Sadi Carnot (1824)


Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire (1824) by Sadi Carnot, published by Dover Publications, Inc. ©1988 and manufactured in the US. This is a brand new copy purchased from an online bookseller.


The title page of Carnot’s booklet, published at his own expense in Paris in 1824

This English language text is a republication of R.H. Thurston’s translation of 1890, originally published by Macmillan and Company.

In addition to Carnot’s masterwork, this volume contains Memoir on the Motive Power of Heat (1834) by Émile Clapeyron, translated by the late Eric Mendoza, who also wrote the fine introduction.

The final work in this book is the 1899 translation by W.F. Magie of Rudolf Clausius’ milestone monograph On the Motive Power of Heat and on the Laws which can be Deduced from it for the Theory of Heat (1850).

The story of how Émile Clapeyron rescued Carnot’s ideas from obscurity and enabled William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) and Rudolf Clausius to discover them is told in my post How Kelvin and Clausius discovered Carnot’s ideas. Carnot’s misgivings over the caloric theory, to the point of abondoning it, are detailed in my post  Carnot’s Dilemma.


Carnot asked the question “Is the motive power of heat invariable or does it vary with the working substance employed to realize it?” He found the answer in a stroke of conceptual genius which we know today as the Carnot cycle.

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