I know the Watt, as a unit of measuring power was defined somewhere in early 1900's.

But who was the first physicist to consider "work over time"? Perhaps Newton?

Problem with searching something like this is that it keeps coming up with "Who invented electricity" - but I think power, as form of "energy conversion" or "work over time", surely existed before we were researching electricity!

  • $\begingroup$ I think it was already invented by Watt in the end of the 18-th century. In relation to steam engines. $\endgroup$ Jun 23, 2021 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ "physician" ? "physicist" ? :-) . Apologies if the former is standard in your country; it refers to medical personnel here. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2021 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft honestly, my best idea here was a memory from a Histeria (or was it Animaniacs?) where they meet Einstein and Yakko asks if he could take a look into his rash... Who knows what was going on there and if I even remember it correctly :) I will change the word $\endgroup$
    – DraxDomax
    Jun 24, 2021 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ cf. "Act, Potency [potentia_], and Energy", _The Thomist 75 (2011): 207-43. $\endgroup$
    – Geremia
    Jul 4, 2021 at 3:34

1 Answer 1


This source says the following about James Watt,

Watt is most famous for inventing an improved steam engine in the years around 1770 and slightly less famous for inventing the concept of power shortly thereafter. Watt wouldn't have thought about power they same way we do today. The concept of energy wasn't invented until after he died. For him, power was the product of force and velocity.

P = Fv

That page references a book, "The Edinburgh Review, Oct 1808" containing a treatise by Olinthus Gregory on steam engines.


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