World Stamps

Born Feb. 28: Thomas Newcomen

Apr 28, 2021, 3 AM
A 2012 stamp from Royal Mail of Great Britain salutes inventor Thomas Newcomen and his atmospheric steam engine.

By Michael Baadke

In a 2012 press release introducing its new Britons of Distinction set of 10, Great Britain’s Royal Mail described Thomas Newcomen as “the ironmonger from Dartmouth in Devon who changed the history of engineering through the creation of the atmospheric steam engine.”

Newcomen, credited with inventing the steam engine around 1712, was born Feb. 28, 1663. His invention included a refined version of the pump developed and patented some 14 years earlier by Thomas Savery. Newcomen worked with business partner John Calley during the process of developing his steam engine apparatus.

Newcomen’s more efficient engine was fashioned initially for the purpose of draining water in Cornish tin mines. Newcomen and Calley continued to refine and market the new invention with considerable success.

Britain’s first-class stamp honoring the atmospheric steam engine and Thomas Newcomen was issued Feb. 23, 2012 (Scott 3001).