Innovation, Technology & Science

DIY Steam Engine

02.16.08 | Comment?

Artist’s rendering of Hero’s aeolipile
Artist's rendering of Hero's aeolipile

Quick, who invented the steam engine? Thomas Newcomen? James Watt? Or a hero?

The answer is Hero of Alexandria (sometimes Heron of Alexandria) around 60 A.C.E. He created a hollow metal globe with small angled exhaust points 180 degrees offset and mounted it in a frame allowing free rotation of the sphere. When water and heat were added, steam would be emitted from the exhaust ports rotating the sphere up to 1,500 times per minute. Unfortunately, Hero’s aeolipile was viewed strictly as an amusement and was lost for some 1,600 years until Newcomen’s engine of 1711. Why write about this now?

Well, I saw this video on the net and it reminded me of Hero’s breakthrough. If you’re looking for a fun little project to do with the kids that shows Hero’s principal, try this:

Building The Amazing Steam Candle – video powered by Metacafe

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