BRANCA.—The next steam inventor succeeding. De Caus, the French engineer, was Branca, au Italian architect and eugineer, who, in 1629, illustrated the first steam motor applied to drive machinery. It consisted of a horizontal steam wheel which operated a pair of stampers, as represented by Fig. 8. a is the wlipile hav-a fire under it, and the cover is surmounted with the figure of a human head, in the style of a spouting fountnin. The steam issues from the mouth against the vanes of the wheel, 0, causing it to reyolve on its axis, n. A pinion, i, on the axis of the steam wheel takes into whecl, x, on the shaft of which is a roJ:cr hnving several iifters, which opcrate stampers, s s, for grinding substances iu the mortars, D v. The other wheels, u r z e, simply show how motion and power may be transmitted from the secondary shaft. This mode of applying the steam to obtain power is inferior to that of Hero's, but it “shadowcd forth.”its subsequent great destiny in driving machinery. Branca publishcd a work on machinery, in which this figure is found. Another figure in his volume shows smoke rising from a blacksmith's hearth operating a wheel which communicates motion by gearing to rollers, for flattening iron bars. It was undoubtedly the first iron rolling mill that was illustrated, and it was ingeniously suggesteu that the economy of the IVhole operation was due to the use of smoke or hot air arising from the very fire which heated the iron, to drive the rollers. A hot air engine applied in this manner would certainly be more economical than a steam one. Branca wus a man of fine tastes and possessed great ingennity. BISHOP WILKINS AND HIS FLYING MACHINE.—The next person worthy of notice as a steam inventor was John Wilkins, bishop of Chester, England, brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell. He was one of the most remarkable men of his time, and was a rare combination of learning, fancy and shrewdness. He preached a discourse tending to prove that “ it is probable there may be another habitable world in the moon..”This produced considerable merriment among the wits of the day, and among others, the Duchess of Newcastle, who was a famous scheming character. She objected to the good bishop's doctrine, and said to him thnt “posterity might find out some conveyance to the other world, but the difficulty in the ease would be the want of places for refreshments on the road..”The bishop expressed himself surpriseu that such an objection should come from a lady who had been all her life “ building castles in the air..”Bishop Wilkins declared his belief tllat it was not impossible for man to fly. He said: “I do seriously, nnd upon good grounds, affirm thnt it is possible to make a flying chariot in which a man may sit anu give snch a motion unto it as shall convey him through the air; and this perhaps may be made large enough to carry divers men at the same time, together with food for their viaticum, and commodities for traffic. It is not the bigness of anything of this kind that can hinder its motion, If the motive faculty be answerable thereunto. This engine may be contriveu on the same principle by which Archytas made a wooden dove, and Regio Mon- tanus a wooden engle..”* * * “Might not a ??f pressure be applied with advantage to move wings ns large as the I'ucks or the chariot. The cngineer might probably find a corncr that would do for a coal station, ncar some of the castles." The good bishop thought this would be an inconceivably superior mcthod of traveling, above any other conveyance in that dny, and the man who would iuvent it would not only “make himself,.”but also the age in which he lived. Bishop Wilkins certainly livcd several centuries in advance of his age, in the way of spcculntion on mcchanical subjects. He was the first writer who proposed steam as the motive agcnt for propelling chaliots in the ail'. la our own lay the same agency has been suggested several times, but we do not seem tobe mudl nearer lhe consummation of such a desirable object, than when Oliver Cromwell—the bishop's great Lrother-ill-Iaw— held a firm grip on the destinies of England, two hundred years ago. If flying through the atmosl,here could be rendered practical and mfe by man, it wonld be the grcatest of all inventions achieycd by the genius of man over the elements of naturc. The very idea of careering through the air in huge steam chariots, spurning with disdain our mnddy strects, rnilroads and steamboats, is perfectly exhilarating. John Wilkins, the Bishop of Chestcr, although a preacher of gospel sermons, did not hold himself so lordly spiritual as to oycrlook domestic nnd social improvements for the good of his racc. He also prorosed' thnt the smoke jack (hot air and gas motor) should be' applied to the “ chiming of bells and other devites,'.” and as a reason for so doing he Baiu “there cannot be any more pleasant contrivnnce for continual and cheap music ; and it may also be useful for the reeling of yarn, the rocking of a cradle, with divers like domestic avocations." In our next article we shall present illustrations of the Marquis of Worcester's steam engines and give an' account of the first applications of steam thnt were suggested for heating buildings. — .Q.
This article was originally published with the title "Romance of the Steam Engine" in Scientific American 3, 26new, 404 (December 1860)