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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/559

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INVENTION AND DISCOVERY.

tion itself, of which it may be considered in many cases as forming a part.

If the invention, as is often the case, competes with or is intended to supersede some older method, then there is a struggle for existence between the two. This state of things has been well described by Mr. Fletcher Moulton. The new invention, like a young sapling in a dense forest, struggles to grow up to maturity, but the dense shade of the older and higher trees robs it of the necessary light. If it could only once grow as tall as the rest all would be easy, it would then get its fair share of light and sunshine. Thus it often occurs in the history of inventions that the surroundings are not favorable when the first attack is made, and that subsequently it is repeated by different persons, and finally under different circumstances it may eventually succeed and become established.

We may take in illustration almost any of the great inventions of undoubted utility of which we happen to have the full history—for instance, of some of the great scientific discoveries, or some of the great mechanical inventions, such as the steam-engine, the gas-engine, the steamship, the locomotive, the motor-car or some of the great chemical or metallurgical discoveries. Are not most, if not all, of these the result of the long-continued labor of many persons, and has not the financial side been, in most cases, a very important factor in securing success?

The history of the steam-engine might be selected, but I prefer on this occasion to take the internal-combustion engine, for two reasons—firstly, because its history is a typical one; and secondly, because we are to hear a paper by that able exponent and great inventor in the domain of the gas-engine, Mr. Dugald Clark, describing not only the history, but the engine in its present state of development and perfection, an engine which is able to convert the greatest percentage of heat units in the fuel into mechanical work, excepting only, as far as we at present know, the voltaic battery and living organisms.

The first true internal-combustion engine was undoubtedly the cannon, and the use in it of combustible powder for giving energy to the shot is strictly analogous to the use of the explosive mixture of gas or oil and air as at present in use in all internal-combustion engines; thus the first internal-combustion engine depended on the combination of a chemical discovery and a mechanical invention, the invention of gunpowder and the invention of the cannon.

In 1680 Huygens proposed to use gunpowder for obtaining motive power in an engine. Papin, in 1690, continued Huygens's experiments, but without success. These two inventors, instead of following the method of burning the powder under pressure, as in the cannon, adopted, in ignorance of the thermodynamic laws, an erroneous course.