An aeolipile, a rocket-like [ [ NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project (LTP) ] ] jet engine [ [ jet engine ] ] invented in the first century by Hero of Alexandria, is considered to be the first recorded steam engine or reaction steam turbine. ["turbine." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 18 July 2007 .] The name—derived from the Greek words "aeolos" and "pila"—translates to "the ball of Aeolus" ; Aeolus being the Greek god of the wind.


It consists of an air-tight chamber (usually a sphere or cylinder) rotating on a bearing of some kind, with bent or curved nozzles projecting from it (tipjets), through which steam is expelled perpendicular to the bearing axis. The resulting thrust due to the rocket principle [ [ Aeolipile ] ] causes a torque which makes the device spin (Newton's third law).

Typically, the water is heated in a basin, which is connected to the rotating chamber by a pair of pipes that also serve as the pivots for the chamber. However, the water may also be heated in the chamber itself as shown in the illustration.

The device was thought of as little more than a diversion during Hero's lifetime. He invented a separate machine that used air from a closed chamber, heated by an altar fire, to displace water from a sealed vessel; the water was collected and its weight, pulling on a rope, opened temple doors. [cite web
last = Hero of Alexandria
first =
authorlink =
coauthors = Bennet Woodcroft (trans.)
title = Temple Doors opened by Fire on an Altar
work = Pneumatics of Hero of Alexandria
publisher = London: Taylor Walton and Maberly (online edition from University of Rochester, Rochester, NY)
date = 1851
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-04-23
] Some historians have conflated the two inventions to assert that the aeolipile was used, in antiquity, for the production of useful work. This conflation appears to be incorrect.

ee also

*Steam engine
*Hot water rocket
*Rocket engine


External links

* [ Building a replica of the aeolipile] (includes a history of the aeolipile and an explanation of the principles behind it).

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  • Aeolipile — Die Aeolipile, auch Äolsball oder Heronsball genannt, ist eine von Heron von Alexandria erdachte Maschine, die die Expansionskraft von Wasserdampf und das Rückstoßprinzip demonstriert. Die Maschine ist ein zum Teil mit Wasser gefülltes Gefäß, in… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • AEolipile — [AE]*ol i*pile, AEolipyle [AE]*ol i*pyle, n. [L. aeolipilae; Aeolus god of the winds + pila a ball, or Gr. ? gate (i. e., doorway of [AE]olus); cf. F. [ e]olipyle.] An apparatus consisting chiefly of a closed vessel (as a globe or cylinder) with… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Aeolipile — Aeolipile, Gebläselampe zum Löten und Glasblasen. Infolge Erwärmung einer in einem Metallbehälter befindlichen flüchtigen Flüssigkeit, z.B. Weingeist, treten die sich bildenden Dämpfe durch das Austrittsrohr aus, entzünden sich und geben eine… …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • aeolipile — /ee ol euh puyl /, n. 1. a round vessel caused to rotate by the force of tangentially escaping steam: an early example of jet propulsion. 2. a device for injecting the vapors of heated alcohol into a laboratory furnace. Also, aeolipyle, eolipile …   Universalium

  • aeolipile — noun /ˈiːəʊlɪpʌɪl/ a steam engine powered by rocket propulsion due to escaping steam; which consists of a pressure vessel mounted on a bearing, with one or more tubes which exhaust steam tangentially to the rotation axis thus creating rotation …   Wiktionary

  • aeolipile — n. round apparatus used to show the effect of forces made by a jet of gas; device used to inject the steam of heated alcohol into a furnace in a laboratory …   English contemporary dictionary

  • aeolipile — ae·ol·i·pile …   English syllables

  • aeolipile — /iˈɒləpaɪl/ (say ee oluhpuyl) noun an instrument consisting essentially of a round vessel rotated by the force of steam generated within, and escaping through bent arms. Also, aeolipyle. {Latin aeolipila, originally Aeolī pila ball of Aeolus, or… …  

  • aeolipile —   n. first steam engine, with globe made to revolve by steam jets, described in 1st century AD …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • aeolipile — …   Useful english dictionary

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