The steam engine is a machine that makes it possible to transform thermal energy (steam) into mechanical energy. Although steam machines such as the aeolipile developed by Heron of Alexandria were used in classical antiquity, they were seen as toys or amusements. The first to think of the machine in scientific, technological and utilitarian terms was the French physicist Denis Papin in 1690.
The way was paved and the atmospheric engine developed by the British inventor Thomas Newcomen in the early eighteenth century was fine-tuned and perfected during the course of the century, particularly by the other British inventor James Watt. The engines developed by the latter were primarily used in factories, contributing to the first Industrial Revolution.