Newcomen atmospheric engine, c 1730.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
One of a series of French technical drawings of a Newcomen atmospheric engine erected at the York Buildings Waterworks on the Thames in London. 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.