Boott was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1791. He attended the prestigious Rugby School in England, and later went to Harvard College, which he did not graduate. Instead, a commission was purchased for him in the British Army, and after his involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, he returned to Boston in 1817. At this time, he became involved in the Boston Manufacturing Company at Waltham, Massachusetts. At some point during his residency in England, Boott had an opportunity to tour the spinning mills in the midlands. He was a quick study of engineering principals and was reputed to have committed his observations to paper. These notes and drawings, none of them extant today, subsequently formed the basis of some of the innovations and improvements in the mechanics and design of spinning and weaving technology which helped to make the mills in Lowell and subsequently other mills in New England more profitable than many of their English counterparts.
When the Boston Manufacturing Company formed the Merrimack Manufacturing Company in 1822, Kirk Boott was sent to Lowell to be the first agent and treasurer, since the current agent, Patrick Tracy Jackson, had to remain in Waltham. Under his leadership, the Merrimack Company was extremely profitable. When the Proprietors of Locks and Canals, the organization that controlled the canal water and land, was separated from the Merrimack Manufacturing Company, Boott became agent of that firm as well. In this position, he sold the water power the Merrimack Company did not use, allowing many other firms to open operations in Lowell. The city grew quite rapidly around these factories.
Boott, more so than the other founders of Lowell, was involved in the day-to-day operation of the town and the lives of its mill operatives. He chose the denomination of the first church (Episcopal), and even was involved in the design of school districts.
Boott died in his carriage at the corner of Dutton and Merrimack Streets in downtown Lowell on April 11, 1837. Some reports say the carriage tipped, other say a back ailment stemming from his time in the military killed him. The carriage that Boott died in was to have another brush with death thirteen years later. According to family lore, Boott's beautiful but thrifty daughter, Mary Love Boott, continued to use the carriage, taking it with her after her marriage to Boston lawyer, Charles A. Welch, in 1844. Welch, who had recently assisted Edward Dexter Sohier in the defense of Dr. John Webster in the notorious and grisly murder and dismembermenet on Thanksgiving Day, 1849, of the powerful, wealthy and eccentric Bostonian, Dr. George Parkman, used Boott's carriage to pick up Webster's body after he had been publicly executed on a gallows in Leverett Square. Mary never rode in the carriage again.
Kirk Boott's name lives on in the Boott Mills, and perpendicular Kirk Street, which is dominated by the old building of Lowell High School. The National Park Service has restored some mid 19th C. power looms and spinning jennies to operation, giving the Park visitor a first hand look at some of the roots of the industrial revolution in the United States.