photo neededIn thermodynamics, Bryan Donkin (1836-1902) was an English engineer noted for the coining of the term “human thermodynamics”, in his 1893 article “The Scientific Work of Gustav Adolph Hirn”, on the life, work, and thermodynamics philosophy of French physicist Gustave Hirn. [1]

Human thermodynamics
In synopsis, to chapter seven of his article, Donkin defines human thermodynamics as the study of the vital heat of the body, experiments on the amount of heat developed by human beings in action, and measurements related to oxygen inhaled and respiration as the principle source of heat; in the two chapters to follow, to note, Donkin intertwines this definition with Hirn’s speculations on physiology, psychology, and pathology, explaining how Hirn viewed the human being a motor governed by the soul, similar to how the steam engine is governed by dynamic force.

In his article, Donkin outlines Hirn’s thermodynamic-based philosophy of life, developed in his later years, which resolves the universe into matter and force, to which in organic nature is added a third wholly separate element, the animating principle or soul. In defense of this view, according to Donkin:

“[Hirn] protested all his life against materialism (a view that the whole universe consists of nothing but matter and that all dynamic action is the due to the movement of atoms and molecules) and pantheism (a view that man is composed of matter, force, and spirit, the three forming together one transmutable essence), maintaining that the researches of science, and especially the laws of thermodynamics, effectually refuted them.”

Donkin maintains that the establishment of a thermodynamic-based doctrine of spiritualism and to disprove materialism was the keynote of his labors.

Donkin was the son of English mechanical engineer and noted paper-making machine manufacturer Bryan Donkin (1768-1855), of the same name, who of the edler's six sons John, Bryan, and Thomas also became engineers. [2] Donkin was educated at the University College, London, and at the Ecole Centrals des Arts et Metiers, Paris, after words serving an apprenticeship at the Bermondsey works, which he joined as a partner in 1868. [6] In circa 1895, Donkin was the chairman of the family firm Bryan Donkin and Company, at which time his son electrical engineer Sydney Bryan Donkin was an apprentice. [3]

Donkin was the author of the 1894 textbook Gas, Oil, and Air Engines, the 1898 Heat Efficiency of Steam Boilers, and translator to 1898 Entropy Diagram and its Applications, the latter of which is described as “a short syllabus of the principles of thermodynamics applied to heat engines”; all of which indicating that Donkin Jr. was a civil engineer and a mechanical engineer. [4]

Interestingly, in his Entropy Diagram Donkin gives states that “as the subject of entropy is still in its infancy, and no complete works on it have yet appeared” and gives a Bibliography of Entropy, listing 20 works, including those of Willard Gibbs (1873), Hermann Helmholtz (1884), Gustav Zeuner (1890), Richard Mollier (1893), among others. [6]

1. Donkin, Bryan. (1893). “The Scientific Work of Gustav Adolph Hirn in 7 Chapters (1845-1888)” (pgs. 145-201); Picture of Hirn, (pg. 144); Chapter V: Human thermodynamics, pg. 176-83)”, Transactions of the Manchester Association of Engineers (table of contents: human thermo-dynamics, pg. 176). Herald & Walker Printers.
2. Bryan Donkin (1768-1855) – Wikipedia.
3. Sydney Bryan Donkin (1871-1952) – Wikipedia.
4. (a) Donkin, Bryan Jr. (1894). Gas, Oil, and Air Engines. London: Charles Griffin & Co.
(b) Donkin, Bryan Jr. (1905). A Textbook on Gas, Oil, and Air Engines (4th ed). C. Griffin and Co.
(c) Donkin, Bryan. (1898). The Heat Efficiency of Steam Boilers: Land Marine and Locomotive. C. Griffin & Co.
5. Boulvin, Jules and Donkin, Bryan. (1898). The Entropy Diagram and its Application (Translator’s preface, pgs. iii-vi). London: E. & F.N. Spon., Ltd.
6. Anon. (1902). “Obituary: Mr. Bryan Donkin, C.E.” (pg. 272). The Builder, Vol. 82.

Further reading
‚óŹ Donkin, Bryan. (1896). “Steam Raising: Practical Hints on Preventable Losses” (pgs. 99-102). Cassier’s Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 1-6.

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