Heron(Hero) of Alexandria: The 3 Inventions That Made Him Famous

Born10 AD
Died70 AD
Known ForAncient world ingenious inventions, mathematical genius
Region of WorldAlexandria, Roman Egypt

Almost 2,000 years ago lived a man who’s inventions became the stuff of legend. His name was Heron/Hero of Alexandria and he created 3 inventions that even today make him world famous.

There are 3 inventions of Heron of Alexandria that made him famous. First, Heron invented the world’s first wind powered machine. Second, He invented the thermometer. Third, Heron of Alexandria invented the world’s first steam powered engine. All of this during the start of the Roman Empire.

Today we don’t know much about the man who invented the marvelous machines. All we know is that he lived in Alexandria and during his time was famous across the Roman Empire for his inventions.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 inventions of Heron(Hero) of Alexandria that made him famous.

Heron of Alexandria Invented Histories First Wind Powered Machine

One of the main inventions that made Heron of Alexandria so famous was his invention of the wind powered organ.

This device worked by having a windmill power a pump which took in and compressed air. This air would then rush through an organ where a sound would come out. This invention made Heron famous across the ancient world as people would visit Alexandria.

This was history’s first example of a windmill being used to harness energy into mechanical energy. Heron invented this machine almost 2,000 years ago.

Today we see windmills across the world harnessing wind energy. To this day academics debate on the exact nature of Heron’s windmill design. Questions around its exact use always pop up in academic journals.

Regardless, around the world today Heron of Alexandria is credited with creating the worlds first powered wind machine. As a result of this invention he would become famous in his time as well as ours.

Heron of Alexandria Invented Histories First Thermometer

Another invention that made Heron of Alexandria famous was the world’s first thermometer.

This ancient thermometer would have looked completely different then the thermometers of today. Heron knew that substances would expand and contract due to different heat.

However, Heron did not have access to tools that were accurate enough to measure expansion of various liquids. As a result Heron of Alexandria’s thermometer would simply give two readings; hot and very hot.

Still this was remarkable for someone who lived nearly 2,000 years ago. Creating the world’s first thermometer would have given Heron valuable insight into how particles would expand.

It is said by primary sources that Heron of Alexandria was heavily influenced by Ctesibius, another Egyptian inventor who lived nearly 2 centuries before him. As a result it is more than likely that Heron of Alexandria believed in some degree of atomic particles, or that all matter is composed of small invisible particles.

This undoubtedly influenced the design of Heron’s invention of the thermometer. Unfortunately we don’t have diagrams of this ancient device, only passing mentions in Heron’s own work Mechanica.

(we only have one surviving copy of Heron’s book Mechanica, click here for a digitized copy in Arabic)

The invention of the thermometer would have made Heron famous during his own time as well as today.

Heron Of Alexandria Created The World’s First Steam Engine

Easily his most famous invention was the first steam engine in history. Long before the industrial revolution Heron of Alexandria created the world’s first steam powered machine.

As pictured above Heron would fill the bottom part of the machine with water. Then he would light a fire underneath the machine turning the water into steam. After this the water would enter into a ball where the steam would cause the ball to spin at ever increasing speeds.

This was the world’s first steam powered machine. Although we don’t know exactly what the use was, it does use steam to create a remarkably fast moving device. This would have astounded Heron’s ancient crowd. To gatherers it would have looked like Heron had mastered nature itself to have the ball move.

This same device would be used nearly 1,500 years later by Blasco de Garay when appealing to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V a device which could propel wooden ships to then unfathomable speeds. This was the first instance of Heron’s invention being used to create modern steamships.

Today Heron is famous for this invention. Roman historians would credit Heron of Alexandria with creating a wide array of inventions which made him famous, however it is this primitive steam engine which makes him the most famous today.

Conclusion

There you have it; an entire article dedicated to the 3 inventions of Heron of Alexandria that made him famous.

It’s hard to imagine that almost 2,000 years ago a man was experimenting with powered machines during the start of the Roman Empire. Heron is barely studied in history, few facts remain of his life. Prospective graduate students could apply several methodologies to create dissertations surrounding this man.

Thank you for reading this article. Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around.

Further, you can check out some of the other articles below. 

Sincerely,

Nick