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Samuel Smiles was born in Haddington, and was one of eleven surviving children. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University, before turning to journalism and writing, becoming Editor of the Leeds Times, and author of a number of books on self-help and social conditions. His magnum opus, however, was a series of books on the ‘Lives of the Engineers’ - the last volume of this series being that featuring the Lives of Boulton and Watt. The Preface states that these two Lives have been taken together because of the impossibility of them being taken separately! Smiles’ biographies are products of their time, and concentrate on the ‘heroic’ nature of their subjects and the moral lessons to be drawn, but nonetheless contain much information which is central to our understanding of Matthew Boulton and James Watt.


Original copies of Smiles’s books are scarce and quite expensive, but new reprints are coming on to the market. However, Google Books have scanned a copy of an original edition, and this is available free. Just click on the title page above, and a .pdf file will download which contains the full text.


Please note, though, that as the original work contains 521 pages, the file size is an extremely chunky 29MB. Please don’t even think about downloading this unless you have a broadband connection to the internet.

Lives of Boulton and Watt

LIVES OF BOULTON AND WATT: Principally from the Original Soho MSS


By Samuel Smiles

Published 1865 by John Murray, Albemarle Street London.

Samuel Smiles


Lives of Boulton and Watt Samuel Smiles.pdf