Peas, Carrots, Green Beans, and Gray Matter

The Weight of the Air

Air pressure experiment. Illustration of Florin Perier in September 1648, on the request of his brother-in-law French physicist Blaise Pascal, measuring the air pressure as he ascends the Puy de Dome volcanic mountain in France (elevation: 1464 metres). He is using an early barometer invented by the Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli in 1643. The column of mercury in the sealed glass tube fell in height during the ascent. This proved that air has weight. Artwork from ‘Chaudieres et Machines a Vapeur’ (1911) by French civil engineer Max de Nansouty (1854-1913), part of the ‘Les merveilles de la science’ series of 1867-1891 by Louis Figuier.

The miners of Renaissance Europe, digging ever deeper into the earth in the search of ore, invariably found another, less welcome substance – water. Everywhere they dug, it found them, seeping into tunnels and shafts. If it could not be removed at least as quickly as it entered, it would flood the mine and make it useless. The deeper the mine, the more of a problem water presented, and by the later part of the middle ages, some miners were delving very deep indeed. Over the centuries, miners had devised numerous contrivances to remove this nuisance, from simple bucket brigades to complex lifting machinery, many of them documented in Agricola’s De re metallica of 1556, a treatise on the extraction of metals from the earth.

Via Creatures of Thought

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through Amazon links appearing on this website.

Leave a Reply