Engineering hero: Hero of Alexandria

We have a tradition of naming major Turbine releases after historical engineers and inventors. For example, the last version was called Edison. Our next version will honour a great inventor who lived 2,000 years ago in Alexandria, Egypt. Hero of Alexandria invented an early form of steam engine and vending machine. Here’s what Wikipedia has […]

Hero of Alexandria – our engineering hero

We have a tradition of naming major Turbine releases after historical engineers and inventors. For example, the last version was called Edison. Our next version will honour a great inventor who lived 2,000 years ago in Alexandria, Egypt. Hero of Alexandria invented an early form of steam engine and vending machine.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Hero (or Heron) of Alexandria (Greek: Ἥρων ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς) (c. 10–70 AD) was an ancient Greek mathematician and engineer who was active in his native city of Alexandria, Roman Egypt. He is considered the greatest experimenter of antiquity and his work is representative of the Hellenistic scientific tradition.

Hero published a well recognized description of a steam-powered device called an aeolipile (hence sometimes called a “Hero engine”). Among his most famous inventions was a windwheel, constituting the earliest instance of wind harnessing on land. He is said to have been a follower of the Atomists. Some of his ideas were derived from the works of Ctesibius.

A number of references mention dates around 150 BC, but these are inconsistent with the dates of his publications and inventions. This may be due to a misinterpretation of the phrase “first century” or because Hero was a common name.

It is almost certain that Hero taught at the Musaeum which included the famous Library of Alexandria, because most of his writings appear as lecture notes for courses in mathematics, mechanics, physics and pneumatics. Although the field was not formalized until the 20th century, it is thought that the work of Hero, his automated devices in particular, represents some of the first formal research into cybernetics.

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