Jars, Antoine Gabriel

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Jars, Antoine Gabriel

(b. Lyons, France, 26 January 1732; d. Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne, France, 20 August 1769)

mining engineering, metallurgy.

The second son of Gabriel Jars and Jeanne-Marie Valioud, Jars began his studies in chemistry at the College of Lyons. After working for some years in his father’s copper mines at St.-Bel and Chessy, Lyonnais, he attracted the attention of Joseph Florent, the marquis de Vallière, who arranged for him to enter the École des Ponts-et-Chaussées at Paris about 1754. There Jars designed and built a furnace to refine the Chessy ores.

While still students, Jars and Duhamel visited the lead mines of Britanny and the mines of Pontpéan and Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines in Alsace. In 1757 the French government sent them to inspect Central European mines, particularly those of Saxony and of several provinces of Austria, including Bohemia, Hungary, Tirol, Carinthia, and Styria. After two years Jars returned to Chessy, where, with the exception of a year at the coal mines of Franche-Comté, he remained until 1764. He was then sent to study the English coal mines and the manufacture and use of coke in metallurgical work.

In addition to a thorough examination of the more advanced English and Scottish technology, Jars visited lead mines, observed the preparation of white and red lead, the making of steel by cementation, and the manufacture of oil of vitriol. He was accorded unusually generous treatment by the proprietors of the establishments he visited and was honored by election to the Royal Society of Arts as a corresponding member (1765). After fifteen months Jars returned to France in September 1765. Although reports gave a most valuable account of contemporary British industrial practice, they were not published by the French government (perhaps, in the opinion of Charles Ballot, to avoid making Jars’s information available to other countries).

The following year he visited the Low Countries, Germany, and Scandinavia. A correspondent of the French Royal Academy of Sciences since 1761, Jars became a member on 18 May 1768, when he shared a tie vote with Lavoisier. Soon after he toured eastcentral France from Champagne to Franche-Comté, with government orders to examine factory operations and advise the proprietors on methods that would bring their manufacturing “to the degree of perfection of which they are capable” (Ballot, p. 439). His success led to a similar survey of central France from Orléans to Auvergne. Unhappily, his mission was not completed; he suffered a sunstroke and died after a short illness.

In spite of his long and arduous journeys, Jars found time to experiment at St.–Bel. applying coke to the melting of copper he demonstrated, for the first time in Franche, the melting of iron with coke (January 1769). A few months later he conducted the experiment again at the plant of the Wendel family at Hayange, where, although this process was not adopted immediately, “. . .“the English procedures were successfully naturalized in France.”

Jars, probably the first professional French metal-lurgist, was an important element in the French government’s endeavors to bring about the modernization of industrial practices to meet the challenge offered by the drastic developments occurring in England. His early death may, indeed, have retarded the changes if only because he seems to have been the only person, until 1773, to have direct knowledge and experience of English methods, especially of using coke in the smelting of iron. The reports published by his brother between 1774 and 1781, coupled with the importation of English specialists, accelerated the change.


I. Original Works. For a compilation of Jars’s works from 1757 to 1769, see Voyages métallurgiques ou recherches et observations sur les mines et forges de fer. . ., Gabriel Jars, ed., 3 vols. (Lyons, 1774-1781). The following were published in the Mémoires of the Paris Academy of Sciences; “Observations sur la circulation de I”air dans les mines” (1768), pp. 218-235; “D’un grand fourneau á raffiner le cuivre” (1769), pp. 589-606; “Procédé des Anglois pour convertir le plomb en minium” (1770), pp. 68-72;“Observations métallurgiques sur la séparation de métaux,” ibid., pp. 423-436, 514-525; and “Observations sur les mines en general,” ibid., pp. 540-557.

II. Secondary Literature. On Jars and his work, see (listed chronologically) Grandjean de Fouchy, “Éloge de M. Jars,” in Histoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences (1769), p. 173; ibid. (1770), p. 59; Charles Ballot, L’introduction du machinisme dans l’industrie française (Paris-Lille, 1923), pp. 437 ff.; and Jean Chevalier, “La mission de Gabriel Jars dans les mines et les usines britanniques en 1764,” in Transactions. The Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology,26 (1947-1949), 57.

P. W. Bishop

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