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Fostering a new industry in the Industrial Revolution: Boulton & Watt and gaslight 1800–1812


Gaslight emerged as a new industry after 1800 in Britain, but not in other countries in Europe where the technology existed as well. Among the many groups trying, it was only the firm of Boulton & Watt that succeeded in commercializing the invention for two important reasons. The first was that they possessed skills and experience related to ironworking and to making scientific instruments, both of which they used as they developed gaslight apparatus. This development involved an extensive series of experiments that ultimately had its root in James Watt's own work with pneumatic chemistry. The second reason was that they possessed many resources such as access to capital, their existing network of industrial customers, and their abilities to publicize their work. As with the steam engine, the firm proved adept at advertising. Boulton & Watt did not give their full attention to gaslight except in two spurts between 1805 and 1809, and by around 1812 they had lost almost all interest in the technology. By this time, however, they had solved many problems associated with scaling up gaslight apparatus for industrial use, they had trained many people who would go on to do further important work in the early years of the industry, and they had drawn extensive public attention to the new invention. Finally, their advertising involved elevating the status of William Murdoch as an inventor while minimizing the role of the firm.

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10 Lindqvist, Svante, ‘Labs in the woods: the quantification of technology during the Enlightenment’, in Frangsmyr, Tore, Heilbron, J.L. and Rider, Robin E. (eds.), The Quantifying Spirit in the Eighteenth Century, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990, pp. 291315, 313. Cardwell, Donald, Turning Points in Western Technology: A Study of Technology, Science and History, New York: Science History Publications, 1972, pp. 111112. See also O'Brien, Patrick, Griffiths, Trevor and Hunt, Philip, ‘Technological change during the first Industrial Revolution: the paradigm case of textiles, 1688–1851’, in Fox, Robert (ed.), Technological Change: Methods and Themes in the History of Technology, Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 1996, pp. 155176, 171 ff. Inkster, Ian, Science and Technology in History: An Approach to Industrial Development, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991, pp. 39 ff., argues for an acceleration from 1780 in technological development based on science. Idem, ‘Technology in history: case studies and concepts, circa 1700–2000’, in Roddam Narasimha, Jagannathan Srinivasan and S.K. Biswas (eds.), The Dynamics of Technology: Creation and Diffusion of Skills and Knowledge, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003, pp. 21–83, 30. Bruland, Kristine and Mowery, David C., ‘Innovation through time’, in Fagerberg, Jan, Mowery, David C. and Nelson, Richard R. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Innovation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 349379.

11 Mokyr, Joel, ‘Entrepreneurship and the Industrial Revolution in Britain’, in Landes, David S., Mokyr, Joel and Baumol, William J. (eds.), The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 183243, 192.

12 Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy, op. cit. (3), p. 347. Stewart, Larry, ‘Experimental spaces and the knowledge economy’, History of Science (2007) 45, pp. 155177.

13 Morus, Iwan Rhys, ‘The electric ariel: telegraphy and commercial culture in early Victorian England’, Victorian Studies (1996) 39, pp. 339378. Idem, Frankenstein's Children: Electricity, Exhibition, and Experiment in Early Nineteenth-Century London, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998. Marsden, Ben and Smith, Crosbie, Engineering Empires: A Cultural History of Technology in Nineteenth-Century Britain, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, p. 56.

14 Miller, David Philip, ‘“Puffing Jamie”: the commercial and ideological importance of being a “philosopher” in the case of the reputation of James Watt (1736–1819)’, History of Science (2000) 38, pp. 124. MacLeod, Christine, Heroes of Invention: Technology, Liberalism and British Identity, 1750–1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

15 Chandler, Dean and Lacey, A. Douglas, The Rise of the Gas Industry in Britain, London: British Gas Council, 1949, Chapter 3. Elton, Arthur, ‘Gas for light and heat’, in Singer, Charleset al. (eds.), A History of Technology, vol. 4: The Industrial Revolution c.1750 to c.1850, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958, pp. 262268. Griffiths, John Charles, The Third Man: The Life and Times of William Murdoch, 1754–1839, the Inventor of Gas Lighting, London: A. Deutsch, 1992. Clow, Archibald and Clow, Nan L., The Chemical Revolution: A Contribution to Social Technology, Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1952.

