Denis Papin nsIn existographies, Denis Papin (1647-1712) (IQ:180|#185) (Murray 4000:18|T) [CR:95], pronounced “pap-pan” (Ѻ), aks Denys or Dionysius, was a French engineer, physicist, and physician notable for inventing the Papin digester (1679) and for inventing the Papin engine (1690), the first prototype design for a steam engine; which, in theory, could be worked in a cycle, a process which he was the first to describe, and produce usable work output or cause the "intended movement", i.e. downward movement of the piston, through the action of vacuum creation when steam was cooled in a piston and cylinder. He published his design in the 1690 memoir "A New Method to Obtain Very Great Motive Powers at Small Cost." In this paper, the term "energy" is first used in a modern sense. [1]

Vacuum pump
In 1674, Papin, as detailed in his “New Experiences on the Void: with a Description of the Machines Used to Make It”, based on the Huygens vacuum pump (1662), made the following vacuum pump [see: Papin vacuum pump (1674)], which had two pistons on one rod, the lower piston carrying a quantity of water that sealed off leaks in the top piston, and the piston rod was connected to a "stirrup" I, designed to be worked with one's foot, so to make the task of pumping less tiring, thus also leaving one hand free to operate the cόck; the cόck itself being a special three-way-cόck, with a combined inlet valve and outlet valve, which was easier to handle than a separate inlet-cόck and stopper: [17]
Papin vacuum pump (1674)

This vacuum pump of Papin's was also able to work as a compressor, an air pump and vacuum pump combination. Papin also seems to have done a plant in a vacuum (fig 3) experiment of some kind. [16]

In 1676, Papin, as described in Robert Boyle's A Second Continuation, made a double barrel air pump, which had "self-acting valves" (Shapin, 1985), as shown below, that were operated by turning a wheel, the use of two barrels employed so that the time to achieve a vacuum was reduced: [17]

Papin vacuum pump (1676) 2


Huygens | Boyle | Hooke
In 1669, Papin obtained his MD, some work of which involved experiments with vacuums to preserve food. [15]

In 1670 to 1671 (Needham, 1987), or 1673 (McConnell, 2007), Papin became the assistant of Christiaan Huygens, at the laboratory of the academy of Paris, his experiments with the air pump and gunpowder piston and cylinder engines; during which time he met Gottfried Leibniz; the following is synopsis of this:

“At the time that Papin joined him in 1673, Huygens was investigating the force of gunpowder as a means of creating a vacuum under a piston in order to drive machinery, in particular to operate a pump to raise water from the Seine to the palace of Versailles. Papin, who was continuing the investigations into the preservation of foodstuffs under vacuum that he had begun [c.1668] at university, was led to consider the vacuum as a possible motive force. During this period Leibniz, then in Paris, became a regular visitor to Huygens's laboratory. Papin learnt a great deal from Leibniz and the friendship thus engendered lasted for many years. The pumps that Papin developed, together with his vacuum experiments, were described in his first treatise, Nouvelles experiences du Vuide (1674); favorably received by the Academie des Sciences, it was republished in the Journal des Savants in 1765.”
— Anita McConnell (2007), “Denis Papin” [15]

In 1674, these researchers were published as Experiences du Vuide (Experiments on the Void) in Paris.

In 1675, these Experiments on the Void were also published in the form of five papers, by Huygens and Papin jointly, in the Philosophical Transactions.

In 1675, Papin, went to London whereat he became acquainted with Robert Boyle, who employed him to make a translation of a theological treatise.

In 1676 to 1679, Papin assisted Boyle in air pump experiments. It was during this period that Papin invented his digester, or apparatus for boiling food under pressure; this invention was presented to the Royal Society on 22 May 1679 and published formerly in 1680 as “A New Digester or Engine for Softening Bones”, and in 1682, some of the Royal Society's dinners were being cooked in Papin's digestor. [11]

In Jul to Dec 1679, Papin was employed at the Royal Society by Robert Hooke as an amanuensis. [11]

In Oct 1675, Hooke, we will note, in his A Description of Helioscopes and some other Instruments, presented his future invention he intended to publish or make, invention number nine of which was a “New Invention in Mechanics of Prodigious Use, Exceeding the Chimera’s of Perpetual Motions for Several Uses”, the secret of which, when decoded by Hooke out of his Latin anagram, was: "Pondere premit aer vacuum quod ab igne relictum est" which translates as: “the vacuum left by fire lifts a weight” (Inwood, 2003). [13]

“Hooke’s ‘pondere [weight] premit [exerts] aer [air] vacuum [vacuum] quod ab igne [from] relictum [left] est [it is]’ is one of the principles upon which Savery's late invented engine for raising water is founded.”
— Richard Waller (1705), The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke (pg. xxi)

“This [Hooke engine principle], which was restated by Jean de Hautefeuille [1678] and Huygens [1678] in the late 1670s, was regarded by some of Hooke’s admirers as the principle behind the invention of the steam pump by Thomas Savery in the 1690s.”
— Stephen Inwood (2002), The Main Who Knew Too Much (pg. 211)

It is difficult to see exactly what type of engine Hooke had in mind here, but it could have been a gunpowder engine, or combustion engine, a Papin engine (1690), or possibly a Hero engine of some sort?

