Seeking help for a project to create interactive diagrams—an “explorable explanation”—of the history of the steam engine.

An example for inspiration. Wikimedia / Panther

Goal: To allow readers to explore the early evolution of one of the most impactful technologies in human history.

Content: The content will come from Anton Howes’s extensive research uncovering the origins of the steam engine (parts 12, and 3).

We envision it covering precursors like the perpetual motion machine of Cornelis Drebbel, early thermometers and barometers, seventeenth-century experiments on atmospheric pressure, precursor devices like those shown by Salomon de Caus, our best guesses of the Kalthoff/Petty engine, the Savery engine, and the Newcomen engine and its improvements. (After this initial phase, we would then want to expand it to include the improvements by James Watt, and the rise of the high-pressure engine, with its various nineteenth-century improvements.)

This page on the steam engine may serve as a start for eventually creating the definitive online and interactive reference work on the history of technology, informed by the latest expert research.

Format: We have been greatly inspired by the works of Bartosz Ciechanowski, such as his mechanical watch and internal combustion engine explanations. We’re looking to create something like this. Here are more examples of locomotive valves.

The team: Anton Howes as researcher/writer, me (Jason Crawford) as editor/producer, you as animator/developer.

Your input: We’ll provide the written essay and some sketches and ideas for what diagrams we should create and how they should work.

Your deliverables: The code and/or other files to implement a set of interactive and/or animated technical diagrams.

You: A technical illustrator, animator, and/or front-end developer, or a team, who can deliver this. Must have a portfolio of relevant work to demonstrate your abilities. The ideal candidate will have an interest in engineering, invention, and the history of technology.

How to apply: Email with a description of your skills and examples of your work.

We have budget for this project and are willing to pay market rates for high-quality work.


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I realize I'm a little late to ask this, but have you thought about how to license the resulting works? There is significant long-term value in putting them under a free license (such as CC BY-SA 4) as it enables further proliferation and reuse by others who want to provide information about those inventions; but the contract with the artist might need to specify that it allows for that kind of reuse.

Thanks Gergő. We're doing this as a “work made for hire” meaning that the rights belong to us and we can then license it however we want.