16 Falkus, Malcolm E., ‘The early development of the British gas industry, 1790–1815’, Economic History Review (1982) 35, pp. 217234, 233.

17 Tomory, Leslie, ‘Building the first gas network, 1812–1820’, Technology and Culture (2011) 52, pp. 75102.

18 On Watt see Hills, op. cit. (7).

19 Robinson, Eric, ‘Training captains of industry: the education of Matthew Robinson Boulton [1770–1842] and the Younger James Watt [1769–1848]’, Annals of Science (1954) 10, pp. 301313. Jones, Peter M., ‘Living the Enlightenment and the French Revolution: James Watt, Matthew Boulton, and their sons’, Historical Journal (1999) 42, pp. 157182.

20 Jennifer Tann, ‘Watt, James (1736–1819)’, and ‘Boulton, Matthew (1728–1809)’, in H.C.G. Matthew, Brian Harrison and Lawrence Goldman (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004 (hereafter ODNB). Dickinson, H.W., Matthew Boulton, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937, pp. 169170. There were in fact even more companies. See Dickinson, p. 209.

21 The Soho Manufactory and Soho Foundry were both involved in receiving orders for gas plants. The orders seem to go first to the Manufactory (Boulton & Watt), which then ordered parts from the Foundry (Boulton, Watt & Co.) See Manufactory order book MS 3147/4/105 and 106, and the Foundry order book MS 3147/4/115 and 116, both held in the Boulton & Watt Archives (hereafter BWA) in the Birmingham Central Library. Much of the Boulton and Watt archives was consulted on the microfilm edition produced by Adam Matthew, publishers.

22 For more general details see Tann, opera cit. (20). Eric H. Robinson, ‘Watt, James (1769–1848)’, in ODNB. Dickinson, op. cit. (20). Idem, James Watt, Craftsman & Engineer, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936. Jones, Peter M., Industrial Enlightenment: Science, Technology and Culture in Birmingham and the West Midlands, 1760–1820, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008, pp. 48 ff., esp. 54. Miller, David Philip, Discovering Water: James Watt, Henry Cavendish, and the Nineteenth Century ‘Water Controversy’, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 8389. Marsden and Smith, op. cit. (13), pp. 45–65.

23 Paolo Brenni, ‘Volta's electric lighter and its improvements: the birth, life and death of a peculiar scientific apparatus which became the first electric household appliance’, in Marco Beretta, Paolo Galluzzi and Carlo Triarico (eds.), Musa Musaei: Studies on Scientific Instruments and Collections in Honour of Mara Miniati, Florence: L.S. Olschki, 2003, pp. 371–394.

24 See, for example, Adams, George, An Essay on Electricity: In Which the Theory and Practice of That Useful Science, Are Illustrated by a Variety of Experiments, Arranged in a Methodical Manner. To Which Is Added, an Essay on Magnetism, London: Printed for and sold by the author, at Tycho Brahe's Head … 1784, pp. 286–268. Johann Georg Krünitz, ‘Lampe’, in Johann Georg Krünitz (ed.), Oekonomische–technologische Encyclopädie; oder, allgemeines System der Land-, Haus-, und Staats-Wirthschaft, in alphabetischer Ordnung; aus dem Französischen übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen und Zusätzen verhmehrt, auch nöthigen versehen, vol. 59, Berlin: J. Pauli, 1793; and Ehrmann, Friedrich Ludwig, Description et usage de quelques lampes à air inflammable, Strasbourg: J.H. Heitz, 1780, among many other sources.

