Who invented the steam engine and how was it invented?

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The idea of using boiling water to produce steam for power has been kicked around for nearly 2000 years. The steam engine was perfected during the past 300 years and was a key innovation of the Industrial Revolution.

    The history of the steam engine stretches back as far as the first century AD; the first recorded rudimentary steam engine being the aeolipile described by Hero of Alexandria. In the following centuries, the few engines known about were essentially experimental devices used by inventors to demonstrate the properties of steam, such as the rudimentar steam turbine device described by Taqui al-Din in 1551 and Giovanni Branca in 1629.
    Following the invention by Denis Papin of the steam digester in 1679, and a first piston steam engine in 1690, the first practical steam-powered 'engine' was a water pump, developed in 1698 by Thomas Savery. It proved only to have a limited lift height and was prone to boiler explosions, but it still received some use for mines and pumping stations.
    The first commercially successful engine did not appear until 1712. Incorporating technologies discovered by Savery and Papin, the atmospheric engine, invented by Thomas Newcomen, paved the way for the Industrial Revolution. Newcomen's engine was relatively inefficient, and in most cases was only used for pumping water. It was mainly employed for draining mine workings at depths hitherto impossible, but also for providing a reusable water supply for driving waterwheels at factories sited away from a suitable 'head'.
     The next major step occurred when James Watt developed an improved version of Newcomen's engine. Watt's engine used 75% less coal than Newcomen's, and was hence much cheaper to run. Watt proceeded to develop his engine further, modifying it to provide a rotary motion suitable for driving factory machinery. This enabled factories to be sited away from rivers, and further accelerated the pace of the Industrial Revolution.

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