a term that now has a quite different meaning and are certainly known to the public generally today as "steam engines" because they used steam. Please try not to be so pedantic. Peterkingiron (talk) 23:52, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I have been doing some more reading (I already had, but in a weak moment, I assumet that the article might be right), and this is what the article about steam engines in general says: "Newcomen's and Watt's early engines were "atmospheric", meaning that they were powered by the vacuum generated by condensing steam instead of the pressure of expanding steam. Cylinders had to be large, as the only usable force acting on them was atmospheric pressure. Steam was only used to compensate for the atmosphere allowing the piston to move back to its starting position."
Of course, it's not really a true vacuum, but a pressure much lower than the external pressure. In both Watt's and Newcomen's engine, it is the external atmospheric pressure that creates the power. The steam pressure in Watt's engine does not do the work, it is the condensation of the steam who does that. They are both using the same principle, the difference is that Watt's version is more efficent, with a separate condensator. The part that says "the internal pressures never greatly exceed atmospheric pressure" in combination with the already existing information, creates the impression that it is the internal pressure that does the work, which is not the case. Also, the sentence "the low pressure side of the piston may be at atmospheric pressure or, if it is connected to a condenser, this only provides a small proportion of the pressure difference" is very unclear. The high pressure engine works because the internal pressure is much higher than the external. Simple as that. So summa summarum, the article is wrong at this point. (P.S. If it by any chance should turn out to be correct after all, it needs some serious editing. Firstly, it is very badly written. Second, it needs some good old citation.)84.210.29.167 (talk) 20:37, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
Is there any chance you could be persuaded to log in, its so much easier to talk to a name than an ip address.--ClemRutter (talk) 09:19, 18 September 2010 (UTC)

Should Polzunov have a section?[edit]

There is nothing about Polzunov's engine that appears at all interesting. Savery had two-cylinder designs almost a century earlier (as one can see from the image at the top of the page) and Smeaton was building much larger engines within a few years. Is there any reason this should be its own section. Maury Markowitz (talk) 11:02, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Savery's design had two chambers, but Pulzunov's had two pistons/cylinders, so they are not really comparable. Pulzunov deserves mention due to the novel two-cylinder arrangement. He is best handled in a separate section as it is not obvious that his design had any influence on the later development of the steam engine (not even in Russia). -- EdJogg (talk) 12:25, 27 October 2010 (UTC)
This seems to be a common problem with History of.. technology articles, when they are more or less stable someone will do some Original research about a brilliant unknown, and will try to insert this OR into the article, I am sad enough to enjoy these intervention. However, the article then becomes a disjointed hotch-potch of well written information on those who never made it, are the article looses focus. So how do we handle it ; I suggest, a one liner 'Others such as Ivan Polzunov were working on similar designs. Then, the separate article should be substantially rewritten. Dr Ing Polzunov must be far more notable than a living sports prima donna. (POV) and deserves our respect. Another solution is a long footnote. The priority must be the focus of the article.--ClemRutter (talk) 14:57, 27 October 2010 (UTC)
I generally support the inclusion of those inventors THAT THE ECO-PETROCHEMICAL-FEMINAZI CABAL OF FREEMASONS HAS EXPUNGED FROM HISTORY, sorry, that have been covered inadequately in traditional media. Even when they're 18th century Russian clockmakers, Hungarian electrical engineers or Romanian jet aircraft builders pre-WW1. However we have to be cautious. These histories have too much of an overlap with psychoceramics. The inclusion must be supportable by sources, and mustn't claim things that are unwarranted. Translation is also an utter pain. There's one over in Lathe that needs fixing - a Russian jeweller who invented a form of ornamental turning lathe or rose engine and is already well-described by the UK Society of Ornamental Turners. Yet owing to dodgy translation, this has gone into the lathe article with him inventing the entire geared cross-slide, a totally unwarranted claim.
On the whole though, I think it's better to get some good content out in public vision, as a defence against the biased crazy-push in the future. Andy Dingley (talk) 23:00, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Looks like my last edit when into the bit bucket. I meant to add that Leopold had a two cylinder engine in 1720. Check out page 13 of this great book. Given this it seems there's little to note in Pulzunov's version. Maury Markowitz (talk) 12:21, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

I guess the question is, did Leopold build his design, or just draw it? Pulzunov actually built one. -- EdJogg (talk) 13:49, 28 October 2010 (UTC)
hmmm, good question. Maury Markowitz (talk) 20:40, 29 October 2010 (UTC)