25 Parascandola, John and Ihde, Aaron J., ‘History of the pneumatic trough’, Isis (1969) 60, pp. 351361.

26 Tomory, Leslie, ‘Gaslight, distillation, and the Industrial Revolution’, History of Science (2011) 49, pp. 395424.

27 Griffiths, op. cit. (15), p. 268.

28 Sinclair, John, Appendix to the General Report of the Agricultural State and Political Circumstances of Scotland, Edinburgh: Sold by A. Constable, 1814, p. 305. Falkus, op. cit. (16), p. 230.

29 Gregory Watt to James Watt junior, 8 November 1801, BWA James Watt Papers (hereafter JWP) C2/10.

30 See Creighton, Henry, ‘Gas-Lights’, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, or A dictionary of arts, sciences and miscellaneous literature. Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editions, Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1824, p. 449. Coal gives off 330–360 cubic feet of gas per hundredweight, or three cubic feet per pound (0.187 m3/kg). A single candle-brightness lamp consumed about 0.35–0.45 cubic feet of gas per hour (0.0099–0.0127 m3/hour).

31 Beddoes, Thomas and Watt, James, Considerations on the Medicinal Use, and on the Production of Factitious Airs, Bristol: Printed by Bulgin and Rosser for J. Johnson, London, 1795, part 2, pp. 2735.

32 Cartwright, op. cit. (8). Jay, op. cit. (8). Stansfield and Stansfield, op. cit. (8).

33 Tomory, op. cit. (9).

34 Miller, op. cit. (22), p. 50.

35 Stewart, op. cit. (12), p. 160. See also Jacob and Stewart, op. cit. (4), pp. 104–107.

36 Musson, A.E. and Robinson, Eric, Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969. Rupert Hall, A., ‘What did the Industrial Revolution in Britain owe to science?’, in McKendrick, Neil (ed.), Historical Perspectives: Studies in English Thought and Society, in Honour of J.H. Plumb, London: Europa, 1974, pp. 129151, 145 ff. Mokyr, op. cit. (4), p. 38. Jacob, Margaret C., ‘Mechanical science on the factory floor: the early Industrial Revolution in Leeds’, History of Science (2007) 45, pp. 197221. Jacob and Stewart, op. cit. (4), Chapter 4.

37 Letter from James Watt to David Brewster, May 1814, cited in ‘History of the origin of Mr Watt's improvements on the steam-engine. Contained in a letter from the late James Watt, LL.D. F. R. S. &c. &c. to Dr Brewster’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1820) 2, pp. 1–7, 6.

38 Hills, Richard Leslie, Power from Steam: A History of the Stationary Steam Engine, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 6669.

39 Clegg, Samuel, A Practical Treatise on the Manufacture and Distribution of Coal-Gas: Its Introduction and Progressive Improvement, Illustrated by Engravings from Working Drawings, with General Estimates, London: J. Weale, 1841, p. 6.

40 J.J. Mason, ‘Lee, George Augustus (1761–1826)’, in ODNB.

41 Philips & Lee to Boulton & Watt (hereafter B&W) 19 July 1803, BWA MS 3147/5/804.

42 Matthews, William, An Historical Sketch of the Origin, Progress, & Present State of Gas-Lighting, London: R. Hunter, 1827, p. 51. Lee testimony on 12 May 1809 in Hall, James, ‘Select Committee on Gas-Light and Coke Company's Bill to Incorporate Persons for Procuring Coke, Oil, Tar, Pitch, Ammoniacal Liquor and Inflammable Air from Coal: Minutes of Evidence’, in House of Commons Papers: Reports of Committees. III.315. (1809), p. 38.

43 George Augustus Lee to James Watt junior, 27 March 1805, BWA Muirhead IV, (hereafter MIV), /L6.

44 Wood, Daintry & Wood, 28 July 1805, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #46.

45 Murdoch to B&W, 1 January 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/289 #18.

46 James Watt junior to Southern, 1 March 1806, MS 3147/3/60 #9.

47 Watt junior mentions the two letters in James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 12 March 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #8.

