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Growth of the Steam Engine by Robert Thurston.

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  • ,

    THE GROWTH

    OF THE

    STEAM - ENGINE. \

    BY

    PROF. R. H. THURSTON, OF THE STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.

    NEW YORK: ]). A P P L E rr 0 NAN D COM PAN Y,

    549 AND 551 BROADWAY. 1877.

    "" ... - -."--~"

    1.

  • THE GROWTH

    OF THE

    STEAM - ENGINE.

    BY

    PROF. R. H. THURSTON, OF THE STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.

    NEW YORK: D. APPLETON AND COMPANY,

    649 AND tltll BROADWAY. 1877.

  • THE GROWTH OF THE STEAM-ENGINE.l By PROFESSOR R. H. THURSTUN,

    OF THE STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TEOHNOLOGY.

    FIG. 1.-THE GREOIAN IDEA OF THE STEAM-ENGINE.

    1 This sketch is condensed from lectures originally written for delivery to an audi-ence of engineers and mechanics, at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in the winter of 1871-'72, and from lectures since prepared for classes in the Department of Mechani-cal Engineering, and revised to date. The most novel portion-referring to the practi-elll l'nalization of the" perfect steam-engine "- is here more fully developed than it had pl'(~vjoll8ly heen, and the paper, as a whole, is for the first time bere publisbed. The illustratioll!! an: principally fwrn Stuart and .Farey, and from tho article" Steam-Engine," 1"'''rll1l'I:11 hy thn wl'iter of theso IPdUl'('S for AP1'U:TONS' CYCLOPMIlIA, now edition.

    A VIJ I'Y (:olllpJde his tOl'Y or" 'l'll

  • TUft} POPUI,AU SG1NN(}N MONT/fLY.

    I.

    TITE STEAM-ENGINE AS A AIMPJ.E MAOITINE.

    [" A machine receiving at distant times and from many hands new combi-nations and imp;ovements, and becoming at last of signal benefit to mankind, may be compared to a ' rivulet, swelled in its course by tributary streams until it rolls along a majestic river, enriching in its progress provinces and kingdoms. In retracing the current, too, from where it mingles with the ocean, the pre-tensions of even ample subsidiary streams are merged in our admiration of the master-flood. But, as we continue to ascend, those waters which, nearer the sea, would have been disregarded as unimportant, begin to rival in magnitude, and divide our attention with, the parent stream; until, at length, on our ap-proaching the fountains of the river, it appears trickling from the rock, or ooz-ing from among the flowers of the valley. So, also, in developing the rise of a machine, a coarse im~trument or a toy may be recognized as the germ of that production of mechanical genius whose power and usefulness have stimulated our curiosity to mark its changes and to trace its origin. The same feelings of reverential gratitude which attached holiness to the spots whence mighty riv-ers sprung, also clothed with divinity, and raised altars in honor of the saw, the plough, the potter's wheel, and the ]oom."-STuART.]

    [ .... "And, last of all, with inimitable power, and' with whirlwind-sound,' comes the potent agency of steam. In comparison with the past, what centuries of improvement has this single agent comprised in the short compass of fifty years! Everywhere practicable, everywhere efficient, it has an arm a thousand times stronger than that of Hercules, and to which human ingenuity is capable of fitting a thousand times as many hands as belonged to Briareus. Steam is found in triumphant operation on the seas; and, under the influence of its strong propulsion, the gallant ship-

    , Against the wind, against the tide, Still steadies with an upright keel.'

    It is on the rivers, and the boatman may repose on his oars; it is on highways, and exerts itself along the courses of land-conveyance; it is at the bottom of mines, a thousand feet below the earth's surface; it is in the mill, and in the workshops of the trades. It rows, it pumps, it excavates, it carries, it draws, it lifts, it hammers, it spins, it weaves, it prints. It seems to say to men, at least to the class of artisans: 'Leave off your manual labor; give over your bodily toil; bestow but your skill and reason to the directing of my power, and I will bear the toil, with no muscle to grow weary, no nerve to relax, no breast to feel faintness!' What further improvement may still be made in the use of this astonishing power it is impossible to know, and it were vain to conjecture. What we do know is, that it has most essentially altered the face of aft'airs, and that no visible limit yet appears beyond which its progress is seen to be imp os-sible."-DANIEL WEBSTER.]

