WHEN the inventors had finished tinkering, it was left to the engineers to turn their dreams into reality. Having a brilliant idea was one thing, but putting it into practice and making it work and pay was something else entirely.

The Industrial Revolution was the golden age of engineers.

From James Brindley, the semi-literate canal surveyor who criss-crossed the country with his waterways to Richard Trevithick, the swashbuckling Cornish giant who took the steam engine to new heights.

From Thomas Telford, who opened up the country with his roads, canals and bridges to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who did the same with railways and then took on the oceans with his steamships.

They saw the world as a challenge to be overcome, and they succeeded with an unquenchable confidence in their own ability.

In fact, there was something of a blurred line between inventor and engineer.

Thus James Watt was a talented engineer, although he will always be remembered - erroneously - as the "inventor" of the steam engine, when in fact what he did was to apply sound

WILLIAM MURDOCH (left) was an inventor who preferred to be remembered as an engineer. James Watt (right) was an engineer who made his name as an inventor.
engineering principles to make the machine work more efficiently.

Likewise, William Murdoch preferred to be remembered as an engineer, although his inventions included the high-pressure steam engine and gas lighting.

But however we class them, it was certain that no problem was insurmountable, no task beyond the men who really made the Industrial Revolution work.

2017 | Admiral Nelson | Read about the Industrial Revolution