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Over the 30 years of refining his engine, Watt asked himself the most complex of questions, first exploring the mechanics of the clunky fifty-year-old Newcomen engine, then adapting its design significantly making it both more efficient, and later producing a rotary motion.
For Watt, the question ‘How does the steam engine work?’ was just as valid as ‘How might the steam engine work?’ – without learning the answer to the first question, he might never have been able to answer the second.