Polzunov section removed[edit]

The Polzunov section made several claims about it being the first to do this or that. Looking into contemporary sources, notably Thurston 1878 and Galloway 1826, it is clear that none of the claims made for this engine were the first of anything. Specifically:

  1. the Polzunov engine was the first to use two cylinders - well as one can see from the top of the page, Savery's engine also used two cylinders, and although it is not illustrated within, so did Worchester's engine which is a century before Polzunov. More to the point, Leopold's design from 1720 used two cylinders with pistons, in exactly the fashion of Polzunov's design, even using the same two-way steam valve.
  2. the Polzunov engine was the first to have a "back-and-forth rotating power takeoff device" - this possibility was mentioned by Savery before 1700, and was actually patented by Jonathan Hulls in 1736. Hulls used two wheels to take power from a Newcomen cylinder to power a second shaft with a paddle wheel on it. An image of this appears in his book of 1826.
  3. the Polzunov engine was the first to have automatic level control in the boiler - I cannot find a direct reference that contradicts this, but I know that John Desaguliers describes similar systems around 1717, and tellingly, sold one to the Czar, as noted here.

So I have removed the section in question. I am not opposed to a mention of the engine in the Timeline, but in this article, which attempts to limit itself to major steps, it simply doesn't belong any more than the hundreds of other engines with interesting variations that appeared throughout this period. Maury Markowitz (talk) 13:24, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

I see that you're still pushing your same old prejudged POV here from a couple of years ago, no matter what evidence to the contrary. Also see User_talk:Andy_Dingley#Steam_engine_edit where we discussed this, only to have you revert anyway.
Savery didn't have one cylinder, let alone two. It is just plain dumb wrong to describe Savery's engine as having "cylinders" at all.
Polzunov is little known, which means there is (as is sadly common) a systemic bias against him. I'd never heard of him myself until a few years ago. Despite this, despite him not being "a local lad", we have to recognise that even Russians got to invent things from time to time, and sometimes they did it first.
Your comment, ""I cannot find a direct reference that contradicts this" is an unfortunate one - you've already decided your answer, so now you're scratching around for tenuous evidence to support you, rather than looking to see what the evidence is telling you. Polzunov clearly did have the float-controlled water valve: he described it, he built it, it's reported as having worked. I know of no other similar device for a good time afterwards. I don't know much about Desaguliers, but AIUI he built boilers and engines that were intended for "a working day" or so and were allowed to cool and drop in pressure before refilling. He did however fit two try cocks, in a fairly modern manner, and was probably the innovator of this. He certainly supplied a pumping engine to the Czar's fountains and Polzunov studied it.
Polzunov warrants inclusion here for being Russian. Nothing more is needed - just showing that significant work was happening outside Britain is noteworthy enough.
Polzunov built a two cylinder engine. Who else had built a working two cylinder engine?
Polzunov's engine (per the U. Houston site[6]) claims 32hp. That dwarfs anything Watt et al. had.
IMHO, the most significant aspect though is that Polzunov had an engine with mechanical power take off. This is usually described as shaft drive, but I think chains are more likely (and supported by the contemporary drawing, and the model). This is sometimes claimed to be continuous rotation, although I don't consider this credible myself. That's irrelevant anyway - oscillating pull-chain drives are perfectly workable and have a well known history elsewhere. Other workers were chasing this, no-one else had yet achieved it.
Polzunov should stay. Andy Dingley (talk) 14:52, 15 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Andy, Polzunov warrants inclusion here for being Russian. The contention that "this article ... attempts to limit itself to major steps" is, I think, your opinion, Maury, and I would suggest that 'who did what' is unnecessarily restrictive, and an element of 'who did what, where' is relevant, notable and, not least, interesting. Where RS is limited, the article should say that. BTW what happened to Trevithick under the 'High Pressure' heading? Globbet (talk) 20:14, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

As always, I am happy to address your points directly.

"Savery didn't have one cylinder". This text differs, see the sections on pages 15-17 and 23-25. Both were built and operated.
"Polzunov's engine (per the U. Houston site[7]) claims 32hp". According to this book, Savery's engine was 150 horsepower. Look on page 45, at the bottom.
"Polzunov had an engine with mechanical power take off". Every steam engine after Savery had a mechanical power take off. The only difference is that Polzunov's engine drove air pumps instead of water ones.
"Polzunov warrants inclusion here for being Russian. Nothing more is needed". Really? So we should list the first steam engine built in every single nation in the world? If not, what limitation for inclusion would you suggest?

