There are many books on the history of technology and a good many are written by eminent scholars, so what is the justification for writing yet another? The point is that engineers, as any examination of their prolific publications will confirm, communicate not only using text but also using figures, graphs, statistics, and most of all, mathematical analysis. They must be numerate as well as literate in order to describe adequately the equipment with which they are concerned. Historians and archaeologists, who are responsible for a great deal that is published on the early history of technology, are highly literate but not particularly numerate, and engineers who venture into this field seem to write not for other engineers but for a more general public to whom mathematical analysis is anathema. One of the main purposes of this book, therefore, is to provide not only an outline of mechanical engineering history, and its “various and ingenious machines”, to borrow a phrase from Ramelli, but also to provide an adequate mathematical treatment, without straying beyond engineering first degree level. In doing so the fundamental principles, optimum operating conditions, and limits of performance of historically important devices are made clear. This mathematical analysis has been added at the end of each chapter, or where it is extensive, it forms a separate chapter. Of course, the book can be read without the mathematical sections, but it is intended that these sections add the necessary depth that is essential to a proper understanding. I hope, for this reason, the book will appeal to fellow engineers and will also be of value to historians and archaeologists who wish to have a deeper practical and scientific knowledge of mechanical technology. This, perhaps, is more important now because experimental archaeology is developing quickly and archaeologists need to know and understand more about the equipment they seek to reconstruct.
I have adopted the well known definition that “if it moves it's mechanical” and consequently I have not included items such as bridges, roads, fortifications, and harbours that are now considered the province of civil engineering. Mechanical engineering is divided into four major sections: power generation; transport; manufacturing;