Murdock, the son of a millwright, was born in Auchinleck, Ayrshire,
in 1754. He worked with his father and then he joined James
Watt and Matthew Boulton in Birmingham. In 1784 he was sent
to Redruth in Cornwall to supervise the installation of Boulton
& Watt steam engines to work pumping equipment in tin mines.
married the daughter of a Cornish mine overseer and decided
to settle in the area. Over the next few years he tested his
ideas on the possibility of harnessing the gas given off by
burning coal. William Murdock set up an iron retort in the backyard
of his home from which a metal tube ran into the living room.
On 29th July, 1792, Murdock finally managed to achieve a gas
flame inside the room.
Murdock moved back to Birmingham where he continued to experiment
with gas lighting. The main problem faced by Murdock was to
find a safe way of providing effective light. In 1802 Matthew
Boulton installed two gas lamps outside his Soho factory. The
following year the foundry was entirely illuminated by gas.
Soon afterwards Boulton & Watt began to sell lighting and
heating equipment and Murdock had become a partner in the business.
It was not
long before all large factories were using gas lighting. The
National Light and Heat Company was founded in 1812. The first
street lighting began two years later. In London alone, by 1819,
288 miles of pipes had been laid to supply 51,000 burners.
continued to experiment and was the first person to develop
a steam gun. He was less successful at producing an efficient
steam car. William Murdock died in 1839.