Combes, Charles-Pierre-Mathieu

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Combes, Charles-Pierre-Mathieu

(b. Cahors, France, 26 December 1801; d. Paris, France,11 January 1872),

technology, mechanics.

Combes was the son of Pierre-Mathieu Combes, a military police chief, and Marie-Salome-Barbe Beauseigneur. He studied in Paris at the College Henri IV, where he won first prize in mathematics and second prize in physics. In 1818 he entered the Ecole Polytechnique, and then spent two years at the Ecole desMines. He next taught elementary mathematics, design, and draftsmanship at the Ecole des Mineurs de Saint-Étienne. In 1824 he became ingénieur ordinaire then temporarily left the Administration of Mines to manage the silver-bearing lead mines of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and Lacroix-aux-Mines. In 1826 he reentered the Administration and became chairman of the departments of mathematics, mechanics, and design in the Ecole des Mines. In addition to these duties, Combes managed the coal fields of Roche-La-Molière and Firmipy from 1827 on.

In May 1832 he was named professor of the development of mines at the Ecole des Mines; he taught this subject for sixteen years. He further studied the development of mines in England, traveling there in the summer of 1834.

Combes was especially interested in ventilation. He therefore wanted to measure accurately the flow of air in underground work areas; to this end he constructed an anemometer (modeled on Woltman’s wich, used in hydraulics), which he calibrated according to a method that he described in th Annales des Mines of 1838. He then obtained a patent for and built a centrifugal ventilator equipped with curved blades inclined away from the direction of air movement, following the rule of hydraulics that maximum output requires that the air be expelled slowly (relative to the forward component of th bade motion). The ventilator was not very efficient, however.

In 1836 Combes became ingénieur en chef des mines; until 1842 he directed the regulatory agency for all steam apparatus in the Seine department and also sat on the central committee for steam machines. As secretary of this committte, he drafted the order that required certification for all steam machines. He became inspector general of mines in 1848 and from 1861 was the president of the Central Committee (which, in a decree of 25 January 1865, relaxed Combes’s rules somewhat).

From 1839 Combes reported tirelessly to the mechanical arts committee of the Societe d’Encouragement pour I’industrie Nationale. In 1867, he eulogized Theophile Guibal for his invention of the encasedblade ventilator, which was manufactured from 1858 to 1922.

In 1847 Combes was elected to the Acadamie des Sciences; in 1857 he became director of the Ecole des Mines. From 1869 on he was president of the Conseil General des Mines.

In 1830 Combes married Louise-Pauline Bousquet, who died in 1841. He had a son who became a judge and two daughters, one of whom married the mineralogist charles Friedel.


I. Original Works. Among Combes’s many works are “Note sur les machines à vapur,” in Annales des mines, 2nd ser., 9 (1824), 441–462; “Observations sur le travail utile d’une machine d’épuisement…et sur les pertes d’eau qui ont lieu dans le jeu des pompes de mine,” ibid., 3rd ser., 2 (1832), 73–92; “Épuisement des eaux de quelques mines de houille de Rive-de Gier,” ibid., 3 (1833), 197–208; “Mémoire sur une méthode générale d’évaluer le travail, dû au frottement entre les pièces des machines qui se meuvent ensemble en se pressant mutuellement…” in Liouville’s Journal de mathématiques pures et appliquées, 2 (1837), 109–129; “Mémoire sur un nouvel anémomètre…,” in Annales des mines, 3rd ser., 13 (1838), 103–130, extract in Bulletin de la Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale (1841), 288–292; “Aérage des mines,” in Annales des mines, 3rd ser., 15 (1839), 91–308; “Supplément au traité de l’aérage des mines,” ibid., 18 (1840), 545–666; Notice sur les travaux de M. Combes (Paris, 1843; 2nd ed., 1847); Traité de l’exploitation des mines, 3 vols, and atlas (Paris, 1844–1845); Exposé des principes de la théorie mécanique de la chaleur et de ses applications principales (Paris, 1863); “Sur l’application de la théorie mécanique de la chaleur aux machines a vapeur…” in Bulletin de la société d’encouragement pour l’industrie natioale, 2nd ser.. 16 (1869), 13–48; Études sur la machine à vapeaur… (Paris, 1969); and Deuxième mémoire sur l’application de la théorie mécanique de la chaleur aux machines locomotives dans la marche à contre-vapeur (Paris, 1869).

Among his collaborative works are “Note sur le fer carbonaté de Lasalle, et sur quelques produits des houillères embrasées des environs d’Aubin (Averyron),” in Annales des mines, 2nd ser., 8 (1823), 431–438, written with T. Lorieux; and “Essais sur I’emploi du coton azotiquc pour le tirage des rochers,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 23 (1846) 940–944, 1090, extracted in Bulletin de la Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale (1846), 621–622, written with Flandin.

II. Secondary Literature. See J.-A. Barral. Éloge bio-graphique de M. Pierr-Charles-Mathieu Combes…(Paris, 1874)

Arthur Birembaut