Papin, Denis

Papin, Denis
b. 22 August 1647 Blois, Loire et Cher, France
d. 1712 London, England
French mathematician and physicist, inventor of the pressure-cooker.
Largely educated by his father, he worked for some time for Huygens at Ley den, then for a time in London where he assisted Robert Boyle with his experiments on the air pump. He supposedly invented the double-acting air pump. He travelled to Venice and worked there for a time, but was back in London in 1684 before taking up the position of Professor of Mathematics at the University of Marburg (in 1669 or 1670 he became a Doctor of Medicine at Angers), where he remained from 1687 to 1695. Then followed a period at Cassel, where he was employed by the Duke of Hesse. In this capacity he was much involved in the application of steam-power to pumping water for the Duke's garden fountains. Papin finally returned to London in 1707. He is best known for his "digester", none other than the domestic pressure-cooker. John Evelyn describes it in his diary (12 April 1682): "I went this Afternoone to a Supper, with severall of the R.Society, which was all dressed (both fish and flesh) in Monsieur Papins Digestorie; by which the hardest bones of Biefe itself, \& Mutton, were without water, or other liquor, \& with less than 8 ounces of Coales made as soft as Cheeze, produc'd an incredible quantity of Gravie…. This Philosophical Supper raised much mirth among us, \& exceedingly pleased all the Companie." The pressure-cooker depends on the increase in the boiling point of water with increase of pressure. To avoid the risk of the vessel exploding, Papin devised a weight-loaded lever-type safety valve.
There are those who would claim that Papin preceded Newcomen as the true inventor of the steam engine. There is no doubt that as early as 1690 Papin had the idea of an atmospheric engine, in which a piston in a cylinder is forced upwards by expanding steam and then returned by the weight of the atmosphere upon the piston, but he lacked practical engineering skill such as was necessary to put theory into practice. The story is told of his last trip from Cassel, when returning to England. It is said that he built his own steamboat, intending to make the whole journey by this means, ending with a triumphal journey up the Thames. However, boatmen on the river Weser, thinking that the steamboat threatened their livelihood, attacked it and broke it up. Papin had to travel by more orthodox means. Papin is said to have co-operated with Thomas Savery in the development of the lat-ter's steam engine, on which he was working c. 1705.
Further Reading
Charles-Armand Klein, 1987, Denis Papin: Illustre savant blaisois, Chambray, France: CLD.
A.P.M.Fleming and H.R.S.Brocklehurst, 1925, A History of Engineering.
Sigvar Strandh, 1979, Machines, Mitchell Beazley.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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