Person: Papin, Denis
Denis Papin was a French inventor who worked on the steam engine and invented the pressure cooker and the paddle boat.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- In Saumur there was a Huguenot Academy and Denis studied at this school.
- The Charron and the Papin families were both from Blois so Marie Colbert was an obvious person for Papin to approach looking for support.
- He was looking for an assistant so it was arranged for Papin to fill this role.
- Indeed, a section of Papin's book closely follows a lecture that Huygens delivered to the Académie Royale in 1668.
- Dismissive of the debates in which Huygens had been involved, Papin preferred instead to improve the instrument and to narrate observations of natural phenomena occurring inside the rarefied space of the air-pump.
- Also in 1674, Boyle, unaware of Papin's book, published a collection of short papers that included works about the 'hidden qualities of the air" ...
- Huygens received Boyle's collection of papers in June 1675, and in the following month Papin travelled to England with his own air-pump to engage directly with Boyle.
- Huygens gave Papin a letter of introduction to Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society.
- In the letter he asked Oldenburg to arrange for Papin to be introduced to Boyle and Brouncker.
- He also asked Oldenburg if he could find some way of letting Papin establish himself in England.
- Oldenburg arranged accommodation for Papin, organised for him to undertake temporary work as a tutor, and introduced him to Boyle.
- Papin joined the congregation of Huguenots in Threadneedle Street but, at this stage, he seemed to want to concentrate on learning English rather than on discussing science.
- By the autumn of 1675, however, Papin began to try to interest Boyle in his work.
- At a meeting of the Royal Society in February 1676, Oldenburg reported on both Boyle's experiments and those of Papin and some of the experiments were demonstrated at the Society meeting.
- Papin had invented a double-barrelled air pump which was particularly effective.
- Boyle offered Papin a position as his assistant and this was gladly accepted.
- Papin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1680 as a consequence of his excellent work with Hooke and Boyle.
- His work for Hooke seems to have been mainly as a low paid secretary and, on 1 March 1681, Papin returned to France to work with Huygens.
- In 1681 Papin left for Italy where he was director of experiments at the Accademia publicca di scienze in Venice until 1684.
- Sarotti had met Papin in England at the time when Sarotti had been elected to the Royal Society in 1679.
- When Sarotti had returned to Venice, he took with him one of Papin's air pumps.
- After leaving Italy, there were religious reasons why Papin could not return to France.
- Papin returned to London in 1684 working again with the Royal Society until 1687.
- Papin's desire to marry Marie was opposed by the local pastor on the grounds of consanguinity and only achieved, on 1 January 1691, by special dispensation from the landgrave of Hesse.
- This time in Hesse-Kassel was not a successful one for Papin who found himself in disagreement with his colleagues.
- We should mention Papin's friendship with Gottfried Leibniz and also the scientific controversy between the two.
- They met and became friends in the 1670s when Papin was working with Huygens.
- At this time Leibniz was a frequent visitor to Huygens' laboratory and so met Papin on a regular basis.
- Their scientific controversy occurs in an exchange of letters in 1689-1691, beginning with a letter from Leibniz concerning a paper by Papin which discusses the motion of freely falling bodies.
- The way Papin reacted was both to reply with a letter but also to write further papers.
- But as Leibniz was firmly opposed to Papin's intention of submitting the controversy to the scientific community, they remained unedited ...
- In November, 1692, their correspondence suddenly stopped, presumably because of Papin's troubles with his new appointment in Marbourg.
- Nevertheless, they later intensively argue over vis motrix from July, 1695 until Papin's travel to Holland in 1700.
- Papin repeats the grounds of his position throughout the controversy: if we are dealing with bodies which are raised to a certain height by a motion acquired through a previous descent from the same height, we cannot assume that these heights are proportional to the vires motrices, since the forces are diminished by the resistance they must overcome, and not by the distance they traverse.
- Papin is best known for his work as an inventor, particularly his work on the steam engine.
- In 1705, when Leibniz sent Papin a sketch of a steam engine, Papin began working on that topic again and wrote The New Art of Pumping Water by using Steam (1707).
- Other inventions which Papin worked on were the construction of a submarine, an air gun and a grenade launcher.
- In 1707 Papin built the first paddle boat and that same year he returned to London where he lived in obscurity and poverty until his death.
- Isaac Newton was, at this time, President of the Royal Society and seems to have given no encouragement for Papin's reemployment.
- In addition, the Society was itself in financial difficulties and was not in a position to give Papin much in the way of financial assistance.
- Although Papin received little in the way of honours in his lifetime, mainly because the importance of his work was not understood until 100 years after his death, nevertheless he has been honoured more recently in his native town of Blois where a bronze statue has been erected and one of the main streets is named after him.
- A Jean Monnet University building in St Étienne stands in the Rue Denis Papin.
- The Lycée Professionnel Denis Papin is in La Courneuve, not far from Blois.
- There is a Rue Papin in Paris as well as a Rue Denis Papin in Échirolles and in Bègles, near Bordeaux.
- In July 2013 there were 300 year celebrations of Papin's life at Chitenay in the Loir et Cher Department of France.
Born 22 August 1647, Blois, France. Died 26 August 1713, London, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive