The history of the steam engine stretches back as far as the 1st century AD; the first recorded rudimentary steam engine being the aeolipile described by Hero of Alexandria. Over a millennium after Hero's (or "Heron's") experiments, a number of steam-powered devices were experimented with or proposed, but it was not until 1712 that a commercially successful steam engine was finally developed, Thomas Newcomen's atmospheric engine. During the industrial revolution, steam engines became the dominant source of power and remained so into the early decades of the 20th century, when advances in the design of the electric motor and the internal combustion engine resulted in the rapid replacement ...view middle of the document...
This suggests that the conversion of steam pressure into mechanical movement was known in Roman Egypt in the 1st century. Hero also devised a machine that used air heated in an altar fire to displace a quantity of water from a closed vessel. The weight of the water was made to pull a hidden rope to operate temple doors. Some historians have conflated the two inventions to assert, incorrectly, that the aeolipile was capable of useful work.
According to William of Malmesbury, in 1125, Reims was home to a church that had an organ powered by air escaping from compression "by heated water", apparently designed and constructed by professor Gerbertus.
Among the papers of Leonardo da Vinci dating to the late 15th century is the design for a steam-powered cannon called the Architonnerre which works by the sudden influx of hot water into a sealed red hot cannon.
A rudimentary impact steam turbine was described in 1551 by Taqi al-Din, a philosopher, astronomer and engineer in 16th century Ottoman Egypt, who described a method for rotating a spit by means of a jet of steam playing on rotary vanes around the periphery of a wheel. A similar device for rotating a spit was also later described by John Wilkins in 1648. These devices were then called "mills" but are now known as steam jacks. Another similar rudimentary steam turbine is shown by Giovanni Branca, an Italian engineer, in 1629 for turning a cylindrical escapement device that alternately lifted and let fall a pair of pestles working in mortars. The steam flow of these early steam turbines, however, was not concentrated and most of its energy was dissipated in all directions. This would have led to a great waste of energy and so they were never seriously considered for industrial use.
In 1605 French mathematician Florence Rivault in his treatise on artillery wrote on his discovery that water, if confined in a bombshell and heated, would explode the shells.
In 1606, Jerónimo de Ayanz y Beaumont demonstrated and was granted a patent for a steam powered water pump.
In 1663 Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester published designs for raising water between floors employing a similar principle to that of a coffee percolator. His system was the first to separate the boiler from the pumping action. Water was admitted into a reinforced barrel from a cistern, and then a valve was opened to admit steam from a separate boiler. The pressure built over the top of the water, driving it up a pipe. He installed his steam-powered device on the wall of the Great Tower at Raglan Castle to supply water through the tower. The grooves in the wall where the engine was installed were still to be seen in the 19th century. However, no one was prepared to risk money for such a revolutionary concept, and without backers the machine remained undeveloped.
Denis Papin's design for a piston-and-cylinder engine, 1680.
In the mid 1670s Denis Papin...