Thomas Newcomen was born in Devon, England in 1663. As a young man, Newcomen worked as an ironmonger in Devon. Newcomen produced items for Cornish tin mine owners who often complained that they were struggling to deal with flooding in their mines. Traditional methods of removing water from the mines were slow, and hard work. Newcomen realized that he could help the tin mine owners. He developed a pump engine that used a piston in a cylinder; it was the first of its kind. As such, Newcomen is often remembered today as the inventor of the steam engine, which revolutionized life for people during the Industrial Revolution. Newcomen went into partnership with Thomas Savery, who had developed the vacuum pump which Newcomen had based his piston pump engine on. The partnership ensured that Newcomen did not infringe on Savery’s patent.
Following the partnership, Newcomen was able to work freely. The first piston pump engine was installed in the coal mine at Dudley Castle. The pump was able to raise 10 gallons of water from a mine that was over 156 feet deep much faster than men had ever been able to. Although the engine was reliable and was able to work 24 hours a day, it was inefficient. Despite this, the Newcomen engine was used across England and helped during the industrial revolution by helping mines to continue functioning without getting flooded. By 1729, the year that Newcomen died, there were over 100 Newcomen engines in mines across Britain and Europe. Later, James Watt famously improved upon Newcomen's original design and the steam engine became a fixture for life during the Industrial Revolution.