48 Southern to James Watt junior, 9 March 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/479 #2.

49 Clegg, op. cit. (39), p. 70.

50 Henry Creighton to B&W, 25 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #43 Answer #1, 2, 10, 20. See also Lee's testimony, 12 May 1809, P.P. ‘Select Committee on Gas-Light’, 44; and Watt junior, 13 May 1809, p. 53.

51 George Augustus Lee to B&W, 28 December 1807, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #40b.

52 Henry Creighton to B&W, 25 January 1808, BWA-MS-3147/3/247 #43, #6 and 7.

53 George Augustus Lee to B&W, 28 December 1807, BWA-MS-3147/3/247 #40b. George Augustus Lee to James Watt junior, 20 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #18.

54 James Kennedy: Gasometer pit, Moveable water traps, Retort section, 17 October 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/817/2, 4 and 6, 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/817/10. Birley: Retort and gasometer pit, 19 September 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/817/5; Birley: Gasometer, 3 October 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/817/2, 9; 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/817/1, 9. McConnel & Kennedy: Gasometer suspending apparatus, 28 September 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/821/12; Gasometer suspending apparatus, 5 October 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/821/10.

55 Jay, op. cit. (8).

56 Jones, op. cit. (22). Mason, Shena, Matthew Boulton: Selling What All the World Desires, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

57 Marsden and Smith, op. cit. (13), pp. 57–60. See also Tann, Jennifer, ‘Marketing methods in the international steam engine market: the case of Boulton and Watt’, Journal of Economic History (1978) 38, pp. 363391. On the rotative engine see Hills, op. cit. (38).

58 Jacob and Stewart, op. cit. (4), pp. 100–101. Larry Stewart, ‘Measure for measure: projectors and the manufacture of Enlightenment, 1770–1820’, in Maximilian E. Novak (ed.), The Age of Projects, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008, pp. 370–389, 375–379. Stewart, op. cit. (12), p. 170.

59 Hills, R.L. and Pacey, A.J., ‘The measurement of power in early steam-driven textile mills’, Technology and Culture (1972) 13, pp. 2543.

60 Morus, ‘The electric ariel’, op. cit. (13), pp. 342 ff. See also idem, Frankenstein's Children, op. cit. (13), pp. 1–5, 155 ff. On Watt's display of the steam engine see Marsden and Smith, op. cit. (13), p. 57.

61 Matthew Robinson Boulton to James Watt junior, 14 January 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/42 #16.

62 Morus, Iwan Rhys, ‘Manufacturing nature: science, technology and Victorian consumer culture’, BJHS (1996) 29, pp. 403434, 417 ff.

63 James Watt junior to John Southern, 1 March 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/60 #9. Murdoch to B&W, 5 February 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/289 #19.

64 Murdoch to B&W, 7 February 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/289 #20.

65 See Morus, ‘The electric ariel’, op. cit. (13).

66 Morus, op. cit. (62), pp. 423–425.

67 James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 18 February 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #2.

68 James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 21 February 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #3.

69 James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 26 February 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #4; Greg & Ewart, Radcliffe & Ross, James Kennedy, A & G Murray, Atkinson.

70 James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 26 February 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #4.

71 James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 26 February 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #4.

72 James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 3 March 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #5. J. Douglas & Co. (Holywell): James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 8 March 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #7. Daintry & Co.: James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 12 March 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/55 #8. See also James Watt junior notebook, BWA MS 3147/4/5, which has sizing calculations from late February and early March 1806 for Oldham, Birley & Marsland, James Kennedy, Greg & Ewart, McConnel & Kennedy, Pooley, Wood & Daintry, Douglas (Pendleton and Holywell), Garside & Butterfield, Horrocks, Strutt, Peel, Wormald & Gott (several mills) and Radcliffe & Ross, and a few illegible ones.

73 Matthew Robinson Boulton to James Watt junior, 9 March 1806, BWA MIV/B6.

74 Matthews, op. cit. (42), pp. 40–44. See, for example, drawings for movable water traps, 11 October 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/817/4, which were sent to Pemberton for manufacturing. See also John Murdoch to James Watt junior, 9 December 1811, BWA MS 3147/3/288 #4. See 4 and 18 December 1812, Gas Light and Coke Company Minutes of the Court of Directors Book 1 (hereafter GLCC MCD), pp. 51 and 77: London Metropolitan Archives B/GLCC/1/1.

