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Book reviews — October 2023

A note from Richard Buchanan

I recently went on a tour organised by Travel Editions based in Birmingham, featuring James Watt.

A book with the above title, priced at ₤25, was prepared to mark the 200th anniversary of his death in 2019. Dr Malcolm Dick of Birmingham University was one of its two editors, and still has some copies of it for sale at ₤10 (+ £2 p&p).

The book has an informative 24-page Introduction, following Watt from Greenock to Glasgow, where he went to the University — not as an undergraduate but as a mathematical instrument maker — and meeting the professors, including Joseph Black, anyway. He seems to have been a typical boffin — and would, in recent times, have got a good physics degree. Eventually he came to Birmingham.

The book continues with 50 one-page descriptions of Things ('things' including people associated with James Watt), each with a full page colour illustration.

The book gives little engineering detail about his inventions, but describes the milieu in which he worked. Boffins need leaders, and in this respect Matthew Boulton was his ideal collaborator.

This was when the Lunar Society flourished — Erasmus Darwin, Matthew Boulton and William Small were early members — they, and other members, all welcomed Watt into their midst, and were quick to understand what he was doing, and to encourage him.

To order the book please send a cheque for ₤12.00 including p&p to Dr Malcolm Dick, 5 Goths Close, Rowley Regis, B65 9RQ. Or request his bank details by email to

© GLIAS, 2023