'Elevation of a Newcomen Atmospherical Steam Engine', c 1826.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Drawing of a 20 hp Newcomen engine. Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) invented the first practical steam engine in 1712. The engine gained its pressure 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.