Ancient Inventors (1400s and Earlier) Part 1

Without innovation inventors who have come before the modern inventions of our times, there wouldn’t be many of the things we use today. Ancient inventors paved the way for today’s minds to blossom, as well as made life much easier for their community, which eventually traveled to other destinations to continue the advancement of culture. In this article, you will learn about ancient forward-thinking minds, such as Archimedes and Heron.


As a productive Greek mathematician, Archimedes (287-212 BC) is responsible for inventing the water screw, which was a device that helped raise water using an encased screw that opened at both ends. At the time, the screw was placed at an angle and when the screw turned, water would fill the air pockets and would rise up. Today, the Archimedes screw is still used. The water screw was not the only thing he brought to life. He also created what would become the first known description of the lever.

About 260 BC, the lever served as a basic tool, even though there are flashes of prehistoric use. Today, the type of lever Archimedes described are seen in the tools we use today, which are broken up into various classes: two class-1 levers (scissors, pliers); one class-1 lever (hammer claws), two class-2 levers (nutcrackers), and two class-3 levers (tongs).


Without Heron, there would be no early steam engine. Sometimes, the record books refer to Heron as ‘Hero.’ The ancient Greek geometer and engineer was a resident of Alexandria and lived during the first century AD. Heron fashioned the first steam engine as a toy, which he dubbed the “aeolipile,” translating into “wind ball.” The steam came from a sealed pot, which was filled with water and then placed over a fire. Coming up from the pot, two tubes emerged and the steam would flow into a spherical ball of metal. Two curved outlet tubes were attached to the metallic sphere, which was responsible for vented steam. As the steam traveled through the series of tubes, the metal sphere rotated. This would become the first-known device that allowed the transformation of steam power to create a rotary motion.

While the Greeks had a powerful start to something quite remarkable, they knew the device as something new to “play” with. The steam engine designed for bigger and better things did not begin to take shape until 1690 when Dionysius Papin generated and published the plans for a high-pressure steam engine, yet eight years later, Thomas Savery would receive credit for building the first steam engine, yet others would later improve upon the steam engine design.

Martin Behaim

As a German mapmaker, navigator, and merchant, Martin Behaim (1459-1537) is responsible for creating the earliest globe. The invention was dubbed the “Nurnberg Terrestrial Globe.” When the make of the globe was created between 1490 and 1492, Behaim received help in the project from a painter named Georg Glockendon. Behaim got interested in globe making when he sailed to Portugal as a merchant during 1480. He also assisted King John II on matters regarding navigation and accompanied Diogo Cam (Portuguese explorer) on a 1485-1486 voyage traveling to the coast of West Africa. During the trip, they discovered the mouth of the Congo River.

When Behaim returned to Nurnberg in 1490, he started to construct his vision of the globe. His depiction of the globe was considered quite inaccurate when compared to other maps at the time. At first, popular thought associated Behaim’s maps with Columbus and Magellan, but has since been discounted. Some people also link Behaim with the development of the astrolabe. Today, you can now view Behaim’s globe situated at the German National Museum in Nürnberg.