Industrial Revolution

From machines to mass production, the Industrial Revolution was a time of great change. Many industries, such as the automobile industry, boomed during this time.

Adam Smith
Hero of Alexandria
Thomas Savery
Heavy machinery and technology
Benjamin Huntsman
Assembly line technique

Beginning of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was a time of great change for all of the world, not just for entrepreneurs. This era first began with the invention of the steam engine. With this revolution came the idea of mass production, which changed the game for entrepreneurs. Despite some of the more negative aspects of the Industrial Revolution, it marked the birth of our economy as we know it, and without it, much of what we now think of as entrepreneurship would never have existed.


In the mid-18th century, Adam Smith led a group of economists who challenged the ideas of mercantilism. These ideas hugely influenced the emergence of industrial capitalism in Britain and many other countries. Merchants were replaced by industrialists during the revolution and items that were previously made by hand were now made by machines. One of the negative effects of this was that fewer workers were needed, but there was more room for innovation and new ideas.

The Hero of steam

Even though the first working steam engine wasn’t invented until the time of the Industrial Revolution, it was the technology developed in Ancient Greece that fueled the revolution.

Hero of Alexandria, also called Hero, was a mathematician and inventor who created the first steam turbine in the 1st century CE. Hero was known for describing the design of this engine, known as the aeolipile, which used steam to heat the turbine, causing it to spin.


The introduction of steam power was significant because, before its discovery, humans had to rely on animals, water, and their own strength. But using water as a source of energy was limiting since it meant factories had to be located near a body of water.

The power Hero discovered wasn’t actually put to productive use until the 17th century with the development of the first steam engines. Still, we owe a lot to Hero – his groundbreaking ideas came to shape the world thousands of years after his death.

Tales of Thomas and the steam engine

Several engineers and inventors worked with steam power from Ancient Greece to the 17th century. But the credit for the invention and production of the steam engine goes to two Englishmen, both of them named Thomas.


In 1698, an engineer and inventor named Thomas Savery used the ideas and principles of those who came before him to develop a working steam engine. At the time, this steam engine was used to pump water out of mines. His engine, though effective, was only effective in pumping water from shallow depths. Here’s where the second Thomas comes in.

Thomas Newcomen, another Englishman, was able to develop a more powerful steam engine that was able remove water from deeper mines. Much like Savery’s engine, Newcomen’s engine had flaws of its own. But it was Newcomen’s engine that was used for the next fifty years without any real competition.

James Watt and his improvements on the steam engine

James Watt, a Scottish inventor and engineer, was the first person in fifty years to successfully improve the model of Newcomen’s engine. In 1776, he developed the Watt steam engine, improving upon the flaws of the previous model.

James Watt realized that Newcomen’s model was inefficient and was consuming a large amount of steam. In order to improve upon it and make it more efficient, he remodeled the design of the steam cylinder.


In 1776, Watt developed a partnership with Matthew Boulton, who was willing to financially back Watt’s project. But the agreement was mutually beneficial for the pair, as Boulton wanted to use the steam engine for more than just clearing out mines.

Like most entrepreneurs, both Watt and Boulton were moved forward by a vision. In Boulton’s case, his vision was that of a world powered by steam. It was the innovation of steam power that led to mass production and pushed the Industrial Revolution forward.

Mass production

The Industrial Revolution occurred around 1750, and mass production was a big part of it. Without the ability to mass produce, we wouldn’t have most of the convenience items we have today. You wouldn’t be able to simply order something online and have it arrive at your door two days later.

Mass production, and all of the developments that came along with it, were due to heavy machinery and technology. It was these developments, such as the perfection of steam power from James Watt, that allowed the process of mass production to occur.

Prior to water power, steam power, and coal power, most labor was done by hand. Specialization also played a part in mass production. Instead of having the whole product produced by one skilled worker, specialization sped up labor by having skilled workers complete individual parts of production.

Steel production

The Industrial Revolution wasn’t the first time steel was produced, but there were major improvements as far as how steel was developed. Benjamin Huntsman, an English inventor, contributed to this process.


Huntsman was known for experimenting in steel manufacturing. Originally a clock and instrument maker, he opened a plant to produce his own steel in the 1740s. After many experiments, he was able to successfully make cast steel in clay pot crucibles. At first, the local manufacturers refused to purchase his cast steel because they believed it was too hard. But like any person with an entrepreneurial spirit, this didn’t deter him from selling his product, so he shipped it out to France.

Before the 19th century, steel was expensive, and was used mainly for tools and cutlery. When Sheffield cutlers realized the cutlery made with Huntsman’s steel was superior, they had no choice but to use it to keep their business afloat.

Henry Ford: automobiles

Today, Henry Ford is known by his last name – Ford. He was the creator of the Ford Motor Company and became incredibly wealthy after developing the first automobile that average Americans could afford.


But Henry Ford didn’t just play a part in the Industrial Revolution by creating an affordable automobile. He was also the developer of the assembly line technique of mass production. If it weren’t for mass production, products wouldn’t be as widely available as they are today.

The assembly line technique was a method of work where parts of something being manufactured were added as the product moved from workstation to workstation. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most products were made by hand. But mass production and techniques such as the assembly line technique made production faster and more efficient. This technique became common for putting together things such as automobiles.

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