Newcomen's steam engine at Dudley Castle, West Midlands, 1719.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by Barney. Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) invented the first practical steam engine in 1712. The engine gained its presure from the atmosphere, rather than from steam, pumping water by using the vacuum created by steam and fire. The atmospheric steam engine was used to drain mines of water and was also used to transport water to water wheels. It was to make a great contribution to the Industrial Revolution. The first well-authenticated Newcomen engine, erected near Dudley in 1712, was a mature and practical machine.