75 GLCC MCD 9 February 1813, p. 77, 9 April 1813, p. 113.

76 Torrens, Hugh, ‘Jonathan Hornblower (1753–1815) and the steam engine: a historiographic analysis’, in Smith, Denis (ed.), Perceptions of Great Engineers: Fact and Fantasy, London: Science Museum, 1994, pp. 2334. Tann, Jennifer, ‘Mr Hornblower and his crew: Watt engine pirates at the end of the 18th Century’, Transactions of the Newcomen Society (1979) 51, pp. 95109. Musson, A.E. and Robinson, E., ‘The early growth of steam power’, Economic History Review (1959) 11, pp. 418439.

77 Matthew Robinson Boulton to James Watt junior, 9 March 1806, BWA MIV/B6.

78 These were Wormald, Gott, & Wormald (Leeds), Watson Ainsworth & Co. (Preston), and S. Horrocks (Preston). James Watt junior to James Watt, 19 March 1806, BWA MII/13/1. The firm of William Strutt & Co. (Derby) also placed in order at this time. See drawing dated 26 April 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #34.

79 James Watt junior to James Watt, 19 March 1806, BWA MII/13/1.

80 Henry Creighton to B&W, 25 March 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #7.

81 Eidingtoun Hutton to B&W, 12 July 1806, BWA MS 3147/3/264 #27.

82 Henry Creighton to William Creighton, 15 July 1806, cited in Tann, Jennifer, ‘Two knights at pandemonium: a worm's eye view of Boulton, Watt & Co., c.1800–1820’, History of Technology (1998) 20, pp. 4772, 66.

83 Drawing for Joyce Cooper (Staverton), 2 May 1807, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #6.

84 March 1806, James Watt junior notebook, BWA MS 3147/4/5 p. 18, 49–50; James Kennedy (Manchester), 14 May 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #8.

85 BWA MS 3147/3/539 #38.

86 William Balston to B&W, 23 January 1807, BWA MS 3147/3/42 #24.

87 James Watt junior to Lee, 4 May 1807, BWA JWP 6/62 p. 148.

88 Winsor, Frederick Albert, To Be Sanctioned by Act of Parliament. A National Light and Heat Company, for Providing Our Streets and Houses with Hydrocarbonic Gas-Lights, on Similar Principles, as They Are Now Supplied with Water, Four Tables of Calculation, Founded on Official Experiments, Prove the Immense National Profits and Increase of Revenue by the Adoption of This Plan, Which Is to Be Had at the National Light & Heat Company's Office, No.97, Pall Mall, new edn, London: Printed for F.A. Winsor, the patentee, by Watts & Bridgewater, 1807.

89 Ambrose Weston to James Watt junior, 26 April 1807, BWA MIV/W11.

90 James Watt junior to Lee, 4 May 1807, BWA JWP 6/62 p. 148.

91 Berman, Morris, Social Change and Scientific Organization: The Royal Institution, 1799–1844, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978, pp. 820. David M. Knight, ‘Thompson, Sir Benjamin, Count Rumford in the Nobility of the Holy Roman Empire (1753–1814)’, in ODNB. Quote from terms Rumford attached to the medal, as cited in Bektas, M. Yakup and Crosland, Maurice, ‘The Copley Medal: the establishment of a reward system in the Royal Society, 1731–1839’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London (1992) 46, pp. 4376, 48.

92 Miller, op. cit. (22).

93 Miller, op. cit. (22), p. 8.

94 Miller, op. cit. (22), p. 6. Idem, ‘Watt in court: specifying steam engines and classifying engineers in the patent trials of the 1790s’, History of Technology (2006) 27, pp. 43–76.

