James Watt and the Bubbling Kettle

Take a look around the room. What do you see? Did you ever think that something you see might lead to an invention that would change the world? That's what happened to young James Watt.

In the mid 1700s, 12-year-old James sat in the kitchen with his aunt, staring at a teakettle. The water was boiling so hard that the lid of the teakettle began to jump up and down. For over an hour, James stared at the teakettle. His aunt told him he was wasting time, but James was too fascinated with the teakettle to stop. When he held the lid down tightly, the powerful steam escaped from the kettle's spout. Removing his hand from the lid made it bounce again.

As he watched the kettle, James learned about the power of steam. Later, James put that experience to good use. He invented a way to get even more power from the steam engine, without burning any more fuel. James Watt's improvements on the steam engine made it a more powerful tool.

The next time you see something interesting, remember young James and the bubbling kettle.


  1. By what process is thermal energy transferred inside of a teakettle?
  2. What are the particles of matter in steam?
  3. Where would you find radiant energy produced by a boiling teakettle?
  4. James Watts noticed that the lid of the teakettle was bouncing around on the top of the teakettle. Was the boiling water or the steam moving the lid?
  5. Why do you think steam has been used to power engines? Write a sentence or two for your answer.