We're talking about an article trying to paint the broad strokes of the development of the steam engine. It is not a list of every little engine developed over time. Watt's improvements definitely improved the state of the art, and his concepts were soon being applied to steam engines around the world. This passes the smell test for "important" to the history. Do you disagree? On the other hand, Polzunov's engine had no influence on any engine that followed. According to the limited references we have, it was forgotten even in his own country. So by any reasonable definition, it's effect on the development of the steam engine is very close to zero. And thus, in an article on the development of the steam engine, Polzunov simply does not warrant an entire section, any more than any one of the hundreds of other interesting engine designs that emerged through the 1700s and 1800s. If you have new evidence to present, by all means, go ahead. But as you note, this debate has been going on for a very long time now. I've presented ample new references that counter every claim being made, and you have presented a single reference that you yourself state (above) is wrong. Instead of new references, I get insults and name calling. What am I to make of this? Maury Markowitz (talk) 12:23, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

Did you read these sources, or just follow the line that if a search engine turns up the words you were looking for, then that's Proof!
Galloway, p18, is a description of Papin's engine, not Savery's. It has a cylindrical vessel right enough, it even has a weighted piston in there. However that piston is there to construct a weighted hydraulic accumulator, not to be a means of extracting mechanical power, as per Polzunov.
Be careful of reading any "horsepower" figure that pre-dates Watt's 33,000 ft·lb/minute figure, based on the "4 hour horse". As Savery himself wrote earlier, the question with horsepower was whether this was based on the instantaneous power of a horse, the sustained power over a working day, or the "stable power" of the number of horses needed to provide an equivalent. If the latter figure, a low powered engine can claim a very large number of equivalent horses indeed (and see my first comment in particular).
Every steam engine after Savery had a mechanical power take off. It's usual that Newcomen's engines had their pumps considered as being part of the engine installation, rather than being a separate machine in its own right. Certainly Watt put considerable (fruitless) effort into his steam wheel, before eventually his rotative beam engine worked as a means of generating mechanical power. Andy Dingley (talk) 18:39, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
"Did you read these sources" Really Andy, if you're going to sling personal insults you might want to be sure you're on the high ground. For instance...
"Galloway, p18, is a description of Papin's engine" I said "pages 15-17", a range that does not include "18". Page 15 clearly shows a Savery design with two cylinders. And it's a moot point anyway, "Leupold" built a two-cylinder design in Russia years earlier, as also demonstrated in the same (and many other) references.
"Be careful of reading any "horsepower" figure that pre-dates Watt's". That's my concern exactly. Polzunov's engine disappeared long before Watt was on the scene, so one must be as suspect of this claim as the one about Savery. I wanted to see if you would pick up on this, but it appears you haven't. But it's a moot point anyway, as I also provided ample documentary evidence of larger engines that predate this one.
"'Its usual that Newcomen's engines had their pumps considered as being part of the engine installation" So you claim, but you've again failed to provide any evidence that 1) this is true, or 2) that the air pumps were not "considered as being part of the engine installation". In any event, a turn of phrase does not disguise the fact both engines used power that was transferred to pumps. The only difference is the working fluid.
So, where are we? Well it appears you have abandoned the argument that a section is worthwhile simply because he's Russian. You have failed to back up the claim that it is the first engine with two cylinders. The claim about rotary power is gone. There is no credible claim that his engine is more powerful. Have I missed anything?
Don't worry, I'm in the process of tracking down references on dead tree form, so I'll have more to report shortly. In the meantime, unless you have actual new references to back up any of your claims, I'll be disinclined to consider them seriously. Maury Markowitz (talk) 19:17, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, but did you read these sources? I have serious concerns over your technical competence whenever we get to details. You still have that "tachometric bombsight" howler you haven't fixed.
Savery's engines have no cylinders, no pistons, and nothing that resembles them. The pressure vessels here are drawn as cylinders, rather than the usual barrels, but even so this is far from being a cylinder, let alone something with a piston in it. Papin's engine does at least have the floating piston. Can you really not tell the difference between these and what Polzunov produced? Andy Dingley (talk) 20:09, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
No references, message ignored. Maury Markowitz (talk) 11:11, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

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