Denis Papin

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Denis Papin with technical drawing in 1689. The inscription reads completely:
“DionySius Papin MD
Math. Prof. ord. ac
Reg. Soc. Lond. Socius
Anno 1689 "

Denis Papin (born August 22, 1647 in Chitenay , France, † August 1713 in London ) was a French physicist , mathematician and inventor , who became famous for his pioneering work on the development of the steam engine , the pressure cooker and the submarine . Papin, who was a Calvinist denomination, left France due to the persecution of Protestants in 1675 and then worked in England and Germany, where he developed most of his patents as a professor at the Philipps University of Marburg from 1687 to 1707.


Papin was born into a middle-class family in a small town in County Blois . Although he was of Calvinist denomination, he attended the nearby Jesuit school and then studied from 1661 at the University of Angers , where he obtained a doctorate in medicine in 1669. During his studies he developed a great interest in physical problems.

In 1671 Papin became the assistant of Christiaan Huygens in Paris. There they both worked on the development of a machine that would make use of the forces of fire, steam and vacuum. In Paris, Papin also met Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz , who was roughly the same age and with whom he corresponded throughout his life. Even before Papin's experiments, Otto von Guericke dealt with experiments on pneumatics in 1663 , but was not able to publish their results until 1672.

Model drawing of the Papin pot

Since the Huguenots in France saw themselves exposed to increasing reprisals, Papin went to London in 1675 and worked for Robert Boyle and in 1679 assistant to Robert Hooke . In 1679 he invented cooking under increased steam pressure . For this he constructed a steam pressure cooking pot , the Papin pot , which burst during the first demonstration in front of the Royal Society. It was only after Papin had also invented the safety valve that his saucepan worked safely and was patented in Paris in 1681.

In 1681 Papin rose to head the experimental department at the accademia publica di scienze in Venice and in 1684 became an employee of the Royal Society , of which Robert Boyle was chairman. The French Huguenot Papin was not allowed to return to France after Louis XIV repealed the Edict of Nantes (freedom of religion for Protestants). During this time Papin also worked on steam cannons in Venice .

Right picture side: Papin's first draft of the principle of the atmospheric piston steam engine from 1690

In 1687 Papin took a call to the University of Marburg in Landgraviate Hesse , one of the few Calvinist territories on German soil, to the chair of mathematics at.

In 1690 he reported about a steam engine that he had built. It was essentially a cylinder with a little water and a piston in it . When the cylinder was alternately heated and cooled from the outside, the piston moved and provided useful mechanical work. It was the first working heat engine.

Papin married in 1691.

Papin was one of the church elders in the French Huguenot community in Marburg. In 1691 he got into a heated argument with the preacher Thomas Gautier , who also taught at the university, about the seating arrangements in the community . When he accused Gautier of misappropriating poor money, Papin was removed from his office as an elder and excluded from the Lord's Supper.

Papin developed an underwater vehicle in 1692 and made the first voyage in it himself. In 1695 he first described a steam pressure pump. In 1696 he got a job with the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel and worked on the technical requirements for the water arts in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel . During this time Thomas Savery received the first patent for a steam pressure pump in England , but it did not catch on. Papin was also involved in the initial planning of the Landgraf-Carl Canal , which was to connect the Weser with the Lahn.

Ironworks in Veckerhagen

Papin initially stayed in Kassel and built the first steam cylinder around 1706 in the Hessian ironworks in Veckerhagen . From this he developed a steam pressure pump that was supposed to pump the water for the water features in Park Wilhelmshöhe. The pump only worked for a short time because the connections and seals inside did not hold and the valves were leaking . In addition, from thought lead made pipes the pressure was not.

In order to be able to return to London with his wife and children, Papin built a paddle wheel boat powered by a steam cylinder and muscle power in 1707 and wanted to transfer it on the Fulda and Weser from Kassel to Bremen . The paddle wheel boat was stopped by the Mündener Schiffergilde on September 24, 1707 in the dispute over rights of passage and finally destroyed on September 27. He came back to London in the same year without his invention, but was unable to gain a foothold there.

Entry in the death register of St. Bride's Church, London, 1713
Papin monument from 1906 in front of the Kassel Ottoneum
Memorial plaque in Marburg

Papin's last sign of life is a payment note from the Royal Society of April 5, 1712; he died the following year and was buried on August 26, 1713, recorded on the 1713 death register of St. Bride's Church in London.

In a letter dated October 24, 1715, the German mathematician Lothar Zumbach von Koesfeld reported to Leibniz that Papin had died in great poverty in England, and that Zumbach cited an English informant.

In 1712, a year before Denis Papin's death, Thomas Newcomen built an atmospheric piston steam engine, which was the first heat engine to establish itself on the market. It was replaced by the steam engines James Watts patented in 1769 .


  • Recueil de diverse Pieces touchant quelques nouvelles Machines. Cassell 1695. ( Online edition at the Saxon State Library - Dresden State and University Library)


  • Gustav Karsten:  Papin, Denis . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 25, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1887, p. 142 f.
  • Denis Papin, a martyr of science . In: The New Universe . tape 1 , 1880, p. 56-60 .
  • Ludwig Darmstaedter : Denis Papin. A forgotten inventor. In: Newspaper of the Association of German Railway Administrations, Volume 66, No. 9 (March 4, 1926), p. 233.
  • Karsten Porezag: Denis Papin (1647-1713) in Marburg and Kassel - inventor of the principle of the atmospheric piston steam engine and the steamship propulsion . Manuscript excerpt. In: Society for Culture and Monument Preservation (Ed.): Hessische Heimat . No. 1/2 , August 2020, ISSN  0178-3173 , p. 3-13 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b Walther Kiaulehn : The iron angels. A history of machines from antiquity to the time of Goethe . Deutscher Verlag (“Aryanized” Ullstein-Verlag) , Berlin 1935; reissued in 1953 by Rowohlt-Verlag
  2. Portrait of Papin with inscription DionySius Papin M [edicinae] D [octor]
  3. Papin, Denis in: Encyclopaedia Britannica from 1885 (9th edition, Vol. 18, pp. 228-229)
  4. U. Niggemann: Integration Policy Between Conflict and Consensus: Huguenot Settlement in Germany and England , Cologne-Vienna 2008, p.475 / 76
  5. Denys Papin's death entry, August 26, 1713, St. Bride's Church London, in "S 'BRIDE'S REGISTER MARRIAGES BURRIALS FROM 1695 to Aug 1714", a copy of the entry is in the Archives of the Historisches Brauhaus Veckerhagen (Reinhard Stößel (Veckerhagen))

Web links

Commons : Denis Papin  - Collection of images, videos and audio files