Gravesande’s Air-Pump

An article on Willem Jacob Gravesande and his influence on air-pump design is available free (until 31 Jan., 2010) at The Annals of Science.

The Abstract:

In 1714, the Dutch scholar Willem Jacob’s Gravesande published a theoretical essay on how to optimize the air-pump. Although his paper did not attract much attention, there was one important supplier of air-pumps who knew about it: the Leiden instrument maker Jan van Musschenbroek. ‘s Gravesande and he cooperated intensively between 1717 and 1742. Among other things, this cooperation resulted in two new air-pump designs to replace Musschenbroek’s own models. A closer analysis of’s Gravesande’s influence on Musschenbroek’s repertoire reveals that the various changes were not inspired by the theory of the air-pump. Commercial and practical considerations were much more important than theoretical reflections, even though both approaches aimed at the same goal: a fast and handy air-pump.

Theory and practice in air-pump construction: The cooperation between Willem Jacob’s Gravesande and Jan van Musschenbroek. Anne C. van Helden, Annals of Science, Volume 51, Issue 5 September 1994 , pages 477 – 495.

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