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"An Act for vesting in James Watt, Engineer...the sole Use and Property of certain Steam Engines...of his Invention... throughout his Majesty's Dominions for a limited time"

The first steam engine had been invented as early as 1698, by the English engineer Thomas Savery, and was developed and improved in the early 18th century by Thomas Newcomen.  These engines were not very efficient and were only used in mines.  It was not until James Watt and Matthew Boulton developed a vastly improved version by 1778 that the steam engine could be put to a wider variety of uses.