60 AD – Hydraulic Machine

This post continues our  Computer Systems History series.

Heron of Alexandria – a 1st century inventor, physicist and mathematician Heron (also know as Hero of Alexandria) invented a hydraulic machine that followed a series of instructions. Heron studied the pressure of the air in steam, described the first steam engine, and built devices that would spurt water. One of them was later dabbed as Heron’s fountain. Various versions are known and used today in modern schools as demonstration of principles of hydraulics and pneumatics in physics.

Many different cultures took on Hydraulics. Greeks sophisticated construction of water and hydraulic power systems, and Heron’s fountain is considered to be especially noteworthy as the construction of the first hydraulic automata.

Great video of near-perpetual Heron’s Fountain in action (also shows you how to make your own).



Heron describes a number of working machines using hydraulic power, such as the force pump.

Force pumps were later innovated further by ancient Rome, where many different hydraulic applications were developed, including public water supplies, power using watermills and hydraulic mining, and most famously Roman aqueducts.



In 1785  Joseph Bramah and sir William Georges Armstong and Joseph Bramah were applying Pascal’s laws to their inventions: Bramah on a press, and sir Armstrong on a rotary engine (and later moved it to an hydraulic piston type of design that could move a crane.)