London: Royal Society, 1798. 1st Edition. TRUE FIRST EDITION OF THOMPSON’S SEMINAL CANNON-BORING EXPERIMENTS PROVING THAT HEAT IS A FORM OF ENERGY. This paper marks the beginning of investigations of the mechanical equivalent of heat and was the first step to establishing the 19th century revolution in thermodynamics. Here “Thompson ... was the first to challenge successfully the accepted theory that heat was the manifestation of an imponderable fluid called 'caloric'. He declared, and gave experimental proof before the Royal Society ion 1798, that heat was a mode of motion” (Printing and the Mind of Man No. 323 p. 196). The paper is accompanied by a fold-out copperplate engraving.
Benjamin Thompson was one of a number of scientists tasked to bore out the barrels of cannons for the British government. Astonished at the high temperatures the cannons and their shavings reached during the boring process, Thompson began to set up controlled experiments and this paper is the result of those experiments.
In one specific experiment, Thompson sank a cannon in a tank of water, and using a steel borer and a brass cylinder, began the boring at a rate of thirty-two revolutions per minute. After only two hours and thirty minutes of boring, Thompson was stunned that the water surrounding the cannon had begun to boil.
Thompson knew that his experiment had shown that the heat generated by boring occurred absent any chemical of physical change to the cannon, and in the paper states that “any thing which any insulated body, or system of bodies, can continue to furnish without limitation cannot possibly me a material [caloric] substance” (Thompson, 99). He attributed the heat to the friction generated between the boring tool and the cannon, arguing that the heat could in no way have resulted from the flow of fluid into the water.
“Since the amount of heat generated depended only on constant friction, the old concept of a body's "caloric" [meaning material in nature and a fluid that is conserved] was destroyed; a mechanical interpretation became valid. Heat became not matter, but motion. (Heralds of Science 151 p. 71).
A year later, in 1799, the paper was reprinted in The Philosophical Magazine, however this, the Philosophical Transactions printing, the true first. Printing and the Mind of Man No. 323, Norman 2073, Heralds of Science 151. Item #716
CONDITION & DETAILS: London: Royal Society. , iv, 102, . 8vo. 8.75 x 6.5 inches. 2 copperplate engravings (one of which accompanies this paper). Handsomely and solidly bound in modern quarter leather and marbled boards with 5 gilt-ruled raised bands at the spine. Gilt-lettered red and black morocco spine labels. Printed paper title label front cover (aged by the binder as befits the period and binding). Very slight and light scattered foxing. Near fine condition.