    SECTION 1. The Period of SpeCUlation. HERO TO WORCESTER. n. (1. 200 to A. D. 1700.-1. The history of the steam-engine is a suhjeet that intereHts greatly every intelligent milld.

    As Heligion has alwaYR been, and still is, tho gn'at moral agl'nt in tIll! 1l:1JIJ1; author, and is about to be published, Hndy illl1Stl'lltl!d, by the Applcton~.

  • TIlE GROJVTH OF TIlE STEAM-ENGINE. 8

    civilizing the world, and as Science is the great intellectual promoter of civilization, so the steamengine is, in modern times, the most im-portant physical agent in that great work.

    It would be superfluous to attempt to enumerate the benefits which it has conferred upon the human race, for such an enumeration would include an addition to every comfort, and the creation of almost every luxury that we now enjoy.

    " It has increased the sum of human happiness, not only by call-ing new pleasures into existence, but by so cheapening former enjoy-ments as to render them attainable by those who before could never have hoped to share them." 1

    2. The wonderful progress of the present century is, in a very great degree, due to the invention and improvement of the steam-en-gine, and to the ingenious application of its power to kinds of work that formerly tasked the physical energies of the human race. We cannot examine the methods and processes of any branch of industry without discovering somewhere the assistance and support of this wonderful machine.

    Relieving mankind from manual toil, it has left to the intellect the privilege of directing the power formerly absorbed in physical labor into other and more profitable channels. The intelligence which has thus conquered the powers of Nature now finds itself free to do brain-work; the force formerly utilized in the carrying of water and the hewing of wood is now expended in the Godlike work of thought.

    What, then, can be more interesting than to trace the history of the growth of this wonderful invention, the greateRt among the many great creations of one of God's most beneficent gifts to man, the power of invention.

    3. While following the r~cords and traditions of the steam-engine, I propose to call to your attention the fact that its history illustrates the very important truth that great inventions are never, and great discoveries are seldom, the work of anyone mind.

    Every great invention is really an aggregation of minor inven-tions, or the final step of a progression. It is not usually a creation, but a growth, as truly so as is the growth of the trees in the forest.

    Hence the same invention is frequently brought out in several countries and by several individuals simultaneously.

    Frequently, an important invention is made before the world is ready to receive it, and the unhappy inventor is taught, by his fail-ure, that it is as unfortunate to be in advance of the age as to be beldnc] it.

    1 Jlvc:ntionR ollI v hecome successful when they arc not only needed, hut wlH!n rnanl

  • THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTI[LY.

    communication to an English engineering periodical, deAcribed the new machinery which was built at Newport, Rhode Island, by John Babcock and Robert L. Thurston, for one of the first steamboats that ever ran between that city and New York. He prefaced his descrip-tion with a frequently-quoted remark to the effect that, .as Minerva sprang, mature in mind, in full stature of body, and completely armed, from the head of Jupiter, so' the steam-engine came forth, perfect at its birth, from the brain of James Watt.

    But we shall see, as we examine the records of its history, that, although James Watt was an inventor, and probably the greatest of the inventors of the steam-engine, he was still but one of the many men who have aided in perfecting it, and who have now made us so familiar with its tremendous power and its facile adaptation to labor, that we have almost ceased to admire jt, or to wonder at this product of the workings of the more admirable -intelligence that has so far perfected it.

    5. Twenty-one centuries 'ago, the political power of Greece was broken, although Grecian civilization bad risen to its zenith.

    Rome, ruder tban her polished neigb bor, was growing continually stronger, and was rapidly gaining territory by absorbing weaker states.

    Egypt, older in civilization than either Greece or Rome, fel1 but two centuries later before the assault of the younger states, and be-came a Roman province. Her principal city was at this time Alex-andria, founded by tbe great soldier whose name it bears when in the full tide of his prosperity. It had now become a great and prosper-ous city, the centre of the commerce of the world, the home of stu-dents and of learned men, and its population was the wealthiest and most civilized of the then known world.

    It is among the relics of this ancient Egyptian civilization that we find the first record of the early history l)f the steam-engine.

    6. In Alexandria, the home of Euclid, the great geometrician, and possibly contemporary with that talented engineer and mathematician Archimedes, a learned writer, Hero, produced a manuscript which he entitled" Spiritalia seu Pneumatica."

    The work is still extant, and has been several times republished. In it are described a number of interesting though primitive forms of water and heat engines, ana, among the latter, that shown i