History of the “Essay on the construction of machines” by J. M. Lanz and A. Betancourt


The publication of Hachette, Programme du cours élémentaire des machines pour l’an 1808; Lanz et Bétancourt. Essai sur la composition des machines laid the foundation for the science of mechanisms. The contents of the book have been thoroughly analyzed in historical literature, but the present study investigates its little known prehistory, starting with 1795 when Gaspard Monge in his lectures at the École normale first formulated the problem of the study of mechanisms. The specific roles of all four major contributors to the work can be described as follows. Monge initiated the study, formulated the general idea of the possibility of classifying all mechanisms by kinematic criteria, but did not participate in its subsequent development. Agustín de Betancourt y Molina contributed the classification of mechanisms, gave it practical meaning and filled in technical details, but withdrew from further work in 1808.
Contrary to the common assumption, the essay by Jean Nicolas Pierre Hachette was not an earlier and independent text, but borrowed some of the basic ideas and principles of classification from the 1806–1808 study by José María Lanz and Betancourt. By continuing to work on additional problems and editions from 1811 to 1840, both Hachette and Lanz improved the initial study to the level of a fully developed branch of science. The essay by Lanz and Betancourt exerted enormous influence internationally, especially among English and German practitioners and machinebuilders, while the essay by Hachette remained mainly for the use of academic and Francophone scholars.


Recommended bibliographic description

, , History of the “Essay on the construction of machines” by J. M. Lanz and A. Betancourt, Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki [Studies in History of Science and Technology], , p.  698-716

    © Studies in the History of Science and Technology: Quarterly scientific journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2015)
    ISSN 0205-9606. Индекс 70143