Papin, Denis

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Papin, Denis

(dənē` päpăN`), 1647–1712?, French physicist and inventor. He was an assistant of Christian Huygens and of Robert Boyle and was professor of mathematics at the Univ. of Marburg (1687–96). He invented (1679) a steam digester (forerunner of the autoclave), a vessel in which the boiling point of water is raised by an increase in steam pressure; this device demonstrated the influence of atmospheric pressure on boiling points. His other inventions include a safety valve (for the digester), a condensing pump, an air gun, and a paddle-wheel boat. A pioneer in the development of the steam engine, he devised in 1690 a pump with a piston raised by steam.

Papin, Denis


Born Aug. 22, 1647, in Chitenay, near Blois; died 1714 (according to some data, 1712) in London. French physicist. Member of the Royal Society of London (1680).

From 1661 to 1674, Papin studied and practiced medicine in Angers. In Paris in 1673 and 1674 he assisted C. Huygens with the latter’s air-pump experiments. At the same time, he began investigating the relationship between the boiling point of water and pressure. In 1675, Papin moved to London, where he worked as an assistant to R. Boyle. He later lived in Venice, returning in 1684 to London, where he became the temporary curator of experiments for the Royal Society. In 1688 he was made professor of mathematics at the University of Marburg.

In 1680, Papin reported the invention of a pressure-cookerlike device with a safety valve (“Papin’s digester”). Between 1684 and 1687 he conducted many experiments in hydraulics and invented several machines for lifting water. Papin proposed a design for a centrifugal pump in 1689. He described a closed thermodynamic cycle for a steam engine in 1690 but was unable to build a working engine. In 1696 he designed a furnace for melting glass, a steam vehicle, and a steam cannon. As a physicist, Papin understood and appreciated the energy characteristics of steam, but as an engineer he was unable to construct an engine based on these characteristics.


A New Digester or Engine for Softening Bones: Containing the Description of Its Make and Use. London, 1681.


Radtsig, A. A. Istoriia teplotekhniki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.


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