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Power Of Water In The Ancient World: Hero Of Alexandria Invents First Steam Turbine


by Leslie Gabriel September 27, 2014

People have been taming and harnessing the power of water since before recorded history, from damming lakes, building ocean-going vessels for world exploration and creating vast aqueducts to deliver the precious fluid directly to homes. One of the most powerful uses of water came about in the ancient world, when Hero Of Alexandria recognized what happens when you boil it to produce steam.

Who Was Hero Of Alexandria ?

Hero was a Greek mathematician and engineer who was active in his native city of Alexandria, Roman Egypt. He is considered the greatest experimenter of antiquity whom scholars say invented the world’s first steam turbine sometime between 10 A.D. and 70 A.D. His device, known as an aeolipile, was a hollow metal ball that had two bent nozzles mounted on opposite sides.

How The Aeolipile Works ...

  1. A large vessel of water is put under the ball and brought to a boil.
  2. The hot water evaporates, and the steam is guided into the bulb via the two tubes.
  3. Because of the pressure in the bulb, the steam escaping via two curved pipes, each pointing in a different direction. As a result, the sphere rotates around its own axis.

"Hero considered the Aeolipile to be little more than a toy, but it could be regarded as an elementary form of steam turbine,” noted the Science Museum.

Features of Hero’s Steam Turbine

  • Spherical shape
  • Made of metal
  • Water is stored inside sphere
  • Heat source below sphere heats up water
  • Rotates when steam from heated water rushes out of nozzles
  • Forerunner of modern steam engine technology

As people realized the utility of the steam turbine, they began developing more sophisticated devices to harness the power of water. This led to such advances as steam-powered ships to transport goods and people across the world as well as the steam-powered locomotive, which eventually wound up connecting the United States from coast to coast. Boiling water also produced the steam that powered factories during the 19th century, spurring on the industrial revolution.

Beautiful water, so essential for life, became through steam power an important source of energy to fuel the advance of civilization. Thanks, Hero of Alexandria!

 




Leslie Gabriel
Leslie Gabriel

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