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Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire

In the history of thermodynamics, Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire and on Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (French title: Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu et sur les machines propres à développer cette puissance) is an 1824, 45-page publication by French physicist Sadi Carnot on a generalized theory of heat engines and is considered the founding paper in the science of thermodynamics.[1] In it is found the preliminary outline of the second law of thermodynamics, namely that motive power is due to the fall of caloric (heat) from a hot to cold body. The paper sat unnoticed until 1834 when French mining engineer Emile Clapeyron put in on a graphical footing in his "Memoir on the Motive Power of Heat".[2] Through Clapeyron's paper, German physicist Rudolf Clausius learned of Carnot's theory of heat and through a modification of Carnot's suppositions on heat, Clausius put the second law in mathematical form with his introduction of the concept of entropy.[3] By 1849, "thermo-dynamics", as a functional term, was used in William Thomson's paper An Account of Carnot's Theory of the Motive Power of Heat.[4]

The Reflections contain a number of principles such as the Carnot cycle, the Carnot heat engine, Carnot theorem, thermodynamic efficiency, to name a few. Similar to how the Reflections was the precursor to the second law, English physicist James Joule's 1843 paper Mechanical equivalent of heat was the precursor to the first law of thermodynamics.


  1. ^ Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire - PDF Scan (partial paper)
  2. ^ Mendoza, E. (1988). Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire – and other Papers on the Second Law of Thermodynamics by E. Clapeyron and R. Clausius. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-44641-7. 
  3. ^ Clausius, R. (1865). [ The Mechanical Theory of Heat] – with its Applications to the Steam Engine and to Physical Properties of Bodies. London: John van Voorst, 1 Paternoster Row. MDCCCLXVII.
  4. ^ Kelvin, William T. (1849) "An Account of Carnot's Theory of the Motive Power of Heat - with Numerical Results Deduced from Regnault's Experiments on Steam." Transactions of the Edinburg Royal Society, XVI. January 2. Scanned Copy
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Reflections_on_the_Motive_Power_of_Fire". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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