95 Miller, David Philip, ‘The usefulness of natural philosophy: the Royal Society of London and the culture of practical utility in the later eighteenth century’, BJHS (1999) 32, pp. 185201. For a later period see Morus, op. cit. (62), pp. 417 ff.

96 Murdoch, William, ‘An account of the application of the gas from coal to economical purposes’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1808) 98, pp. 124132, 124.

97 MacLeod, op. cit. (14), pp. 74–75, 80–84, 97–99. For a description of the rhetoric used in the battle with Winsor, see Simon Werrett, ‘From the grand whim to the Gasworks: “Philosophical Fireworks” in Georgian England’, in Lissa Roberts, Simon Schaffer and Peter Dear (eds.), The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation, Amsterdam: Edita, 2007, pp. 325–346.

98 Memorandum respecting Mr Lee's Photogenous Apparatus, 2 June 1807, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #16.

99 James Watt junior to James Watt, 4 June 1807, BWA MII/13/1.

100 James Watt to James Watt junior, 9 June 1807, BWA MIV Box 16/15.

101 Henry Creighton to B&W, 25 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #43 p. 3. ‘Experiments on the new light’, January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/479 #11. These are press copies of notes taken during the experiments. They are almost completely illegible.

102 Henry Creighton to B&W, 28 December 1807, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #40a.

103 This is derived from 1.26 cubic feet for 3.5 candles (1805), and 1.5 cubic feet for three candles (1806).

104 George Augustus Lee to B&W, 28 December 1807, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #40b.

105 James Watt junior to Henry Creighton, 19 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #17.

106 ‘Memorandum respecting Mr Lee's Photogenous Apparatus’, 2 June 1807, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #16. Creighton's new figures are in Henry Creighton to B&W, 25 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #18 pp. 4–5.

107 Memorandum respecting Mr Lee's Photogenous Apparatus, 19 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #18. This letter gives 629 cockspur and 275 Argand, but Creighton corrects himself in Henry Creighton to B&W, 25 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #18. pp. 4–5. The correct values were used in Murdoch's 1808 Royal Society paper.

108 James Watt junior to George Augustus Lee, 23 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #17.

109 James Watt junior to Henry Creighton, 27 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #18.

110 Henry Creighton to B&W, 29 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #44, also mentioned in BWA MS 3147/3/478 #18. George Augustus Lee to James Watt junior, 4 February 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #18.

111 Murdoch, op. cit. (96), p. 128.

112 Murdoch, op. cit. (96), p. 126.

113 Edwards, John Richard, A History of Financial Accounting, London: Routledge, 1989, pp. 8385.

114 Griffiths, op. cit. (15), pp. 224–249 for summary of what Wilson found. Thomas Wilson to B&W, 27 and 29 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/363 #10 and 11.

115 Draft of Royal Society paper, 22 February 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/480 #24.

116 James Watt junior to James Watt, 26 February 1808, BWA Muirhead II, hereafter MII/13/2.

117 Griffiths, op. cit. (15), p. 261. Matthew Robinson Boulton to Joseph Banks, 26 December 1808, BWA Lunar Society #149; James Watt junior to Joseph Banks[?], 18 January 1809, BWA JWP 6/65 p. 288.

118 The publications are: Annual Review and History of Literature, for 1808, 7, p. 703; Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1808, p. 131; The Athenaeum (April 1808), 3(16), p. 372 and (August 1808) 4(20), pp. 153–155; Belfast Monthly Magazine (December 1808), 1(4), pp. 280–281; British Critic: A New Review (March 1809), 33, p. 258; Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature (January 1809) 16(1), p. 33; Eclectic Review (May 1809) 5(1), p. 443; Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts (October 1808) 21(92), p. 94; Literary Panorama (September 1808) 4, pp. 1157–1160; Monthly Magazine (1 January 1809) 26, p. 546; New Annual Register, or General Repository … for the year 1808 (1809), p. 250; Philosophical Magazine (December 1808) 32(127), p. 113; Repertory of Patent Inventions (September 1808) 2nd series, 13(76), p. 262; Retrospect of philosophical, Mechanical, Chemical, and Agricultural Discoveries (1809) 4, p. 198; Universal Magazine (1808) 10, p. 58; Scots Magazine and Edinburgh Literary Miscellany (1808) 70(2), pp. 819–823.

