Horsepower is one of the most common unit of measurements of power, but have you ever wondered how it got its name? I mean, it’s obviously named after horses but is it actually related to the power of a horse?
Let’s find out.
In 1782, Scottish inventor James Watt (the guy Watt was named after) was asked by a sawmill to create an engine that could replace its 12 dray horses. At the time, James Watt was a pioneer in terms of engine development creating, along with his business partner Matthew Boulton, many avant-garde engines. In order to define the power of one horse, Watt used data from the sawmill and determined that a horse could lift 33,000 pounds the distance of one foot in one minute. This measurement became the unit of horsepower with its electrical equivalent being 746 watts.
But is it safe to say that this is the power of a horse though? (the article continues after the ad)
As it turns out, yes! In a research conducted by Associate Professor of Biology and Animal Physiology of University of Massachusetts Boston, R.D. Robert Stevenson and Adjunct Professor of VCH Research Institute, R. J. Wassersug, for sustained activity, an average horse can produce the work rate of about 1hp. However, when calculating the peak power, it was possible for horses to reach for a few seconds a maximum horsepower of 14.9!