Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/561

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
557
INVENTION AND DISCOVERY.

development being reached, the names of Siemens, Beaude, Roches, Otto Simon, Dugald Clerk, Priestman, Daimler, Dowson, Mond and others appear as inventors who have worked at and added something to perfect the internal-combustion engine and its fuel, and who have helped to bring it to its present state of perfection.

In the history of great mechanical inventions there is perhaps no better example of the interdependence of the engineer, the physicist and the chemist than is evidenced in the perfecting of the gas-engine. The physicist and the chemist together determine the behavior of the gaseous fuel, basing their theory on data obtained from the experimental engines constructed by the mechanical engineer, who, guided by their theories, makes his designs and improvements; then, again, from the results of the improvements fresh data are collected and the theory further advanced, and so on till success is reached. But though I have spoken of the physicist, the chemist and the engineer as separate persons, it more generally occurs that they are rolled into one, or at most two, individuals, and that it is indispensable that each worker should have some considerable knowledge of all the sciences involved to be able to act his part successfully.

Now let us ask: Could not this very valuable invention, the internal combustion engine, have been introduced in a much shorter time by more favoring circumstances, by some more favorable arrangement of the patent laws, or by legislation to assist the worker attacking so difficult a problem? I think the answer is that a great deal might be done, and I will endeavor to indicate some changes and possible improvements.

The history of this invention brings before our minds two important considerations. Firstly, let us consider the patentable matter involved in the invention of the gas-engine, the utilization for motive-power purposes of the then well-known properties of the explosive energy of gunpowder or of mixture of gas and oil with air. Are not these obvious inferences to persons of a mechanical turn of mind and who had seen guns fired, or explosions in bottles containing spirits of turpentine when slightly heated and a light applied to the neck? Surely no fundamental patent could have been granted under the existing patent laws for so obvious an application of known forces. Consequently, patent protection was sought in comparative details, details in some cases essential to' success which were evolved or invented in the process of working out the invention. In this extended field of operations a slight protection was in some instances obtained. But in answer to the question whether such protection was commensurate with the benefits received by the community at large, there can, I think, be only one reply. Generally, those who did most got nothing, some few received insufficient returns, and in very few cases indeed can the return