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A Treatise on the Steam Engine

Date: 1846
Overall: 296 x 235 x 30 mm
Medium: Ink on paper, cloth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00030604
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    John Bourne's 1846 publication 'A treatise on the steam engine in its application to mines, mills, steam navigation, and railways' explores the development of the steam engine. The book contains diagrams, tables and mathematical formulas within the text, and numerous fold out plates.
    SignificanceBourne's work is one of the first comprehensive texts on the development and progress of the steam engine in the early 1800s. It was highly respected and he greatly influenced the development and direction of steam engineering including engines and boilers, screw propellers and steam operated auxiliary equipment such as centrifugal circulating pumps.
    HistoryThere was no single inventor of the steam engine - instead over a number of years many individuals played a part in the development of a technology that would provide an abundant supply of cheap power. When this power was harnessed, not only was it able to propel ships and trains, mills and standing engines, but it would eventually lead to the industrial revolution.

    The steam engine was first imagined nearly 2,000 years ago when the Greek inventor Hero of Alexandria proposed and built a working model of a steam turbine engine. In 1698 Thomas Savery obtained a patent for a water raising steam engine, however the first real breakthrough in steam technology came with the invention of a steam powered pumping engine by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 at a colliery in Staffordshire.

    This beam engine was powered by a single, open topped, steam cylinder that operated a water pump in the mine below. Many improvements were made to the Newcomen beam engine over the years, including the addition of a steam condenser to the beam engine by James Watt in the 1770s, which made the engine more efficient as well as double acting (providing power on both the up and the down strokes). Watt and his partners Boulton and later Murdock went on to develop the steam rotary engine, steam governors for regulating speed and a system of slide valves (that lessened the number of moving parts and areas for steam to escape from).

    Between 1780 and 1800 other gentlemen scientists, artisans and inventors - such as John Wilkinson with his steam cylinder boring machine in 1779; James Picard with the development of the metal crank and atmospheric reciprocating engine in 1780, the Americans Fitch and Voight who in 1789-88 (almost simultaneously with the Scots Miller, Taylor and Symington) developed the first steam engine small enough to power water craft - made a number of significant contributions in making steam engines small enough and efficient enough to be used by ship owners and marine engineers to power not only river and harbour craft but also trans-ocean steamers.

    By 1846 (when Bourne wrote his treatise) a number of steam engines were not only being commercially produced in significant numbers by steam engineers which as Boulton and Watt, Napier, Maudslay and Penn but were also operating in Australia where the first steam engine - used to power Dickson flour mill in Darling Harbour - arrived in 1813.

    One of the foremost writers and steam engineers of the early 1800s was John Bourne. Steam historian Edgar Smiths said that "no works are more worthy of study than those of John Bourne" (Smith, 1937, p142). In the 1840s and 1850s Bourne's work and his writings on steam engine, marine engineering and screw propulsion enjoyed a considerable reputation among other engineers. His Treatise on the Steam Engine, first published in 1846, went through five further editions in 1861 and is still considered one of the principle works on early steam engineering.

    His treatise - as all his books are - is very well illustrated, with plates of the direct-acting paddle engines, the geared screw engines and the direct acting screw engine along with numerous illustrations, schematic diagrams and explanatory texts on the engines of all the leading makers.

    His plates form a valuable reference and record of the principals, designs and construction of early marine engines and the evolution of the steam engine from the revolutionary work of James Watt in 1770 to the development of steeple engine by David Napier; the 800 horse power twin cylinder engine of Maudslay fitted to HMS RETRIBUTION and the 260 horse power Penn's oscillating engine fitted to HMS BLACK EAGLE.

    Bourne also prophesied the future direction of marine steam engines by stating that the vertical inverted cylinder engines as illustrated by the engines fitted to the FRANKFURT and the NORTHMAN were '...simple, compact and substantial, and upon the whole are very eligible class of engines for merchant vessels...' (Bourne, 1846). It was the vertical inverted single cylinder steam engine that went on to become first the compound engine, and later the famous triple expansion steam engine of the 1870 - 1950s.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: A treatise on the steam engine in its application to mines, mills, steam navigation, and railways

    Web title: A Treatise on the Steam Engine

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