William Murdoch (scientist)

William Murdoch (1754 - 1839) was born at Bello Mill, Lugar. Educated at Cumnock school he assisted his father in the millwright business before moving on to work for James Watt and Mathew Boulton at the Soho foundry near Birmingham.

Murdoch had always been interested in vehicular propulsion by steam. The first prototype engine was built by him in 1784 and tested on a country lane but his firm never pursued the project. However, Murdoch could accurately claim to be the first in Britain to construct and use a steam road vehicle.

The steam car was one of Murdoch's many inventions involving steam propulsion but the most famous was yet to come. William Murdoch was the first man to put the idea of producing gas lighting from coal into practical use. In 1792 he installed gas lighting at the company's offices as well as lighting his home by this method.

Many of Murdoch's experiments in gas lighting were undertaken at a cave near Bello Mill overlooking the River Lugar. The cave can still be seen today. Although Murdoch never patented the idea he prepared a paper on the subject for the Royal Society and was awarded the Rumford Gold Medal by them in 1808.

He spent the remainder of his life in England and died at the age of 85. His remains were interred in Birmingham beside his old friends James Watt and Matthew Boulton.

 

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