via Livescience, another of Heather Whipps' articles on items that "changed the world" - in this instance, the steam engine.
"Sixteen hundred years after the ancient Greek scientist first made mention of the untapped power of steam, the technology would become the hero and the engine that drove the Industrial Revolution.
When it was refined by 18th century scientists such as James Watt, steam power overcame the limitations of using relatively weak men or tired horses to do grunt work and sped factories along at a pace never before seen."
While Watt did not invent the steam engine, he certainly popularized it along with British manufacturer Matthew Boulton, modifying Watt's engine to expand its use in a number of industries. The steam engine allowed manufacuring plants to be located outside fast moving rivers and dramatically altered the textile and manufacturing industries in particular. The invention of the locamotive and the steam ship completely revolutionized transportation, freeing the need for horse and sails.