A Coffee from the January 2,000 Deep Cove Crier
Short and Sweet:
Tips for living the abundant life
Calling All Engineers….James Watt the pioneer engineer was a creative genius who radically transformed the world from an agricultural society into an industrial one. Through Watt’s invention of the first practical steam engine, our modern world eventually moved from a 90% rural basis to a 90% urban basis. Everywhere in our world today, countless engines, many of them micro-computerized, power us. Engines have played a big role in my family’s history. My maternal Grandpa Allen was a CPR Railway Engineer who was ‘bumped’ during the depression into shoveling coal into massive steam-driven engines. My paternal Grandpa Hird was a master mechanic and blacksmith who invented and raced one of the first jet-engine snowmobiles along the Edmonton River. In high school, I took numerous electronics courses in which I learned how to create an electronic mosquito-repellent engine and a voice-activated light switch. From Grade 3 to Grade 10, my fascination with electronic engines led me to want to become an electrical engineer, like my father. You can imagine the surprise of some of my family when their future engineer became a social worker and Anglican priest. My master-mechanic grandfather was not too impressed about Social Work, and proceeded to suggest that I should get a haircut and become a dentist!
James Watt, through the creation of the first practical steam engine, became the first modern-day engineer. The terms ‘engine’ and ‘engineer’ come from the Latin word ‘ingenium’, from which we get the words ‘ingenuity’ and ‘ingenious’. James Watt, by that definition, was a truly ingenious engineer who never let impossible obstacles hold him back. Born in 1736 at Greenock Scotland, James was a sickly child whose migraines and dreadful toothaches forced his parents to home-school him. Of the five children in James’ family, only James didn’t die at a young age. At age 11, James entered public school, and immediately became the daily target of vicious bullies, preying on his shyness and social ineptness. His teachers wrote him off as unintelligent.
Due to his aptitude at repairing his father’s navigation aids, James decided that he would become a maker of scientific instruments. James went first to Glasgow and then London in his search for proper training, but was blocked by the Guild of ‘The Worshipful Company of Clock-makers’ who had a stranglehold on apprenticing. Being a 20-year-old Scot, the Clockmakers saw James as too old to begin the required 7-year apprenticeship. As well, it was strictly forbidden for foreigners, which meant non-Londoners, to be trained as apprentices! Fortunately James found a renegade brassworker, John Morgan, who was willing to bend the rules and train him in just one year. James learned very quickly, but the overwork and near-starvation brought about a complete physical breakdown. Returning to Scotland, James regained his health quickly and attempted to set himself up as an instrument-maker in Glasgow. Because James was not a Glasgow native, the local Hammerman Guild did their best to drive him out. Fortunately for all of us who use engines, the Glasgow University gave him diplomatic immunity by declaring James the ‘Mathematical Instrument Maker to the University’.
Why is it that the world owes so much to this long-suffering ingenious engineer? Click to find out more….
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St. Simon's Anglican Church
North Vancouver, B.C.