I read in the current issue of Motor Sport the attack made on W. O. Bentley in respect of his BR1 aero-engine and the Clerget rotary.
All this, with some feelings of pity for Alec Ulmann, you have yourself rather succinctly answered his criticisms.
It is quite unnecessary, in my opinion, to conduct a post-mortem on the comparisons of these two engines. Like all other types, they have their basic concepts, and in respect of the rotary cylinder-type emanate from Lawrence Hargrave, 1889, operated by compressed air, followed in 1908 by Laurent Seguin with his famous Gnome engine and subsequently followed by the Le Rhone, Clerget and many others all from the same basic principles.
There were however, in the early years of WW1 certain inherent weaknesses, in the component design of the Clerget rotary and W. O. was given the task of dealing with these, since pilots were being killed. W. O.’s main approach to the problem was enhanced by his experience with aluminium, with which he displaced cast iron in construction, and since the engineer and sculptor have much in common by virtue of modifying their techniques to suit the materials used, the results were not devoid of interest to the extent that Gwynnes, who built the Clerget under licence in England were a little resentful of W. O.’s successful efforts because they believed they would no longer be producing the Clerget, but a Bentley specification… so much for the charge of plagiarism.
Has Mr. Ulmann not yet learned, in spite of his abilities as a meticulous investigator and stickler for detail that no one-man is the great culminating inventor? The final result is a combination of effort of successive members of the human race.
The great Sir Henry Royce and multifarious others all took the best of what already existed and made logical improvements and so the process goes on as it always will. Therefore, let us hope that Mr. Ulmann will ultimately temper his talents as a dissector of mechanical bodies with a modicum of sound philosophical analysis.
Vic Butler, ARAeS.