119 Werrett, op. cit. (97).

120 ‘An account of the application of gas from coal to economical purposes, by Mr Wm. Murdoch’, The Athenaeum, a Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information (1808) 4(20), pp. 153–155, 154.

121 Henry Creighton to B&W, 10 January 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #41.

122 Henry Creighton to B&W, 23 February 1809, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #66. Lighting apparatuses per agreement 30 Sep 1809 to 30 Sep 1810, BWA MII/7/4: addition 1809 December 30 for £93; Bill for three retorts 1810 August 11, BWA MS 3147/5/817/14; Lighting apparatuses per agreement 30 Sep 1809 to 30 Sep 1810, BWA MII/7/4: two retorts 17 August 1810 for £25.17, retort and additional apparatus 18 September 1810 for £61.2.

123 Henry Creighton to B&W, 10 and 14 February 1809, BWA MS 3147/3/247 #64 and #65. Matthew Robinson Boulton to James Watt junior, 21 November 1808, BWA MIV/B6. James Watt junior to John Southern, 9 December 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/60 #15. Retorts 16 December 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/813/9; Gasometer and plans, 20 December 1808, BWA MS 3147/5/812/1 and 6; Plan of Burley Mill, 21 December 1808, BWA MS 3147/3/478 #48.

124 See Falkus, op. cit. (16), p. 224, for a summary.

125 Ground plans, 15 March 1815, BWA MS 3147/5/808/2 and 3.

126 Henry Creighton to William Creighton, 2 December 1815, cited in Tann, op. cit. (82), p. 67.

127 James Watt junior to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 20 April 1809, BWA Lunar Society #118.

128 George Augustus Lee to James Watt junior, 7 December 1808, BWA MIV/L6.

129 George Augustus Lee to James Watt junior, 7 December 1808, BWA MIV/L6.

130 ‘Specification of the Patent Granted to Edward Heard, of London, Chemist, for a Discovery of Certain Means of Obtaining Inflammable Gas from Pit-Coal in Such a State That It May Be Burned Without Producing Any Offensive Smell’, Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture (1807) 2nd series 10(56), pp. 31–32. ‘Mr Edward Heard's Discovery’, Monthly Magazine, or, British Register (1807) 23(1), 67.

131 Clegg, op. cit. (39), p. 13, claimed they never used it, but he is partial to his father. Matthews, op. cit. (42), p. 25, claims Boulton & Watt used quicklime at some point, but ‘very imperfectly’. I have found no mention of lime purification in the archives.

132 Stirling Everard, The History of the Gas Light and Coke Company, 1812–1949, London: Benn, 1949. Tomory, op. cit. (17).

133 H. Philip Spratt, ‘The marine steam-engine’, in Singer et al., op. cit. (15). Eric Robinson, ‘Watt, James (1769–1848)’, in ODNB.

134 George Augustus Lee to James Watt junior, 28 October 1813, BWA MIV/L6.

135 Tomory, op. cit. (26).

136 Divall, Colin and Johnston, Sean, Scaling Up: The Institution of Chemical Engineers and the Rise of a New Profession, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000, p. 80. Rosenberg, Nathan, Exploring the Black Box: Technology, Economics, and History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 191200. Rosenberg, Nathan, Landau, Ralph and Mowery, David C., Technology and the Wealth of Nations, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992, pp. 76116.

137 Wright, Thomas, ‘Scale models, similitude and dimensions: aspects of mid-nineteenth-century engineering science’, Annals of Science (1992) 49, pp. 233254.

I would like to thank Janis Langins, Trevor Levere, Bert Hall and Chris Hamlin for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. I would also like to thank Jon Agar and the referees, who have greatly improved this paper.

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