« AnteriorContinuar »
it is true, more especially when surrounded with such threats, temporal and spiritual, as those with which the Roman church supports its interests. But deeply as that false church has degraded the nations which have listened to its pretended miracles, (as much by the atheism it has produced among the educated, as by the unthinking belief and fanaticism engendered among the
lower orders,) it is consoling to know, that the day will come when the simple truths of Christianity will break down all forms of deception, and Christ shall live and reign in the hearts of a people who shall be his true and spiritual worshippers.
WHAT WAS DONE TOWARDS THE CONSTRUCTION OF
A STEAM ENGINE BEFORE THE TIME OF JAMES WATT.
The importance to which the steam engine has risen during the present century, has given so much interest to the history of its invention and progressive improvement, that almost every nation in Europe has presented a claim to the honour of having done something towards its production. It was not, perhaps, to be expected that such a controversy should have been carried on, during the early part of this century, without the display of some national animosity. The minds of men had been too deeply scarred by the iron hoof of devastating war to permit a peaceful examination of even a question of scientific priority. The claims of honourable competition were viewed with jealousy, and the prejudices of some pugnacious minds even tainted the streams of scientific history. This rancorous and litigious spirit has been in great measure subdued, however, and men may now discuss the question without being charged with national animosity or personal hatred. With these disputes, however, we shall no further concern ourselves than may be necessary for a clear and impartial statement of the history of the steam engine, which we shall, with all candour, endeavour to collect from the works of those who have engaged themselves in scientific discovery or mechanical invention.
The first claim to the honour of inventing a steam engine is presented by Spain in behalf of Blasco de Garay, a sea captain, who, in 1543, petitioned the emperor
Charles v. for an opportunity to make trial of a machine by which he could propel vessels without oars. The petition was granted, and a vessel of two hundred tons' burthen was placed at his disposal, and under his charge. In her he fixed his machinery, and a trial was made in the port of Barcelona, on the 17th of June, 1543. As he took the precaution to conceal his machinery, the only information obtained about it was, that he had a large boiler, to which wheels were somehow attached on both sides of the vessel, and that by their rotation the latter was propelled. The experiment was successful, and the commissioners, with one exception, reported the speed to be a league an hour. For some reason, not now to be discovered, the performance was viewed less favourably by Ravaga, the king's treasurer, who stated that the machinery was complicated, the boiler dangerous, and the speed not more than two leagues in three hours. In spite of this opposition, however, the expenses
of the experiment were paid by the govern-, ment, and the inventor was rewarded, but the machinery was taken out of the vessel, and no, more was heard of the discovery. The nature of the force employed can only be conjectured, and the principle and action of the contrivance are so entirely unknown, that it would be idle to eculate upon the amount of honour to be awarded to Blasco de Garay.*
France next introduces us to two authors for whom she claims honourable notice. Flurence Rivault, a gentleman of the bedchamber to Henry iv., and preceptor to Louis XIII., published in 1605 a work on Artillery. In this book he states, that if a bomb-shell be onethird filled with water, and then plugged, it will burst with great violence if placed over a fire. He seems to have been aware that this explosion was produced by the accumulation of steam; but supposing him to have been the first to have discovered the fact, it still remains a doubt whether he knew it to be the effect of its expansive force.
Solomon de Caus was architect and engineer to Louis XII., and his merits in connexion with our present subject have been warmly advocated by M. Arago, and other modern French authors. In the year 1612, he entered the service of the elector palatine, who married the daughter of James i. With that prince he
* It is proper to mention that some writers question the genuineness of the documents on the strength of which this interesting episode in Spanish history rests.
came to England, and was engaged by the prince of Wales in the decoration of his gardens at Richmond. In 1615, he published a work on Motive Forces, and this book became the source, two hundred years after, of bitter dispute and angry contention. M. Arago blames the English authors for disallowing the claim of De Caus to the honour of a share in the invention of the steam engine, and attributes their opposition to the desire of monopolizing for their native country'all the credit of the discovery. Such a motive would be as dishonourable as foolish, and we are more careful that such an imputation, for which we can see no evidence, should be withdrawn from our men of science, than that continental nations should regard the great and successful labours of our mechanists with the same approbation and applause as ourselves.
The bursting of a ball of copper by the pressure of confined steam, which was one of De Caus's experiments, had been previously performed by Flurence Rivault ; and in the temple of the god Busterich, as has been shown in a previous chapter, the fact was as well known to the initiated as to the engineers of the seventeenth century. The experiment on which his claim to a discovery rests, is that of forcing a column of water up a tube fixed in a copper vessel, by the united expansive power of air and steam. But after all, the question is, whether he, like many before him, believed the extraordinary force thus developed to arise