Hero of Alexandria and the Roman Technological Revolution
Friday, November 1, 2013 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Room EDC 287, Education Block
University of Calgary
Prof. John Humphrey (U. of Calgary)
Cost: Meetings are Free to members, Guests $5 – Students with ID $2
Hero was a 1st-century-CE engineer and inventor who worked at the Library and Museum of Alexandria, established by the Ptolemaic dynasty three centuries earlier. Following in the footsteps of other notable technicians like Ktesibios, his inventive mind created a remarkable series of revolutionary machines using all the mechanical devices in the Hellenistic tool-kit (complex gears, compound pulleys, screws, and the like) and introduced a revolutionary power source—steam—all of which foreshadow the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. But this lecture is not a review of high-school physics. We’ll look at Hero’s creation of the first vending machine, the differential axle, a bottomless wine cup, a pipe organ, and a “miraculous” system that opened doors to a temple whenever a fire was lit on the sacrificial altar. With all this technology, and a railway to boot, why did the ancients not have an industrial revolution?
About the speaker:
John Humphrey is a professor in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary. He is a Roman archaeologist and historian who has excavated in Greece and Turkey and has written two books on the development of technology on the Greek and Roman worlds. Some SSEA members might know him as a scholar of Roman public toilets.