In 1680, Papin was a “doctor of physic” and professor of mathematics at Marburg, Germany. [5] In 1680, he was admitted, on Boyle's nomination, to the Royal Society. [4]

In 1684, Papin was back in London, after three years in Venice, and was employed as a temporary curator of the Royal Society tasked with providing weekly experiments for the society. [13]

Pneumatic tubes
In 1667, in a paper read before the Royal Society of London, Papin described a plan to deliver parcels using “pneumatic tubes”, according to which the air in a tube was exhausted in such a way that the piston working in the tube would be drawn in the direction of the suction, pulling with it an attached carrier. [10]

Papin digester
See main: Papin digester
In 1679, Papin exhibited a "digester" to the Royal Society. This device consisted of a vessel provided with a tightly fitting lid, so that under pressure its contents could be raised to a high temperature. The device was in essence a bone digester or pressure cooker for softening or rather dissolving bones and other solids of animals. [3]

The first designs exploded from the high pressures, after which he added in a pressure release valve. It is said that by watching the pressure release valve on his cooker rhythmically move up and down, he conceived of the steam engine.

In 1680, he published Continuation of New Experiments. This was followed by a published a description of his digester in 1681, under the title A New Digester or Engine for Softening Bones. [6]
Denis Papin (four images)
Various imaged of Papin and his inventions; center left is a statue of Papin in Paris. [7][8][9]

Papin steam engine
See main: Papin engine
In 1690, Papin developed an engine that used a combination of steam and atmospheric pressure to move a piston. The device consisted of a three-inch-diameter vertical tube that was filled halfway with water and sealed at one end with a movable piston. Heating the cylinder converted the water into steam. The steam pushed the piston up until, at its highest position, it was grabbed by a fastener at the head. As the steam condensed the atmospheric pressure pushed the piston back down. The power stroke thus occured during the condensation phase rather than the steam phase. Papin hoped he could used this engine to drive a ship, transmitting the motion of a row of pistons through racks and pinions to paddle wheels, but he was unable to obtain any financing for the project. [6]

In 1696, Papin found a patron in the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (Germany). The Landgrave asked Papin to build an engine that could lift water to a defined height and then release into an elevated garden or fountain. Papin's engine used a free-swimming piston which prevented the steam from condensing on the cold water surface. But, after the joints and valves of the prototype machine leaked, the Landgrave lost all interest in Papin's work. He spent the next several years working on a variety of machines. [6]

Papin took up steam engine research again in 1705, after receiving a sketch of Thomas Savery's steam engine. Recognizing the superiority of Savery's machine to his own, Papin set out to make improvements to the basic design. His principal improvement was to incorporate a piston, instead of a vacuum chamber, to provide suction. One prototype was built; it caused a stir locally, but was not exploited and eventually dismantled. [6]

In 1707, Papin published The New Art of Pumping Water by Using Steam. That same year, he revived his notion of a steam-driven paddle-wheel boat, and decided to return to London as there would be more call for such a ship in a great port. A small manually operated paddle-boat had been tried out on the river Fulda, in Germany, but was smashed up by local boatmen afraid of potential competition. In London, Papin tried to persuade the Royal Society to sponsor his boat, asking for no more than £15 to cover the cost of the boiler, but was unsuccessful. [6]

In 1696, Papin, supposedly, built two submarines. (Ѻ)

In 1867, Louis Figuier, in The Wonders of Science, trumpeted the importance of Papin to steam engine history; the following, from this publication, is Papin’s University of Marburg demonstration, done 1688-1695, of some variant of his newly-being-developed vacuum and or heat engine, wherein a piston and cylinder is demonstrably able to ‘lift a weight’, through a vertical height, in front of an audience: [20]

Papin at Marburg


In 1661 or 1662, Papin entered upon the study of medicine at the university of Angers, where he graduated in 1669.

