Aeolipile – First Ever Steam Engine

by Sankalan Baidya
Aeolipile - First Ever Steam Engine

Steam engine and its verticals started getting prominence since 1606 but that’s not the first time when humans discovered the power of steam. As a matter of fact steam engine was originally invented by Heron Alexandrinus who is popular by the name Hero of Alexandira.

Heron was actually a Greek engineer and mathematician who lived during the first century. He ended up inventing what he called aeolipile. It was a device and the name ‘aeolipile’ was given after the God of Winds, Aiolos.

What was the device all about? It was the first ever steam engine made by man. It was nothing but a metal sphere with two tubular nozzles protruding out from the diametrically opposite ends. The sphere was attached to a horizontal hollow tube. The horizontal hollow tube was in turn attached at two ends to two vertical hollow tubes fixed on a circular base covering a boiler.

The water in the boiler was heated and the steam from the boiler passed through the vertical tubes and through the horizontal tube into the sphere. The steam in the sphere would then be expelled out from the nozzles attached to the sphere, making the sphere rotate on its horizontal tubular axis.

Heron however did not really understand the gravity and importance of his invention and considered it to be nice toy. After Heron’s death, the device was long forgotten but in 1577 it was reinvented by Taqu al-Din who was an engineer, astronomer and a philosopher.

A replica of Heron’s steam engine was later produced and with an extremely low pressure of 1.8 pounds per square inch, it managed to rotate 1500 rounds a minute.

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