THE INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE Imagination is the ability to think new thoughts and invention is the power of the mind to shape these abstract thoughts into concrete things and make them useful or do useful work.
The history of the world shows that the human race has progressed through the imagination of only a few of its members and a study of inventors from Archimedes to our own Edison leads us to conclude that no single individual is capable of any great de gree of imagining new forms but that it is the sum total of their creative faculties which has wrought the miracles of progress that we enjoy to-day.
It is a far cry from the modern high power guns that were used on the battle fronts of France to the equally high speed internal combustion engines em ployed to drive submarines and to develop power for more peaceful pursuits, but a glance at these two con trivances which are so unlike reveals the fact that they have sprung from the same stock, or perhaps barrel would be the more apt word, but it is true nevertheless.
The Coining of the Cannon.—The Chinese are given the credit of having discovered gunpowder and this was about the year 600 A.D. Some 600 years later the first gun to use gunpowder as the propelling force was invented in Bagdad, a city in Asiatic Tur key, and in 1234 the Chinese army under Genghis Khan used it for the first time in warfare. It is shown in Fig. 1.
The Earliest Glimmer of the as gunpowder was one of the first prime forces to be dis covered by man it was right in the logical sequence of things that it should have come in for a large amount of thought as a suitable power to harness up and use, and in this way save the energies of both man and beast.
These early inventors, if such they could be called, could see, with some stretch of their oriental imagi nations to be sure, that the barrel of the cannon would make the cylinder of an engine and that the cannon ball would serve as a piston driven out by the force of the expanding gases which was given off by the burning powder. But there their imaginations ended and a celestial glimmering of the gas engine was as far as they ever got.
The Gas Engine Gets on the idea of converting an engine of destruction into an engine to pump water was flickering uncertainly in the minds of the Eastern philosophers, the uses of steam as a motive power had attracted the attention of Western inventors.
The first actual plans for an engine to be driven by gunpowder which would deliver continuous power were drawn up in 1678 by the Abbe Hautefeuille (pronounced Hoti-fway) who lived in France. Like the steam engine of Newcommen which was then un der way the proposed gas engine of Hautefeuille was designed to pump water, for the scheme of chang ing the reciprocating motion of a piston into the ro tary motion of a crank had as yet been scarcely thought of.
According to the plans of the Abbe the powder was to be burned in a cylinder having some water in it and, as the gases cooled off after burning, a vacuum would be formed when the piston would be forced up by the atmospheric pressure on the water. The principle of this engine was correct but the inventor did not try to build one.
The First Gas Engine to be years later, that is to say in 1680, Huygens, (pronounced Hai-gens), a Dutchman, was the first to actually build a gas engine. It is shown in Fig. 2.
The inventor put the gunpowder in a little ignition, cup in the bottom of the cylinder and then fired it by a flame through a touchhole. The explosion of the fuel charge drove the air in the cylinder out through leather valves and so formed a vacuum in it, and then the atmospheric pressure on the top of the piston forced it down in the cylinder.
While this engine worked in a feeble way, the great trouble with it was that the valves could not be made air tight, and consequently the vacuum would not hold, hence Huygens' gas engine went by the board.
For over a century after Huygens had made this classic attempt, nothing further was done toward perfecting the gas engine. The reason for this long delay was because the steam engine had been stead ily developed in England and it had proved a very satisfactory prime mover.