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Papin:

“I had cause enough to trust Papin’s skill and diligence. I asked him to set down in writing all the experiments and the phenomena arising therefrom, as if they had been made and observed by his own skill. But I, myself, was always present at the making of the chief experiments, and also at some of those of an inferior sort, to observe whether all things were done according to my mind. Some few of these inferences owe themselves more to my assistant than to me.”
— Robert Boyle (c.1685), Publication [19]

“A method of draining mines where you have not the convenience of a near river to play the aforesaid engine (with air-pumps and cylinders connected by an air pipe); where, having touched upon the inconveniency of making a vacuum in the cylinder for this purpose with gunpowder (according to his first scheme of 1687) he proposes the alternately turning a small surface of water into vapor, by fire applied to the bottom of the cylinder that contains it, which vapor forces up the plug in the cylinder to a considerable height, and which (as the vapor condenses as the water cools when taken from the fire) descends again by the air's pressure, and is applied to raise the water out of the mine.”
— Anon (1697), “Account of Papin’s steam engine”, Philosophical Transactions, No. 226, Vol 19, pg. 481; cited by John Farey (1827) in A Treatise on the Steam Engine (pg. 98) [14]

“Among the philosophers who applied themselves to the invention of machines to be actuated by the force of steam, the celebrated Denys Papin deserves most honorable mention; and his projects being all published, are more on record than those of his predecessors. Papin was born at Blois in France, and was educated as a physician. After obtaining a degree of doctor in medicine in his own country, and making some new experiments at Paris, he travelled into England, and taking an active part in the new philosophy, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in December, 1680. He passed some years in London, and assisted the celebrated Mr. Boyle in various experiments with the air-pump, of which an account is given in the History of the Royal Society, and in Mr. Boyle’s Continuation of New Experiments Physico-Mechanical (1682).”
— John Farey (1827) in A Treatise on the Steam Engine (pg. 93)

“The scientific fame of Denis Papin—not to speak of his connexon with our Royal Society, to which the French Academy may well owe a grudge on his account—lends an interest to any contribution to his biography. It is, however, with what are called mixed feelings that in Dr. E. Wintzer's close and conscientious study of the great physicist and mechanician's earlier experiences in the university of Marburg (Denis Papin's Erlebmisse in Marburg, 1688-1695, Marburg, N.G. Elwert'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1898) we find him not only beset by the ordinary misfires of petty university life, but involved in religious squabbles with the authorities of the congregation of Huguenot refugees of which he was a member. Out of these troubles ho found his way, partly by his own firmness and frankness, partly with the aid of the landgrave Charles, a prince whose intelligence is best proved by the fact that he contrived to retain in his service during something like twoscore years one of the most far-sighted scientific men of his age. Like Leibniz, the landgrave continued to trust the genius of Pepin oven after the failure (to be followed by success) of one of his inventions. No speculations can be ventured here as to how far either prince or professor could see into the future of the more important discovery with which Pepin occupied himself at Marburg in 1690, and which Newcomen was afterwards to transmit to Watt. Dr. Wintzer's essay throws some odd side-lights upon the penurious conditions of academical life in a little state whose ruler, intelligent as he was, indulged in a policy of his own, and maintained an army to match it. The revision of the system of French presbyterianism in Hesse-Cassel, consequent upon Papin's appeal to territorial authority, can hardly be treated as a subject of more than local interest ; but the references to the struggles of theological orthodoxy in the Hessian university against the advance of Cartesianism possess a wider significance for the intellectual history of the age.”
— A.W.W. (1898), “Book Review of Wintzer’s Papin's Erlebmisse in Marburg” (pgs. 609-10)

“About this time Huygens had as his assistant Denis Papin, a Frenchman who later worked with Boyle in England. With Papin, Huygens in 1673 experimented on gunpowder as a source of mechanical energy. There is a possibility that Huygens had considered some kind of atmospheric engine as early as 1660 when he talked with Pascal about the ‘force of water rarefied in cannons’. In these experiments of 1673, we can see the forerunner of Papin's atmospheric engine, which did in fact employ steam in place of gunpowder. Papin was later, through the interest of the Landgrave of Hesse, appointed professor at the university of Marbourg and it was here that he developed the atmospheric engine which gave Newcomen his clue. In exchange for Papin, as one might say, Oldenburg sent over to Huygens the wealthy young amateur Walter von Tschirnhaus, a friend of Spinoza and Leibnitz. He belonged to a class which had early supported the new scientific.”
— Arthur Bell (1947), Christiaan Huygens [18]

“Among further improvements in the [Huygens-improved Boyle] air-pump during the latter part of the seventeenth century were the two-way tap, introduced by Papin; and the double cylindered pump, probably introduced by Papin and perfected by Hauksbee, through whom the air-pump assumed what long remained its standard form.”
— Abraham Wolf (1959), A History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy, Volume One (pg. 107)

Quotes | By
The following are quotes by Papin:

“We now raise water by the force of fire, in a more advantageous manner than that which I had published some years before; for, besides the suction, we now also use the pressure which water exerts upon other bodies, in dilating itself by heat, instead of which I before employed the suction only, the effects of which are much more limited.”
— Denis Papin (1698), “Letter to Gottfried Leibniz”; cited by John Farey (1827) in A Treatise on the Steam Engine (pg. 126) [14]

