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Gnome et Rhône entrusted to Voisin and l‘Aeromechanique the design and development of a 2000 bhp. Radial engine, a 42 cylinder, with 6 rows of 7 cylinders in-star, connected to a central crankshaft with a master-and-articulating-rod assembly. In order to present the design to the visiting chief engineers from Gnome-Rhône, Voisin’s equipe built a basic mockup of a cross section of the engine where each one of the seven cylinders was presented in the form of a square box with the one square piston fitted with a master connecting rod.
At the end of the presentation one of the visiting directors made a very insightful point: “Monsieur Voisin, what prompted you to use square pistons? ” To which Voisin instantly and mockingly replied “ It is very simple: when using round pistons one would cause considerable loss of displacement; whereas with square pistons there is no such loss, and the arrangement of the cylinders is very much simplified.” While the others did their best to keep a straight face, the director sealed his fate by adding in a pompous tone: “I dare say, I have never really thought about this important question of maximizing displacement” This man, from that moment on better known as ‘l’Homme aux Pistons Carrés’, had become a figure of ridicule, but at the same time it serves to testify that Voisin was not, and perhaps sadly not, a man of politics.


Patent for a square piston engine by Ingersoll-Rand

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