The Science of Machines

  • Charles Coulston Gillispie
  • Raffaele Pisano
Part of the History of Mechanism and Machine Science book series (HMMS, volume 19)


The great events that Carnot touched and shaped never caused him to lose sight of the adaptation of the science of mechanics to the science of machines that he thought to initiate when still an obscure young engineer. Fortunately for the historian, the documentation is adequate to permit following his conceptions from their genesis in the entry he prepared for the prize contest set by the Academy of sciences in April 1777 right through their development during his lifetime into the subject matter of a new branch of science in the 1820s. Since his own ideas were expressed in their most individual and unadorned form in his first publication, the Essai sur les machines en général of 1783, it will be best to present them through the medium of the detailed analysis of that work that occupies the current chapter. Thereupon it will be informative to look first back and then forward. The stages through which Carnot formulated his approach may be observed in the successive memoirs he submitted to the Academy in 1778 and 1780. Twenty years later, an ostensibly retired statesman, he extended and developed the subject in Principes fondamentaux de l’équilibre et du mouvement. Beyond this, it is one of the purposes of the present monograph to exhibit that Sadi Carnot’s Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu, published in 1824, the year after his father’s death, may properly be read not only as the foundation of thermodynamics, but also as the culmination of a methodologically and conceptually coherent series of Carnot essays on the science of machines. After surveying the literature of that subject a little more at large, it will be appropriate finally to consider the relevance of Carnot’s mathematical writings to his mechanics and his work in science.


Mechanic Mechanic Activity Moment Perpetual Motion Hard Body Motion Motion 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Coulston Gillispie
    • 1
  • Raffaele Pisano
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of HistoryPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.SCité University of Lille 1LilleFrance

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