This article discusses that it frequently happens that the individual getting the credit for an invention is not the real innovator, but rather the person who was most successful in reducing an idea to practice. The Newcomen engine was staggeringly inefficient by today’s standards, but it was a commercial success for a time because it was the only practical alternative to pumps powered by horses. The aspect of a typical Newcomen engine that is most eccentric from a modern point of view is that it did not work using steam pressure at all. In the Newcomen cycle, steam was admitted to a cylinder and then condensed by injecting a water spray. One of Newcomen’s greatest contributions was to develop mechanisms to perform his cycle automatically. Early versions of his engine involved manually manipulated valves. This was a slow operation and provided an opportunity for disastrous errors; it clearly indicated a need for mechanical actuators.

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