Franz Reuleaux, father of modern kinematics

Description of the collection

The Reuleaux collection is a collection of didactic models developed in the second half of the 19th century by the German engineer Franz Reuleaux to support his teaching at the Royal Technical University in Berlin.

The Reuleaux family comes from Liège. At the end of the 18th century, his forefathers worked as hydraulic engineers and pump manufacturers. His father was one of the first manufacturers of steam pumps in Belgium and Germany. Franz Reuleaux is known as "the father of modern kinematics". He had the idea of breaking down complex machinery into simple elements: he developed a kind of "mechanical alphabet" composed of elements of a "basic invention language" common to all mechanisms. To illustrate and complete his writings, Franz Reuleaux directed the design of more than 800 didactic models, initially designed to be used for his own teaching, then to be sold to outside universities.


These models, made of cast iron, brass and glass, are characterized by their high quality of execution and their aesthetic dimension. Before the outbreak of computer graphics and computer-aided design software that could produce highly realistic virtual animations, these models were used to show the trend of mathematical curves and to visualize the kinematics of the machine's mechanisms and components. Several of Reuleaux's models are still used today to teach various basic principles that are still relevant in many technologies (aviation, robotics, dynamics, automobile suspension, watchmaking...).

While the vast majority of the original models were lost during the Second World War, many reproductions are preserved in various institutions. The most important collections referenced are those of Cornell University (220 models), the University of Porto (113 models), the Deutsches Museum in Munich (100 models) and the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica in Florence (100 models). The collection held by the MASC would thus be among the most important in the world.


History & development of the collection

The pieces of the Reuleaux collection come from a larger set acquired by different departments of the University of Liege over the course of the 20th century that the MASC plans to centralize. In 2018, the MASC had only 4 Reuleaux models .Today, the MASC has more than 80 models, to which should be added another 20 pieces in the years to come.

The MASC will also soon be included in the list of museums possessing kinematic models, like Cornell University and the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica in Florence.


The collection in the museum

Many Reuleaux models have already been published on social media. The MASC team is currently working on the development of a permanent space within the museum, which would be entirely devoted to the exhibition and promotion of this collection.

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