Lecture or talk Adults

Inventive Energy: The Cultural Significance of James Watt (1736-1819)

  • Tuesday 27 August, 12:45-1:15pm


James Watt (1736 - 1819) is renowned for the technical enhancement of steam engines that led to subsequent exploitation of steam power in industrial economies. Watt became a ‘hero of invention’ of great cultural significance in Scotland and Great Britain. But apart from his stature in engineering, Watt, a member of the famous ‘Lunar Society’ of Birmingham, was a man of inventive energy in experiment and observation who also invested time and artistry to some of the earliest examples of technical presentation drawings; he invented and used multiple drawing aids and experimented constantly with methods of visual communication and artistic reproduction.

In this talk Dr Frances Robertson (Glasgow School of Art) will examine Watt’s cultural significance and relevance in the context of Glasgow and late 18th and early 19th century engineering. Part of the James Watt 2019 Bicentenary programme.

Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey James Watt, 1736-1819. Engineer, inventor of the steam engine About 1815

Gallery facilities

A full accessibility guide is available at www.accessibilityguides.org.

We provide a sensory map of the building to help visitors identify areas with changes in light, smells and noise. It locates seating areas and less crowded, quieter spaces. Printed copies are available from the front desk at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

  • Information desk
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Hearing loop
  • Accessible toilets
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Public toilets
  • Lockers (£1/£2)
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Buggy park
  • Seating throughout
  • Bike rack

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Located in the city centre on Queen Street, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is easy to access.

  • Open daily, 10am-5pm
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD

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