Click for Bookshop

William Murdock


(William Murdoch)

1754 - 1839

Engineer and inventor of gas lighting. Born at Bello Mill, Lugar (East Ayrshire). Murdock worked for the engineering company of Bolton and Watt in England and improved James Watt's steam engine. He became interested in vehicular propulsion by steam and built the first British steam-powered road vehicle in 1784. He tested it on a country lane but was not able to pursue the project because of the lack of enthusiasm of his employers.

In 1795, Murdock developed a method of clearing beer using a preparation of fish-skins, which were much cheaper and more easily available than the isinglass which had been used previously.

Murdock is best remembered as the first man to put the idea of producing light from gas made from coal into practical use in 1792. Many of Murdock's experiments in gas lighting were undertaken at a cave near Bello Mill overlooking the Lugar Water. The cave can still be seen today. Although Murdock never patented the idea, he described it in a paper for the Royal Society and was awarded their Rumford Gold Medal in 1808.

He is buried at St. Mary's Church, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, close to James Watt's grave.


Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better