William Murdoch - Inventor and Engineer

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William Murdoch was born in 1754 at Bello Mill Farm, near Cumnock in Ayrshire. He was said to have carried out early experiments in a cave on the banks of the River Lugar. In his mid twenties he walked from Ayrshire to Birmingham to find work at famous Soho works of James Watt and Matthew Boulton.

William Murdoch
William Murdoch

In 1779 Watt and Boulton sent Murdoch to Cornwall, where he made his home in Cross Street, Redruth from 1782 to 1798. All his spare time was spent in design and innovation and he is believed to have been the first in Britain to construct and use a steam-powered road going vehicle. This was in 1785.

In 1792 William Murdoch was the first person in the world to light his house and office by piped coal gas. This laid the foundation for the gas industry of today. Murdoch House in Cross Street, Redruth has been fully restored and now houses various local bodies including Redruth Old Cornwall Society.

Among the other successes of William Murdoch include a working model of a low pressure steam locomotive. He also invented a process for clearing beer. Murdoch returned to Birmingham in 1799 to continue his work with Boulton and Watt. He died there in 1839.