Although the first known steam engine, called the aeolipile, was invented in ancient Greece by the mathematician Hero of Alexandria, steam engines rose to their zenith in America during the modern Industrial Revolution, which peaked during the first half of the 19th century. Steam technology changed the landscape of America by providing a convenient source of energy for locomotives and steamships, both of which allowed for the quicker transportation of the raw materials that fueled mass-production and consequently the rise of the modern middle class.
History of Steam Engines
Familiarize yourself with a brief history of the steam engine.
Check out an extensive history of the steam engine with the Museum of American Heritage.
Watch a brief video on the history of the steam engine.
View a helpful timeline of important milestones in English and American railway development.
Read all about steam engines of the 18th century.
Access 48 pages of information about the people and events that led to the invention of the steam engine.
Read an article about the Industrial Revolution and transportation around the globe.
Types of Steam Engines
Learn about the inventor of the ancient aeolipile, the world’s very first steam engine.
Check out an overview of some of the earliest steam engines at Energy Hall at the Science Museum in London.
Read all about the Newcomen engine, a pre-Watt steam engine.
Learn about the Boulton and Watt engine and access more teaching and learning resources through the Powerhouse Museum in Australia.
Watch an animation of the Cornish Beam Engine, which was originally developed to pump out water from mines in Cornwall.
Explore the history of the Corliss Steam Engine Co. and their innovative steam engines with the New England Wireless and Steam Museum.
Visit the web page for a museum devoted to steamboats, complete with images and video clips.
Take a virtual tour, view photos and more with Steamtown, a National Historic Site devoted to the steam locomotive.
Read an article on a tiny contemporary version of the steam engine with BBC News.
How Steam Engines Work
Check out an elementary guide on how steam locomotives work provided by the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
View a set of animations that demonstrate how steam engines work.
Access a short entry on the life of Thomas Savery, an English engineer and inventor who built the first modern steam engine.
Explore the life and work of Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the atmospheric steam engine.
Learn about the remarkable life of Scottish inventor, James Watt.
Read more about the life and work of James Watt with the BBC.
Explore the life of steamboat innovator, Robert Fulton.
Learn about Oliver Evans, another important innovator in the history of American steam engines.