(22 August 1647
- c. 1712) was a French physicist
, best known for his pioneering invention
of the steam digester
, the forerunner of the steam engine
Life in France
Born in Blois
Région), Papin attended a Jesuit
school there, and from 1661 attended University at Angers
, from which he graduated with a medical degree in 1669. In 1673, while working with Christiaan Huygens
and Gottfried Leibniz
, he became interested in using a vacuum
to generate motive power.
First visit to London
Papin first visited London
in 1675, and worked with Robert Boyle
from 1676 to 1679, publishing an account of his work in Continuation of New Experiments
(1680). During this period, Papin invented the steam digester,
a type of pressure cooker
with a safety valve
. He first addressed the Royal Society in 1679 on the subject of his digester, and remained mostly in London until about 1687, when he left to take up an academic post in Germany.
A Huguenot, Papin was greatly affected by the increasing restrictions placed on Protestants by Louis XIV of France and the King's ultimate revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. In Germany he was able to live with fellow Huguenot exiles from France.
While in Marburg in 1690, having observed the mechanical power of atmospheric pressure on his 'digester', he built a model of a piston steam engine, the first of its kind.
He continued to work on steam engines for the next fifteen years.
In 1695 he moved from Marburg to Kassel. In 1705 he developed a second steam engine with the help of Gottfried Leibniz, based on an invention by Thomas Savery, but this used steam pressure rather than atmospheric pressure. Details of the engine were published in 1707.
During his stay in Kassel, Germany, in 1704, he also constructed a ship powered by his steam engine. The engine was mechanically linked to paddles. This would then make him the first to construct a steam boat.
Return to London
Papin returned to London in 1707, leaving his wife in Germany. Several of his papers were put before the Royal Society between 1707 and 1712 without acknowledging or paying him, about which he complained bitterly. Papin's ideas included a description of his 1690 atmospheric steam engine, similar to that built and put into use by Thomas Newcomen
in 1712, coincidentally thought to be the year of Papin's death. Although there is no evidence of foul play, political and religious intrigue plagued the science of the day, as well as personal rivalries. As a friend of Leibniz, Papin would have been at odds with Isaac Newton
, President of the Royal Society.
The last evidence of Papin's whereabouts was a letter he wrote dated January 23, 1712. At the time he was destitute, and it is believed he died that year and was buried in an unmarked pauper's pit.