Séguin, Louis

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b. 1869
d. 1918
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French co-designer, with his brother Laurent Séguin (b. 1883 Rhône, France; d. 1944), of the extremely successful Gnome rotary engines.
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Most early aero-engines were adaptations of automobile engines, but Louis Séguin and his brother Laurent set out to produce a genuine aero-engine. They decided to build a "rotary" engine in which the crankshaft remained stationary and the cylinders rotated: the propeller was attached to the cylinders. The idea was not new, for rotary engines had been proposed by engineers from James Watt to Samuel P. Langley, rival of the Wright brothers. (An engine with stationary cylinders and a rotating crankshaftplus-propeller is classed as a "radial".) Louis Séguin formed the Société des Moteurs Gnome in 1906 to build stationary industrial engines. Laurent joined him to develop a lightweight engine specifically for aeronautical use. They built a fivecylinder air-cooled radial engine in 1908 and then a prototype seven-cylinder rotary engine. Later in the year the Gnome Oméga rotary, developing 50 hp (37 kW), was produced. This was test-flown in a Voisin biplane during June 1909. The Gnome was much lighter than its conventional rivals and surprisingly reliable in view of the technical problems of supplying rotating cylinders with the petrol-air mixture and a spark to ignite it. It was an instant success.
Gnomes were mass-produced for use during the First World War. Both sides built and flew rotary engines, which were improved over the years until, by 1917, their size had grown to such an extent that a further increase was not practicable. The gyroscopic effects of a large rotating engine became a serious handicap to manoeuvrability, and the technical problems inherent in a rotary engine were accentuated.
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Bibliography
1912, L'Aérophile 20(4) (Louis Séguin's description of the Gnome).
Further Reading
C.F.Taylor, 1971, "Aircraft Propulsion", Smithsonian Annals of Flight 1(4) (an account of the evolution of aircraft piston engines).
A.Nahum, 1987, the Rotary Aero-Engine, London.
JDS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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