Claude François Jouffroy d'Abbans

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Claude-François-Gabriel-Dorothée Jouffroy d'Abbans (born September 30, 1751 in Roches-sur-Rognon , Haute-Marne , France , † July 18, 1832 in Paris ) was an engineer, inventor and infantry officer and is in France regarded as the first inventor of the steamship .


Claude François Jouffroy d'Abbans was the son of the Marquis Claude Jean Eugène Jouffroy d'Abbans (1715–1796) and Jeanne Henriette Pons de Rennepont (1717–1793). He had a younger brother Claude Balthazar Jouffroy d'Abbans (1757-1792) and a sister Marie Elisabeth Jouffroy d'Abbans. Claude François Jouffroy d'Abbans married Marie Magdeleine Pingon du Valier († August 30, 1829) on May 10, 1783 and had four sons with her:


From a young age, Claude Jouffroy d'Abbans was interested in the natural sciences, technology and mechanics and visited the mills and workshops in the area. He was taught in the Dominican monastery in Quingey and showed special achievements in mathematics and experimental sciences. Despite all this, the only option for his parents was a military career. So he initially served at the side of Maria Josepha von Sachsen in order to prepare for the military. At the age of 13 he learned the basics of military training at the court in Versailles , but his passion was still mathematics.

When he returned to Abbans-Dessus Castle in 1767 , he set up a workshop and a forge there. In 1768, at the insistence of his father, he joined the infantry and served as a sous-lieutenant under Colonel Karl Bourbon , the future king of France. However, there were disputes between the officers and Claude Jouffroy d'Abbans was exiled to the Îles de Lérins and imprisoned. From his cell he could see the naval base and it was at this time that he developed the idea of propelling ships with steam engines. A short time later, the governor of Sainte-Marguerite released him and he spent another 2 years on the island.

First steamship

In 1773, Jouffroy d'Abbans visited the Périer brothers' atelier in Paris and learned about the steam engine ( Pompe à feu ), which was used to drive the Chaillot hydraulic machine . In his home country he met Charles François Monnin de Follenay and Claude François Joseph d'Auxiron , who also dreamed of steam propulsion for ships. Together they presented their idea to the Périer brothers and the Marquis de Crest, but differences of opinion arose, so Claude Jouffroy d'Abbans founded his own company. In 1775 he made his first attempts on the Bassin de Gondé near Baume-les-Dames . Since his father had no understanding for his son's research, Jouffroy d'Abbans' sister Marie Elisabeth convinced the abbess of her monastery to support him. A coppersmith made a steam engine and in 1776 the Palmipède was built , a 13-meter-long steamship in which the machine moved flaps in the water, similar to beating a duck with the feet to move in the water. The ship sailed the Doubs in June and July 1776 . Jouffroy d'Abbans' father feared that Claude François would spend the entire family fortune on his research and therefore appointed the second youngest brother, Claude Balthazar, as heir. Claude François Jouffroy d'Abbans moved into a mill and continued his research there.

First paddle steamer

Model of a steamship built by Jouffroy d'Abbans in 1784

Jouffroy d'Abbans finally went to Lyon and began there in 1782 with the construction of a 42 m long paddle steamer Pyroscaphe . Here he also met Marie Magdeleine Pingon du Valier, his future wife. On July 15, 1783, he made his first voyage on the Saône . A month later, on August 19th, he carried passengers with the pyroscaphe , who signed a witness report for him for the successful journey. The steamboat reached a speed of six miles an hour against the current and sailed on the Saône for 16 months. In 1784 he designed another paddle steamer with an improved steam engine, but it was only built as a model.

The Academy of Sciences ( Académie des sciences ) banned him from using his invention in Paris and instead hired Claude Périer, one of d'Abbans' adversaries whose previous attempts had failed, to appraise the construction. Jouffroy d'Abbans returned home, as there was no room for him with his brother, he built a log house next to the mill, but it burned down after 3 months.

Later years

In 1793, during the French Revolution , Claude François Jouffroy d'Abbans fled to the eastern side of the Rhine and joined Louis V Joseph de Bourbon . Later his eldest son followed him to Ettenheim . In 1801, after the Treaty of Lunéville , he returned to France. His father and brother had since died and he was now the new marquis and sole heir and set up a forge in the castle.

In 1803, more than 20 years after Jouffroy d'Abban's first voyage, Robert Fulton made the first voyage with his steamship on the Seine and he described himself as the inventor of the steamship. However, Joseph-Philibert Desblanc from Trévoux , a watchmaker and inventor, made it clear that he had already applied for a patent on a steamship. Claude François Jouffroy d'Abbans challenged this patent because of its previous achievements but was not heard by the authorities.

It wasn't until April 23, 1816 that he finally got a patent. His claim was confirmed by François Arago and, in 1840, by the French Academy. Jouffroy d'Abbans had the paddle steamer Charles Philip , which he named after the later King Charles X , built in a shipyard in Petit Bercy . The maiden voyage on the Seine was on August 20, 1816 . The hired captain had been bribed by the competition and was supposed to steer the ship against an arch of the Pont Neuf bridge , but Ferdinand Jouffroy d'Abbans was able to thwart this. Claude François Jouffroy d'Abbans planned to build another steamship, the Persévérant . This should run between Lyon and Chalon-sur-Saône and even have a galley for the passengers, but the costs were too high.

In the American New International Encyclopedia , Jouffroy published Les bateaux à vapeur ("The Steam Ships") and wrote Mémoires sur les pompes à feu ("Memories about the fire pump") for the academy . The transport by steamship was not economical for Jouffroy d'Abbans and so his last company finally went bankrupt in July 1819 and he received no further financial support. Impoverished, he retired to the Hôtel des Invalides in 1831 and died there of cholera .

In 1884 a monument to Jouffroy d'Abbans was erected in Besançon.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Johann Samuelersch , Johann Gottfried Gruber : General Encyclopedia of Sciences and Arts, in alphabetical order. , Part 21, Leipzig 1830, p. 195 ( online )