1902 Encyclopedia > Philippe Henri de Girard

Philippe Henri de Girard
French inventor
(1775-1845)




PHILIPPE HENRI DE GIRARD (1775-1845),a celebrated French mechanician, was born at Lourmarin, in the department of Vaucluse, 1st February 1775. In his early life he manifested a strong aptitude for mechanical invention, and he also at that time devoted his attention to botany, painting, and literature. When at the Revolution his family took refuge in Italy he supported himself there for some time by painting, but afterwards, at "the age of eighteen, he established a soap manufactory at Leghorn. Returning to France after the fall of Robespierre, he began to conduct a chemical work at Marseilles, but soon afterwards judged it prudent to go to Nice, where he obtained the professorship of chemistry and of natural history. Returning to Marseilles about 1800, he afterwards went to Paris, where, in company with his brother Frederick, he established a soap manufactory. In 1804 he and his brother took out a patent for what is known as the fountain lamp; and at the " Exposition" of 1806 he was awarded a gold medal for his one-cylindered direct acting steam engine. Napoleon having in 1810 decreed a reward of one million francs to whoever should invent a machine for the spinning of flax equally successful with those in use for the spinning of hemp, Girard, after a course of experiments, invented and patented a flax-spinning machine. In 1813 he established a flax mill at Paris and another at Charonne, in both of which he made use of his machine; but although he was declared to have earned the reward offered for the invention the fall of Napoleon in 1815 left the decree unfulfilled. Girard, who expected that the expenses connected with his experiments would be met by the promised premium, now got into serious money difficulties, and had to leave France for Austria, where, besides establishing a flax mill at Hirtenberg, he built the first line of steam ships on the Danube. In 1825, at the invitation of the emperor Alexander I. of Russia, he went to Poland, where he erected a flax manufactory, round which grew up a village which received the name of Girardow. He was also appointed chief engineer of the mines of Poland. In 1844 he returned to Paris, and exhibited at the Exposition a large number of inventions, including a machine for combing flax, a machine for making gunlocks, several new improvements in guns, a piano of double octaves, and a new instrument called the Tremolophone. For his inventions connected with the manufacture of flax a gold medal was decreed to him by the jury; and in 1845 the Society of Inventions awarded him a sum which raised the pension he received from the Russian Government to 6000 francs. Besides the inventions already mentioned, Girard was the author of a large number of others, many of them of considerable importance in connexion with various departments of industrial machinery. He died at Paris August 26, 1845. A pension of 6000 francs was bestowed in 1857 on his only surviving brother, and another on his niece.






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