1. (a) Papin, Denis. (1690). “A New Way to Obtain Very Great Motive Powers at Small Cost” (Nova Methodus ad Vires Motrices Validissimas levi Pretio Comparandas). Acta Eruditorum, anno, Aug., pgs. 410-14.
(b) Muirhead, James. (1859). The Life of James Watt (English translation: Ch. XI, Denys Pain: His memoir of 1690, Section: A New Way to Obtain Very Great Motive Powers at Small Cost”, pgs. 131-42). London: John Murray.
2. Galloway, Robert L. (1881). The Steam Engine and its Inventors. London: MacMillan and Co.
3. Papin, Denis. (1681). A New Digester Or Engine for Softning Bones - Containing the Description of Its Make and Use in These Particulars : Viz. Cookery, Voyages at Sea, Confectionary, Making of Drinks, Chymistry, and Dying : with an Account of the Price a Good Big Engine Will Cost, and of the Profit it Will Afford. (54-pages). Printed by J.M. for Henry Bonwicke.
4. Denis Papin – Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911.
5. Rees, Abraham. (1819). “Section: M. Amonton’s Fire-Wheel”, The Cyclopedia, pg. 40. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown.
6. Denis Papin – The Robinson Library.
7. Denis Papin (images) –
8. Denis Papin (photo collage) –
9. Denis Papin and Robert Boyle (color) –
10. (a) Author. (1919). The Encyclopedia Americana (pg. 266). Publisher.
(b) Burke, James. (1996). The Pinball Effect (pg. 140). Back Bay Books.
11. (a) Papin, Denis. (1680). A New Digester or Engine for Softning Bones: Containing the Description of Its Make and Use in These Particulars: viz, Cookery, Voyages at Sea, Confectionary, Making of Drinks, Chymistry, and Dying. With an Account of the Price a Good Big Engine Will Cost, and of the Profit it Will Afford. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, 1681.
(b) Stephen, Leslie (1895). Dictional of National Biography (§:Denis Papin, pgs. 192-93). Publisher.
12. (a) Waller, Richard. (1705). "The Life of Dr Robert Hooke"; in: Early Science in Oxford, Volume Six (editor: R.T. Gunther) (pgs. 51-52). Clarendon Press, 1930.
(b) Inwood, Stephen. (2003). The Man Who Knew Too Much: the Strange and Inventive Life of Robert Hooke 1653-1703 (pg. 212). Pan MacMillan.
13. Inwood, Stephen. (2003). The Man Who Knew Too Much: the Strange and Inventive Life of Robert Hooke 1653-1703 (pg. 212; back on London, pg. 352). Pan MacMillan.
14. Farey, John. (1827). A Treatise on the Steam Engine: Historical, Practical, and Descriptive (Smeaton engine, pgs. 133-; plates II and III, end matter). Longman.
15. McConnell, Anita. (2007). “Denis Papin” (pdf),
16. (a) Papin, Denis. (1674). “New Experiences on the Void: with a Description of the Machines Used to Make It” (Nouvelles Expériences du Vuide: avec la description des Machines qui servent à le faire) (abs). Paris.
(b) Thurston, Robert. (1878). A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine (txt) (pgs. 46-47). Appleton and Company.
17. (a) Shapin, Steven; Schaffer, Simon. (1985). Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (valves, pg. 28). Princeton, 2011.
(b) Helden, Anne. (1991). “The Age of the Air-Pump” (pdf) (Papin vacuum pump, pg. 164), Tractrix: Yearbook for the History of Science, Medicine, Technology, and Mathematics, 3:149-72.
18. Bell, Arthur. (1947). Christiaan Huygens: and the Development of Science in the Seventeenth Century (pg. #). Read Books, 2012.
19. Shapin, Steven. (1988). “The House of Experiment in Seventeenth-century England” (pdf) (quote, pg. 394-95), Isis, 79(3):373-404.
20. (a) Figuier, Louis. (1868). The Wonders of Science, or Popular Description of Modern Inventions: Steam Engine (Les merveilles de la science, ou Description populaire des inventions modernes: Machine a vapeur) (Papin, 51+ pgs; Germany demonstration image, pg. 49; discussion, pg. 51). Publisher.
(b) Denis Papin –

Further reading
● Saussaye, Jean. (1869). The Life and Works of Denis Papin: by L. de La Saussaye (La vie et les ouvrages de Denis Papin: par L. de La Saussaye). Publisher.
● Boschiero, Luciano. (2009). “Translation, Experimentation and the Spring of the Air: Richard Waller’s Essayes on Natural Experiments” (Ѻ), Notes and Records, Royal Society, Oct 14.

External links
Denis Papin – Wikipedia.
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