By Dr. R.H. THURSTON, Director of Sibley College, Cornell University.

Papin, Worcester, Savery, were the authors of the period of application of the power of steam to useful work in our later days. The world was, in their time, just waking into a new life under the stimulus of a new freedom that, from the time of Shakespeare, of Newton, and of Gilbert, the physicist, has steadily become wider, higher, and more fruitful year by year. All the modern sciences and all the modern arts had their reawakening with the seventeenth century. Every aspect of freedom for humanity came into view in those days of a new birth. Both the possibility of the introduction of new sciences and of new arts and the power of utilizing all new intellectual and physical forces came together. The steam engine could not earlier have taken form, and, taking form, it could not have promoted the advance of civilization in the earlier centuries. The invention becoming possible of development and application, the promotion of the arts and of all forms of human activity became a possible consequence of its final successful introduction into the rude arts that it was to so effectively promote and improve.

But the work of these inventors was in itself but little more important than that of the Greek inventor of the steam aelopile, for each brought forward a machine which was, from a business point of view, utterly impracticable, and which, in each case, only served to show that a better device might prove useful and lead the way to its introduction. The merit of the inventors of the eighteenth century was that they were able to lead the way, to point out the path to success, to furnish evidence of the value of the coming, crowning invention. The "fire engines," as they were then called, of these now famous men were merely contrivances by the use of which the pressure of confined steam of high tension could be brought to act on the surface of a mass of confined water, forcing it downward into pipes through which it was led off and upward to a higher level; and thus a mine could be drained, ineffectively and expensively to be sure, but vastly more satisfactorily than by the animal power of the time. The machine of Savery was the best of all; but that was only a somewhat improved and manageable rearrangement of the engines of Papin and Worcester. And, after all, Papin, the greatest man of science perhaps of his time, died in poverty; Worcester languished in prison his whole life, and the later efforts of his widow brought nothing by way of a return for his invention; nor did either they or their successor, Morland, make the introduction of the engine either general or remunerative.

Savery, coming on the stage at more nearly the right time to seize upon an opportunity, gained more than either of his predecessors; but we have no evidence that he ever acquired any large compensation or met with any remarkable business success in the introduction of the rude engine which bore his name; nor did Desaguliers, the great philosopher, or even Smeaton, the great engineer, of the later years of that century, make any great success of it. It was reserved for Watt to reap the harvest. But, though he so effectively reaped where his predecessors had sown, Watt is not the greatest of the inventors of the steam engine, if we rate his standing by the magnitude of the improvement which marked his reconstruction of the engine.

It was NEWCOMEN who made the modern steam engine.

When Newcomen came forward the labors of Worcester in Great Britain had sufficed to attract the attention of all intelligent men to the character of the problem to be solved, and to convince them of its importance and promise. The work of Savery had shown the practicability of the solution of the problem, both in mechanics and finance. He succeeded, though under great disadvantages and comparatively inefficiently. Once the task had been performed, though ever so rudely, the rest came easily and promptly. The defects of the Savery system were at once recognized; its great wastes of heat and of steam were noted, and the fact that they were inherent in the system itself was perceived. A complete change of type of machine was obviously requisite; it was this which constituted the greatest invention in the whole history of the steam engine, from Hero's time to our own; and to Newcomen we owe more than to any other man who ever lived, the value of the invention itself being considered, and the importance of the services of its introducer being left out of consideration. No such complete and vital improvement and modification of the machine has ever been effected by any other man, Watt and Corliss not excepted.

Newcomen and his comrade Calley - we do not know how the honors should be divided - produced the modern steam engine. Its predecessor, the Savery engine, had been a mere steam "squirt." Newcomen constructed an engine. Savery built a simple combination of cylindrical or ellipsoidal vessels which wastefully and at once performed all the several offices of engine, pump, condenser, and boiler; Newcomen divided the several elements among as many parts, each especially adapted to the performance of its task in the most effective manner - the condenser excepted; for that was Watt's principal invention - and thus produced the first steam engine in the modern sense of that term.

It was Newcomen, not Watt, who gave us the train of mechanism that we now call the steam engine. It is to Newcomen, rather than Watt, that we owe the highest honors as an inventor in this series of the most important of all the products of the inventive genius of mankind. Newcomen brought into existence a new, the modern, type of engine, and effected the greatest revolution that has been recorded in the history of the arts. Without Newcomen, there might have been no Watt; without Watt, there very possibly may not even yet have been brought into existence that giant of our time, whose mighty powers are employed more effectively than ever those of Aladdin's genii, in building palaces, in transporting men and material, in doing the work of the whole world; promoting the welfare of the race, in a single century, more than had all the forces of matter and mind together in the whole previous history of the world. Newcomen laid down a foundation beneath our whole economic system, out of sight, almost, but the essential base, nevertheless, on which Watt and his successors have carried up the great superstructure which seems to us to-day so imposing; which is so tremendous in magnitude, importance, and result.