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Fourneyron, Benoît

Fourneyron, Benoît

(b. Saint-Etienne, Loire, France, 31 October 1802; d. Paris, France, 8 July 1867)

hydraulic machinery.

The son of a geometrician, Fourneyron prepared in mathematical sciences before entering at the age of fifteen a new school of mines at Saint-Etienne, from which he graduated at the top of the first class. His early activities were devoted to developing the mines at Le Creusot, prospecting for oil, laying out a railroad, and finally initiating the fabrication of tinplate —until then an English monopoly—at Pont-surl’Ognon, Haute-Saône. Involved in the latter process was a waterwheel of low efficiency, and Fourneyron became obsessed with the idea of producing a highefficiency machine. At about the same time, one of his former professors at the school of mines, Claude Burdin, submitted to the Academie des Sciences a paper on hydraulic turbines; formally approved in 1824, it was noteworthy largely for its first use of the term. Both Burdin and Fourneyron then competed for a prize offered by the Societe d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale for the first person to “succeed in applying at large scale, in a satisfactory manner, in mills and factories, the hydraulic turbines or wheels with curved blades of Belidor.” Burdin was a theoretician and was never able to produce a working model. Fourneyron, on the contrary, after four years of experimentation, had constructed by 1827 an operating unit of the outward-flow type, the power (6 h.p.) and efficiency (80 percent) of which he determined through the first practical application of the newly invented Prony brake. The Societe Industrielle de Mulhouse that year awarded prizes to both inventors. Fourneyron patented the general design of his first three turbine installations in 1832. Although these were of the free-efflux type, he also foresaw the possibilities of efflux into a diffuser, and in 1855 he patented an outflow diffuser in the form of the present-day inflow scroll case. He was eventually to build more than one hundred hydraulic turbines of various forms for different parts of the world. His writings on water pressure, pipe design, and lock gates may be found in the Mémoires and Comptes rendus of the Academie des Sciences in the early 1840’s.


Relevant materials include B. Fourneyron, “Mémoire sur l’application en grand dans les mines et manufactures, des turbines hydrauliques ou roues à palettes courbes de Belidor,” in Bulletin de la Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale33 (1834), 3–17, 49–61, 85–96; M. Crozet-Fourneyron, Invention de la turbine (Paris 1924); and H. Rouse and S. Ince. History or Hydraulics (New York, 1963), pp. 146–148

Hunter Rouse

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