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Savery, Thomas

Savery, Thomas (c.1650–1715). Savery was a military engineer who attained the rank of trench master by 1696, and acquired the title of ‘Captain’. His inventiveness was perhaps stimulated by his knowledge of tin- and copper-mining in his native Devon. Savery's outstanding achievement was the invention of a machine for raising water by steam pressure, for which he took out a patent (No. 356) in 1698, calling it ‘the miner's friend’. The device was essentially a pressure vessel which raised water partly by the direct pressure of steam, and partly by condensing the steam to create a vacuum, thus allowing the water to be raised by atmospheric pressure. The second part of this cycle was subsequently adopted by Thomas Newcomen in his radically different and much more successful atmospheric engine of 1712, but he was obliged to co-operate with Savery under the terms of the latter's patent. While it is possible that he borrowed ideas from other inventors, Savery was the first person to demonstrate a workable steam-engine.

R. Angus Buchanan

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Savery, Thomas

Thomas Savery, c.1650–1715, English engineer. He became a military engineer, rising to the rank of captain by 1702. He spent his free time performing experiments in mechanics, inventing such devices as a machine for polishing plate glass and a contrivance employing paddle wheels to move becalmed ships. His most important invention, patented in 1698, was a machine designed to lift water for such purposes as keeping mines dry and supplying towns with water. Although not a steam engine in the modern sense, this machine was the first to provide mechanical power by harnessing steam.

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