A Brief History of Water Pumps and How They Have Affected the World

Water PumpsThough history is always subject to speculation as to its accuracy, we have a reasonable history of water pumps. Though some credit the Egyptians with inventing the pump around 2,000 BC, their “pump” called a shadoof, was actually a bucket tied to a rope that removed water from a well. We don’t think that a shadoof qualifies as a pump, though, so we are going to jump ahead to 250 BC.

In 250 BC, in ancient Greece and Rome, they used a device called the Archimedean screw. As you may have guessed, it was shaped like a giant screw. It worked by lifting water through the inside of the pump for irrigation. The screw was turned by hand, and it usually took two workers to do so. Piston pumps were also around in the same time period as the Archimedean screw, rendering any attempt to figure out what was really first to be pointless.

In 1580, the sliding vane pump was invented, followed shortly thereafter by the gear pump. The piston vacuum pump would come along in 1650.

1738 saw a “tipping point” event: the building of the Ural hydraulic machinery plant. This was the first instance of automated pump machinery. It would take a few more years, but in 1790, Thomas Simpson would establish the first pump business in London.

1840 would see the first direct-acting steam pump. This would be essential to providing energy for a number of industrial uses.

13 years later, in 1853, Bornemann Pumpen was established, followed by Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon in 1856, and the Roper Pump Company in 1857. That year, Jacob Edson would invent the diaphragm pump, and would establish the Edson Corporation.

The following years were a whirlwind of new companies, including Grundfos in 1945. It would be until 1948 when more serious advances were made, when Stenberg-Flygt AB designed the first submersible drainage pump. HMD would create a magnet-drive pump the next year.

Pumps have affected our world in ways that we take for granted. If it weren’t for pumps, you would have to collect rain water and make trips to the nearest spring, pond, lake, or river to find water. Pumps save hours and hours of labour, and make it a lot easier to mitigate damage from flooding.

We take pumps for granted, but we shouldn’t.