The Early History of Mechanical Engineering - Vol. 1

By Bryan Lawton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
WATERPOWER

Introduction

The extensive use of manpower and animal power in pre-industrial societies has been described in previous chapters. The wind, driving ships across the waters, was probably the first non-muscular source of power but it took about four millennia, from before 3000 B.C. to about 1000 A.D., for it to be transferred to power generation on land. In the meantime machinery driven by waterpower was invented and developed and wind power, when it was applied on land, was preferred only where water was unavailable.

The development of waterpower from its invention in the Roman era is oudined in this chapter. The earliest mills were vertical-axis machines used to drive millstones, and were followed by horizontalaxis machines that were also used mainly to grind flour. In the Middle Ages other applications for water power were found, for example, to saw logs, to operate bellows supplying air to furnaces, to drive fulling mills, to pump water either to irrigate or drain the land or to drain mines, and to operate stamps to crush the mined ore. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the power output, efficiency, and speed of horizontal-axis machines used in undershot and overshot applications, and of horizontal-axis impulse machines.


Vertical-Axis (Norse or Greek) Mills

The earliest known mention of a water mill seems to be in a short poem by Antipater of Thessalonica in about 85 B.C. Various translations have been made but the most literal and practical translation is that of Beckman quoted in Bennett and Elton (1898, 2, 6). “Cease your work, you who laboured at the mill. Sleep now and let the birds sing to the ruddy morn. Mother-Earth has commanded the water nymphs to perform your task; and these, obedient to her call, throw themselves on the wheel, force round the axle-tree, and so

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The Early History of Mechanical Engineering - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Technology and Change in History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures xv
  • List of Tables lvii
  • Acknowledgements lxi
  • Preface lxvii
  • Mechanics 1
  • Chapter One - Machine Elements 3
  • Chapter Two - Power Transmission 55
  • Power Generation 111
  • Chapter Three - Power, Food and Slavery 113
  • Chapter Four - Muscular Work and Power 151
  • Chapter Five - Muscle Technology 181
  • Chapter Six - Waterpower 223
  • Chapter Seven - Wind and Other Power Sources 283
  • Transport 341
  • Chapter Eight - Characteristics of Transport 343
  • Chapter Nine - Land Transport 399
  • Chapter Ten - Theory of Land Transport 455
  • Chapter Eleven - Water Transport 507
  • Chapter Twelve - Ship Technology 579
  • Chapter Thirteen - Undersea and Aerial Transport 625
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