Glasgow University engineering school to be renamed after James Watt

Credit: Carl Frederik von Breda

Rachel Stamford
News Editor

Exactly 200 years after his death, the University renames school after famed Glasgow inventor

The University of Glasgow commemorated the passing of James Watt by renaming the School of Engineering after him, with the blessing of a staff member who is a direct descendent of the famed engineer and inventor.

200 years to the day after his death, the University will now be home to the James Watt School of Engineering. Debbie Beales, who has worked at the University for 15 years and is a member of the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Unit, recently discovered that her family leads six generations back directly to James Watt.

Watt was an instrument-maker at the University of Glasgow when, in 1765, he made improvements to a Newcome steam engine, adding a separate condenser which made it more efficient and helped to kickstart the industrial revolution. A unit of measurement of electrical and mechanical power – the watt – is named in his honour.

Beales’ cousin recently discovered research on their family tree, which traced their ancestry to Watt.

“While dad passed away a couple of years ago, my gran Jean is still alive and I know that she is as proud as I am of the family’s link to a pioneering figure like Watt and pleased to know that the School of Engineering is marking the 200th anniversary of his death with this renaming,” Beales said in an interview with the University.

The decision to rename the building is the latest in the University’s year-long celebration of the life and work of Watt, which has included an international symposium in June, events during the Glasgow Science Festival and an exhibition in the library which is still ongoing. On display at the exhibition is a 3D-printed scale model of one of Watt’s engines built by members of Jet-X, one of the University’s student engineering societies.  

David Cumming, head of the University’s James Watt School of Engineering, said the school is proud of both their connection to Watt’s improvements to the Newcome steam engine and Beales herself.

“We were also delighted to discover that a living descendent of James Watt has been working alongside us on campus for years, and we’re very happy that Debbie is as proud as we are of the University’s connection to Watt,” said Cumming.


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