"I forget of whom it was said, that his mind resembled the trunk of an elephant, which can pick up straws and tear up trees by the roots."
— Carnegie, Andrew (1835-1919)
Lord Brougham has this to say of Watt:
One of the most astonishing circumstances in this truly great man was the versatility of his talents. His accomplishments were so various, the powers of his mind were so vast, and yet of such universal application, that it was hard to say whether we should most admire the extraordinary grasp of his understanding, or the accuracy of nice research with which he could bring it to bear upon the most minute objects of investigation. I forget of whom it was said, that his mind resembled the trunk of an elephant, which can pick up straws and tear up trees by the roots. Mr. Watt in some sort resembled the greatest and most celebrated of his own inventions; of which we are at a loss whether most to wonder at the power of grappling with the mightiest objects, or of handling the most minute; so that while nothing seems too large for its grasp, nothing seems too small for the delicacy of its touch; which can cleave rocks and pour forth rivers from the bowels of the earth, and with perfect exactness, though not with greater ease, fashion the head of a pin, or strike the impress of some curious die. Now those who knew Mr. Watt, had to contemplate a man whose genius could create such an engine, and indulge in the most abstruse speculations of philosophy, and could at once pass from the most sublime researches of geology and physical astronomy, the formation of our globe, and the structure of the universe, to the manufacture of a needle or a nail; who could discuss in the same conversation and with equal accuracy, if not with the same consummate skill, the most forbidding details of art, and the elegances of classical literature; the most abstruse branches of science, and the niceties of verbal criticism.