Today’s post is a bit different from the ones we publish here on our blog. Today, we’re heading back in time to take a closer look at the very start of the humble pump. Yes, though today’s pumps are light-years ahead of their ancient counterparts, a travel back in history, gives us better appreciation of this simple yet ingenious device. Ever since 2000 BC, when the Egyptians invented a rudimentary device to draw water from wells, pumps have been an indispensable part of our lives. Though this first pump may seem too simple by today’s standards, it has to be noted that it came about only after a thousand or so years of human existence on the planet. First things first, What is a Pump? Regardless of the application, all pumps have one common purpose – to dispatch liquids. Shall we take a look at how this simple, crude device evolved into its modern form that is used in a wide range of applications? Mesopotamia – 3000 BC The ancient empire of Mesopotamia is accredited with several modern-day inventions. The Mesopotamians were indeed an intelligent lot and had plenty of scientific thinking. Agriculture, writing, wine, the wheel, and domestication of animals are just a few of the things that this civilization introduced to the world. The ancient civilization of Mesopotamia lived in the regions of modern-day Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Though their invention wasn’t a pump by today’s definition, it’s worth mentioning here. They used a wooden lever that was placed adjacent to a water bank. On one end of the lever was a bucket and to the opposite end was attached a counterweight. When the lever was pushed down, the bucket filled with water and the counterweight bounced back the lever, bringing the bucket up. This was then emptied into a trough. Quite ingenious, ain’t it? Especially considering that someone came up with this several millennia ago. Egyptians – 2000 BC The first pump invented by mankind was the Shadoof. And, the Egyptians are the ones who are credited for this invention, millennia back in 2000 BC. The Shadoof is a bucket that was tied to a rod or a rope and was used to raise water from deep wells. Though this doesn’t accurately describe the workings of a pump, this is the first proof from history that states that man has always been looking for gadget to make it easy to transport water. If you’re wondering how the Shadoof looks like, here’s a video that is a recreation of this ancient device. The first pump invented by mankind was the Shadoof. And, the Egyptians are the ones who are credited for this invention, millennia back in 2000 BC. The Shadoof is a bucket that was tied to a rod or a rope and was used to raise water from deep wells. Though this doesn’t accurately describe the workings of a pump, this is the first proof from history that states that man has always been looking for gadget to make it easy to transport water. If you’re wondering how the Shadoof looks like, here’s a video that is a recreation of this ancient device. Greeks – 3rd to 1st Century BC The next big advances to pumps came during the era of the Greek civilization. Between the third and first centuries BC, the Greeks were at the zenith of their civilization and significant advances were made in science, technology, warfare and arts. The engineers of Hellen invented the water wheel, which was then used for irrigation and to generate power. It was during this period in history, that Archimedes came up with one of the best inventions of all mankind – the screw pump. It’s a simple but ingenious invention that is still seen today in various parts of the world. Rural areas that don’t have electricity use the screw pumps to raise water for irrigation. Here’s a video of an Archimedean-style screw pump in action. Another significant contribution during this era was made by Ctesibus from Alexandria in Egypt. He was the inventor of the force pump, which is a type of hand-operated pump. It consists of a cylinder along with a top-mounted plunger, which was used to draw water via valves. Modern Day Pumps After the fall of the great Roman Empire, pump technology became stagnant for nearly a millennium and a half. It was only during the Enlightenment Period that hydraulic science began to be focused on again. It was during this era that pumps had a rebirth and over the next couple of centuries, new ideas and inventions began to flood the market, all of which led to the design of modern day pumps. Let’s take a look at few modern-day pumps and their inventors.
- Gear Pump – In the year 1593, a Frenchman named Nicolas Grollier de Serviere charted the early designs for a gear pump. Later in 1636, a German engineer named Pappenheim invented the double, deep-toothed rotary gear pump, that is still used for lubricating engines even today.
- Centrifugal Pump – This is one of the most common types of pumps used today and it was invented in the 17th century by Denis Papin, a French inventor. He used straight vanes for drainage. The centrifugal pump is a motor driven pump that pulls water by creating a suction force.
- Savery Pump – In the year, 1698, an inventor Thomas Avery created a pump that used steam for operation. The steam generated a vacuum which in turn pulled up water.
- Axial Flow Pump – Since the 1940s, axial pumps are a constant presence in water services. Apart from this application, the axial flow pump is also used extensively in the industrial and commercial sectors.
- Jet Pump – This is similar to the centrifugal pump but is mainly used to raise water up from deep wells.
- Electromagnetic Pumps – This is mainly used in advanced applications like nuclear reactors. This is because electromagnetic pumps can handle very high temperatures. Hence, it’s ideal for applications that move liquid metals and other electrically conducive liquids. It uses an electromagnetic force to displace the liquids.
- Submersible pump, deep well turbine pump, seal-less vertical pump, bush pump, peristaltic pump, metering pump, magnetic drive pump, chopper pump, circulated pump, air-operated double diaphragm pump – are some of the other pumps that were invented in the 1900s.