The biography of a great ancient Greek inventor, engineer, and mathematician.
Although Heron was considered Greek, he was actually born in Alexandria, Egypt around 20 A.D. He was thought to have died somewhere around 62 A.D. He was a famous inventor, engineer, and mathematician. He came up with many “firsts”. His ideas have deeply influenced the ideas of people today.
Heron is also commonly called by the name Hero. Some experts argue that he was Egyptian or Phoenician instead of Greek. He spent most of his life in Alexandria, Egypt. He was very intelligent. He was believed by some experts to have taken the knowledge of others and taking the credit. Some examples of this are books said to be written by him, but probably were written by someone else.
Heron was very well known as an inventor. One of his most famous inventions is the aeolipile, or steam engine. He used it to make some of the other things he invented work. The engine used fire to heat water in an enclosed container above it. The steam which was created exited through two tubes at the top of the container. The steam then entered a metal, hollow ball. When the steam left the ball, it created enough pressure to spin the ball in a circle. This steam engine was invented almost 1,900 years before the first steam engine train was built!
Another of Heron’s inventions was the vending machine. It was used to give out Holy Water. When a coin was dropped into the narrow hole at the top, it fell onto a tray that was connected to a lever. As the tray tipped, the lever pulled open a door through which the Holy Water flowed out. When the coin fell off of the tray, the door would have enough weight to pull itself shut, stopping the flow of Holy Water.
This Greek inventor also contributed to the theater! He invented a ten minute long play completely produced by simple machines. He invented the thunder sound effect, too. It worked by using a machine to drop metal balls onto a drum that was kept out of the audiences view. This created a sound much like the sound of real thunder.
Heron also invented the syringe. It was used to dispense air or liquids. It used suction to keep the matter inside of a tube. When the button on the top was pushed downward, pressure was created. The pressure pushed the matter out of a narrow tube at the bottom of the larger tube. We use this invention today to give out vaccinations. The only difference is the sharp needle at the end of the small tube used to puncture the skin and blood vessels so that the dead germs can enter the bloodstream.
Heron didn’t just create things, he also wrote them down. We know today that he had written at least seven books! He may have written more, but we aren’t sure. The seven books that we are sure about are about science, architecture, mathematics, and inventions. Two examples are Pneumatica, which is about some of Heron’s inventions and theories concerning water and steam, and Metrica, which is about how to figure out the volume and surface measurements of different items.
Heron also came up with the Principal of the Shortest Path of Light. His idea was quite simple. If light wanted to get from one place to another in the shortest time, it should travel in a straight line. It has been proven that his theory is correct. Most people think of it today as common sense.
Heron of Alexandria has deeply influenced some of our ideas of today. We might never have had steam engine trains or candy dispensers. He didn’t just affect our inventions, though. He also influenced some of our scientific and mathematical theories, too. All in all, our society owes Heron a lot of gratitude and credit, so it is our pleasure to tribute him!