Bollée, Ernest-Sylvain

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b. 19 July 1814 Clefmont (Haute-Marne), France
d. 11 September 1891 Le Mans, France
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French inventor of the rotor-stator wind engine and founder of the Bollée manufacturing industry.
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Ernest-Sylvain Bollée was the founder of an extensive dynasty of bellfounders based in Le Mans and in Orléans. He and his three sons, Amédée (1844–1917), Ernest-Sylvain fils (1846–1917) and Auguste (1847-?), were involved in work and patents on steam-and petrol-driven cars, on wind engines and on hydraulic rams. The presence of the Bollées' car industry in Le Mans was a factor in the establishment of the car races that are held there.
In 1868 Ernest-Sylvain Bollée père took out a patent for a wind engine, which at that time was well established in America and in England. In both these countries, variable-shuttered as well as fixed-blade wind engines were in production and patented, but the Ernest-Sylvain Bollée patent was for a type of wind engine that had not been seen before and is more akin to the water-driven turbine of the Jonval type, with its basic principle being parallel to the "rotor" and "stator". The wind drives through a fixed ring of blades on to a rotating ring that has a slightly greater number of blades. The blades of the fixed ring are curved in the opposite direction to those on the rotating blades and thus the air is directed onto the latter, causing it to rotate at a considerable speed: this is the "rotor". For greater efficiency a cuff of sheet iron can be attached to the "stator", giving a tunnel effect and driving more air at the "rotor". The head of this wind engine is turned to the wind by means of a wind-driven vane mounted in front of the blades. The wind vane adjusts the wind angle to enable the wind engine to run at a constant speed.
The fact that this wind engine was invented by the owner of a brass foundry, with all the gear trains between the wind vane and the head of the tower being of the highest-quality brass and, therefore, small in scale, lay behind its success. Also, it was of prefabricated construction, so that fixed lengths of cast-iron pillar were delivered, complete with twelve treads of cast-iron staircase fixed to the outside and wrought-iron stays. The drive from the wind engine was taken down the inside of the pillar to pumps at ground level.
Whilst the wind engines were being built for wealthy owners or communes, the work of the foundry continued. The three sons joined the family firm as partners and produced several steam-driven vehicles. These vehicles were the work of Amédée père and were l'Obéissante (1873); the Autobus (1880–3), of which some were built in Berlin under licence; the tram Bollée-Dalifol (1876); and the private car La Mancelle (1878). Another important line, in parallel with the pumping mechanism required for the wind engines, was the development of hydraulic rams, following the Montgolfier patent. In accordance with French practice, the firm was split three ways when Ernest-Sylvain Bollée père died. Amédée père inherited the car side of the business, but it is due to Amédée fils (1867– 1926) that the principal developments in car manufacture came into being. He developed the petrol-driven car after the impetus given by his grandfather, his father and his uncle Ernest-Sylvain fils. In 1887 he designed a four-stroke single-cylinder engine, although he also used engines designed by others such as Peugeot. He produced two luxurious saloon cars before putting Torpilleur on the road in 1898; this car competed in the Tour de France in 1899. Whilst designing other cars, Amédée's son Léon (1870–1913) developed the Voiturette, in 1896, and then began general manufacture of small cars on factory lines. The firm ceased work after a merger with the English firm of Morris in 1926. Auguste inherited the Eolienne or wind-engine side of the business; however, attracted to the artistic life, he sold out to Ernest Lebert in 1898 and settled in the Paris of the Impressionists. Lebert developed the wind-engine business and retained the basic "stator-rotor" form with a conventional lattice tower. He remained in Le Mans, carrying on the business of the manufacture of wind engines, pumps and hydraulic machinery, describing himself as a "Civil Engineer".
The hydraulic-ram business fell to Ernest-Sylvain fils and continued to thrive from a solid base of design and production. The foundry in Le Mans is still there but, more importantly, the bell foundry of Dominique Bollée in Saint-Jean-de-Braye in Orléans is still at work casting bells in the old way.
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Further Reading
André Gaucheron and J.Kenneth Major, 1985, The Eolienne Bollée, The International Molinological Society.
Cénomane (Le Mans), 11, 12 and 13 (1983 and 1984).
KM

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

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