James Nasmyth

James Nasmyth, 1808 - 1890. Inventor of the steam hammer (Self-portrait) (1881)

About this artwork

James Nasmyth was the youngest child in the painter Alexander Nasmyth's large and talented family. He became an engineer and is best known for his invention of the steam hammer. He also had a passion for astronomy, building his own telescopes and publishing a paper about the surface of the moon in 1874. This self-portrait, honestly depicting himself as an elderly and tired man, shows that he had inherited his share of artistic skill alongside his mechanical genius.

James Nasmyth

James Nasmyth

James Nasmyth was one of the leading engineers of the nineteenth century, and his principal inventions were the steam hammer and the pile driver which changed the landscape of the industrial world. He was the son of the landscape painter, Alexander Nasmyth, who taught him drawing. He was an enthusiast for photography from the 1830s and a close friend of David Octavius Hill. His private enthusiasm for astronomy led him to a thirty-year observation of the moon and the production of a series of careful drawings which he used to make a model of the moon's surface.