SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Demonstration by Oliver Evans of the explosive power of steam produced by boiling water in a stoppered gun barrel heated in the blacksmith's forge. The stopper is ejected with a loud report like a firecracker. Oliver Evans (1755-1819), the American inventor and engineer, had been greatly impressed by this when he was 17 years old and foresaw the application of high-pressure steam to a revolutionary design of steam engine. At that time, low-pressure steam engines prevailed as many thought high pressure too dangerous. Though a wheelwright, he had shown inventive genius and had obtained a patent for a steam carriage in 1797. In 1803-4 he built two successful steam engines. These, with Trevithick's engine built at the same time, were the first high-pressure engines. He built the first fully automated flour mill and invented a machine for making card teeth for carding wool.
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