There’s no doubt about it; pneumatic systems are all around us, and many of us take these everyday innovative inventions completely for granted. You may not realise it, but the world around us is powered by pneumatic apparatus, from exercise machines to engines.
However, coming up with an invention which becomes integral to millions of lives and livelihoods does not necessarily mean mass fame and fortune. How many people can name the inventor of the printer? Or the person who designed the first pen? There are thousands of cleverly designed items we use every day which we may never have appreciated before, from the simplest office equipment to a complex piece of machinery, and all of those have a name behind them.
These names should rightfully be acknowledged and recognised by all of us as greatly as the name Thomas Edison, however the range of items which have been created is so extensive that it would be almost impossible to remember them all.
This means that many names which should be valued as being integral parts of our routines have been lost over time and the ages, but some of the most prestigious amongst them have been preserved and we are still able to appreciate them for the advances. Many of these fantastic designs are based around the phenomena of pneumatics and hydraulics.
So, who exactly is behind the massive phenomena of many of our daily used items, most particularly the ones powered by pneumatics? Here we delve into the lives and contributions of three of the top contributors to the world of pneumatics inventions.
Hero of Alexandria
Hero of Alexandria, (c. 10 AD – c. 70 AD) also known in Roman Egypt as Heron of Alexandria, is a renowned Greek mathematician and engineer who has made a considerable contribution to the world of pneumatics among other trades such as antiquity.
Hero wrote many pieces of literature regarding mathematics, physics, mechanics, and specialist pneumatics fittings, and was famous both as a contributor to the museum and library in Alexandria, and as a teacher of his research and literature.
Hero brought many pneumatics based interventions into our world, many of which are a daily part of our lives. One of the most renowned inventions Hero contributed was a wind wheel which was used to operate an organ; this was the first recorded instance of wind being used to create power, clearly still one of the most widely used source of renewable energy today.
Hero also invented the first vending machine, many mechanisms used for sound effects and props in Greek theatre, a force pump which was to be used in fire engines, and a device for the delivery of liquids which could now be compared to a syringe.
Philo of Byzantium
Philo of Byzantium (ca. 280 BC – ca. 220 BC), also known as Philo Mechanicus, is our second renowned pneumatics engineer. Although he was orig9inally from Byzantium, he also resided in Alexandria for most of his life.
Philo wrote large amounts of acclaimed work including pieces on mathematics, general mechanics, harbour building, devices operated by water or air pressure, and pneumatic engines, which has been preserved in a Latin translation.
Philo is also accountable for the famous mathematic construction named as the famous Philo Line, which is used to double the cube and also for other mathematic calculations. This theory is still widely used in education and construction, and will continue to be a massive contribution to the world of geometrics.
Philo has also been made accountable for the first water clock, which was then improved upon by Ctesibius later on.
Recent research also suggests that Philo was responsible for the first description of a water mill. Not only does this place the invention of the water mill in the third century by the Greeks, but it also places the creation of hydraulics as used for the creation of power in the hands of Philo and the Greeks. Clearly one of the biggest revelations in the history of reusable energy, this has been a major step in terms of the advances in sustain able sources, but was brought to light years ago.
In terms of pneumatics, Philo describes an escapement mechanism, which is an integral part in the working of a wash basin.
Ctesibius, (fl. 285–222 BC), also commonly spelt as Ktesibios or Tesibius, was another Greek mathematician, inventor and pneumatics engineer, and was one of the most renowned contributors to the field of pneumatics, earning him the well-respected title of ‘father of pneumatics’.
Some of Ctesibius’ most notable work was on the science of compressed air used in pumps and cannons, and on the elasticity of air. However, unfortunately none of his written work has been preserved, although it has been cited in various work such as research by Athenaeus.
Ctesibius was the first head of the museum of Alexandria. It has been recorded that his first career was as a barber, and surprisingly that was where his inventive skills arose, firstly in the form of a counterweight adjustable mirror.
After which, Ctesibius invented the hydraulis, a water organ which predecessor the pipe organ, He also improved on the water clock which was used as the most accurate clock for years before pendulums were eventually constructed in 1656 AD.
Ctesibius also described in his work one of the first force pumps which work with the use of a jet of water, making use of hydraulics as well as pneumatics in his work.