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EDINBURGH:

PRINTED BY W. AND R. CHAMBERS.

1847.

[graphic]

AMES WATT, the improver of the steamengine, was born at Greenock in Renfrewshire, Scotland, on the 19th of January 1736. He was the descendant of a family, the members of which, for several generations, had exhibited no small degree of ability. His great

grandfather was the proprietor and farmer of a small estate in Aberdeenshire; but, taking part in the insurrection headed by Montrose, he was killed in one of the battles then fought, and his little property was confiscated. This person's son, Thomas Watt, was but an infant at the time of his father's death. Left almost destitute by that event, he was taken care of by relations till he grew up, when, manifesting, a decided taste for mathematical science, in which he had already attained great

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proficiency, he removed to Greenock, and settled there as a teacher of navigation, surveying, and general mathematics. In this situation he acquired great reputation, and became one of the most respected and influential persons in the neighbourhood, filling for several years the office of baron bailie, or chief magistrate of the burgh of Crawford's Dike. He died in 1734, at the advanced age of ninety-two years, and was buried in the West Churchyard of Greenock, where, in the inscription on his tombstone, he is styled

professor of mathematics." He had two sons, John and James; the elder of whom inherited his father's mathematical talent, and followed his profession, first at Ayr, and afterwards in Glasgow, where he also enjoyed a large business as a surveyor. Among his qualifications, was that of drawing with very great neatness and

accuracy: He died in 1737, at the age of fifty years; and a chart of the course of the River Clyde which he left, was published a few years afterwards by his younger brother James. This James Watt, the father of the great engineer, had settled in his native town of Greenock, exercising his abilities not in the special occupation to which his father and elder brother had devoted themselves, but in the more general sphere of a merchant and public-spirited citizen. During a quarter of a century he held the offices of town-councillor and magistrate of Greenock; and in the discharge of these offices he was noted for his activity and zeal for improvement. It was only in consequence of his own refusal that he did not fill the chair of provost or chief magistrate in Greenock. His special occupations were those of a blockmaker and ship-chandler; but in addition to these, he engaged in house and ship-building, and general trading. The failure of some of his commercial speculations deprived him, long before his death, of a great part of the fortune which he had acquired. He died in 1782, at the age of eighty-four, having for some years lived retired from business. His wife,' Agnes Muirhead, the mother of the illustrious Watt, was of a very respectable family; of her disposition, and the character of her mind, we have no particular account.

The subject of our memoir was the elder of two sons, the only children of the Greenock merchant and his wife. The

younger, who was named John, had resolved to follow his father's profession, but was drowned in 1763 on a voyage from Greenock to America, at the age of twenty-three years. James Watt, who was then in his twenty-seventh year, was thus left the only surviving son. WATT'S CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION—SETTLES IN GLASGOW

AS A MATHEMATICAL INSTRUMENT-MAKER.

Regarding Watt's childhood, and the course of his early education, we have not much information. From the extreme delicacy of his health when a child, he was able to attend the public school at Greenock only irregularly and at intervals; so that much

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