The History of Pumps: Through the Years


Written by:
Michelle Segrest
Published:
December 22, 2011

Read more about The History of Pumps here.

Editor's Note: This is the second of five parts of our feature, The History of Pumps. This timeline was developed through research, credible sources and the knowledge of friends in the industry, The history of pumps is long and illustrious. This account represents highlights of some of the major historical and technological developments. We welcome your contributions.

2000 BC Egyptians invent the shadoof to raise water. It uses a long suspended rod with a bucket at one end and a weight at the other. 

200 BC Greek inventor and mathematician Ctesibius invents the water organ, an air pump with valves on the bottom, a tank of water in between them and a row of pipes on top. This is the principal design that is now known as the reciprocating pump.

200 BC Archimedean screw pump is designed by Archimedes is considered one of the greatest inventions of all time and is still in use today for pumping liquids and granulated solids in both the industrialized world and in the third world—where it is a preferred way to irrigate agricultural fields without electrical pumps. 

1475 According to Reti, the Brazilian soldier and historian of science, the first machine that could be characterized as a centrifugal pump was a mud lifting machine that appeared in a treatise by the Italian Renaissance engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini. 

1588 Sliding vane water pump technology is described by Italian engineer Agostino Ramelli in his book “The Diverse and Artifactitious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli,” which also included other pump and engine designs. 

1593 Frenchman Nicolas Grollier de Servière creates an early design for a gear pump. 

1636 Pappenheim, a German engineer, invents the double deep-toothed rotary gear pump, which is still used to lubricate engines. This gear pump made it possible to dispense with the reciprocating slide valves used by Ramelli. Pappenheim drove his machine by an overshot water wheel set in motion by a stream and was used to feed water fountains.  The emperor Ferdinand II granted him a “privilege” - the equivalent of a patent - in respect of this invention. 

1650 Otto van Guericke invents the piston vacuum pump, which used leather washers to prevent leakage between the cylinder and the piston. 

1675 Sir Samuel Moreland—an English academic, diplomat, spy, inventor and mathematician—patents the packed plunger pump, capable of raising great quantities of water with far less proportion of strength than a chain or other pump. The piston had a leather seal. Moreland's pump may have been the first use of a piston rod and stuffing box (packed in a cylinder) to displace water.

1687 French-born inventor Denis Papin develops the first true centrifugal pump, one with straight vanes used for local drainage.

1738 In fluid dynamics, Bernoulli's principle states that for an inviscid flow, an increase in the speed of the fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure or a decrease in the fluid's potential energy. It is named after the Dutch-Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli, who published it in a book “Hydrodynamica.” The principle is applied to various types of fluid flow and is loosely known as Bernoulli's equation. 

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Peerless large split case design from the 1940s being installed in the field. Peerless Pump photo courtesy of Grundfos. 

1782 James Watt—who invented the steam engine's connecting rod crank mechanism, which made it possible to convert the piston's reciprocating motion into rotary motion—designs an oscillating piston machine in which a wing-shaped rotary blade made a near complete revolution uncovering inlet ports in a chamber separated by a curved radial wall.

1790 Briton Thomas Simpson harnesses steam power to pumping engines for municipal water applications and founds the London company Simpson and Thompson Co. (predecessor to Worthington Simpson).

1830 Modern screw pump is invented by Revillion.

1845 Henry R. Worthington invents the first direct-acting steam pumping engine. Worthington Pump designed its first products to power canal boats and U.S. naval vessels. Worthington later pioneered pump designs for boiler feed, oil pipeline and hydro-electric applications.

1848 In Seneca Falls, N.Y., Seabury S. Gould purchases the interests of Edward Mynderse and H.C. Silsby in Downs, Mynderse & Co., forming Downs & Co., later known as Goulds Manufacturing Company.

1849 Goulds casts and assembles the world's first all-metal pump.

1851 British inventor John Appold introduces the curved vane centrifugal pump.

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