James Watt, Scottish engineer, 1792.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Oil painting by Carl Fredrik von Breda of James Watt (1736-1819), the inventor of the improved steam engine and perhaps the greatest of British engineers. This is one of three known versions of an oil painting produced by von Breda on a visit to Boulton and Watt in Birmingham in 1792. It is the earliest known portrait of Watt, and was probably commissioned by the engineer, John Rennie (1761-1821). The drawing on the table behind Watt is of a rotative beam engine with a 1788 condenser and a wooden frame similar to that used by Rennie in 1792. Watt gave his name to the SI (international standard) unit of power, the watt (W).