Two hundred years after the death of James Watt, the University of Glasgow is renaming its School of Engineering after him — with the blessing of one particular member of staff who has a family connection to Watt.
Debbie Beales, who works in the university’s health, safety and wellbeing unit, recently discovered that her family line leads six generations back directly to James Watt.
He was working as an instrument maker at the university of Glasgow, when he improved a Newcomen steam engine by adding a separate condenser that made it vastly more efficient.
That was in 1765, and he died on 25 August 1819 (in Birmingham).
Ms Beales said: “I had no idea of my family’s connection to James Watt, until a cousin recently decided to research the Beales family tree and uncovered this link.
“While my father passed away a couple of years ago, my grandmother Jean is still alive, and I know that she is as proud as I am of the family’s link with James Watt — and also pleased to know that the School of Engineering is marking the 200th anniversary of his death with the renaming.”
The renaming decision is the latest element in the university’s year-long celebration of the life and work of James Watt, which has included an international symposium held on the university campus in June, a series of events during the Glasgow Science Festival and an exhibition in the university library.
This includes a scale model of one of Watt’s engines — designed, 3-D-printed and built by members of Jet-X, one of the school’s student engineering societies.
David Cumming, head of the university’s James Watt School of Engineering (www.gla.ac.uk
), said: “The importance of James Watt’s contribution to the field of engineering can’t really be overstated, and we’re very proud to be associated with the improvements he made to the Newcomen steam engine.
“The world has come a long way in 200 years, and much of that distance was covered using technology derived from the principles he established.”