Friday, 18 March 2011

James Watt's legendary 'magical retreat'

James Watt, inventor of the condensing steam engine that kick-started the industrial revolution, is about to have a new permanent exhibition at the Science Museum in London created in his honour.

When Watt retired in 1800, at the age of 64, he spent much of the next 19 year up in the attic (his 'garret  room') tinkering and working on further inventions. After he died in 1819, it remained untouched for many years, almost like a kind of shrine.

In 1924, when Watt's house was due for demolition, the contents of his garret were presented in their entirety to the Science Museum, which recreated it and put it on display. After a while, that section of the gallery was walled off and neglected. Now the Science Museum has refurbished his 'magical retreat', and is reopening it to the public.

I'm lucky enough to be attending the Press launch of this reopening. There'll be a few interesting characters there, who will be available for interview:
  • Andrew Nahum and Ben Russell, curators, Science Museum
  • Adam Hart-Davis
  • Mary Anne Galton – a drama character from the James Watt period who can talk about her role in bringing the workshop alive for a family audience.
So, if you have any burning questions related to the life and time of one of the Industrial revolution's towering genius, let me know in the comments below. I'll see if I can get them answered!

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