5000 Years of Gears

Antikythera Mechanism Surprise

The earliest artifact gears are in the well-known Antikythera Mechanism from 80 BCE.  Many have written about them and their maker who is unknown to us

Antikythera Mechanism

They gave us a surprise from the past regarding the mathematical, astronomical, and mechanical skills of the maker(s). No patent office existed to document or claim the design.  No historical text records them, and not much comes remotely close until we start to see the geared astrolabes of the 1200s. Observing the heavens, religion, and early Horology helped this early technology along the way with simple cogs and triangular gear teeth.

The makers of gear technology were commonly employed by kings and rulers as astronomical prediction was valuable. Pumping water and lifting loads were also helpful skills to possess. Later gears played an important role in navigation when the Harrison geared clocks enabled the calculation of longitude. Neil Armstrong often visited Greenwich to see the Harrison clocks tic-toc away in the Royal Observatory as he knew first-hand the relationship between accurate time and navigation. Henry Ford was probably the first to harness mass produced gears to transmit power in his vehicles. Continuing many traditions, it took a joint GM-Ford research team to design a 10-speed transmission for fuel conservation.

Honorable mention should definitely go to Ancient China where geared-mechanisms in a South Pointing Chariot are rumored to have existed some 3,000 years ago. Gears are the hidden and ancient technology that our modern world uses every day....and has likely been for 5000 years!

Timeline of the Naburian

3000 BC........... Ancient Mythical Chinese Craftsman that we call “Naburian” made a South Facing Chariot

255 BC............. Eratosthenes made the first Armillary Sphere

250 BC............. Archimedes Astronomy

200 BC............. Apollonius of Perga, Astrolabe Projection for Navigation

87 BC............... Antikythera Mechanism – Craftsman Unknown

1221 AD........... Geared Astrolabe by Isfahan – Oldest functional metal gearing for Navigation and Religious purposes

1330 AD........... Giovani de Dondi, Verge Escapement enabling mechanical clocks

1410 AD........... Prague Astronomical Clock

1503 AD........... Leonardo Da Vinci, Polymath – shows Screws the equivalent of modern worm gearing

1504 AD........... Christopher Columbus, Captain, Navigator, predicts lunar eclipse, oh yea the America thing too

1540 AD........... Juanelo Torriano, Clockmaker writes of having a Gear Cutting Machine, Subject of King Philip II

1545 AD........... Girolamo Cardano, Mathematician, Involute Gear Geometry

1597 AD........... Tyco Brahe, Astronomer, Kepler was his assistant, made many star charts

1600 AD........... Gallileo Galelei, Astronomer, passed down horology to Huygens

1623 AD........... Johanes Kepler, Astronomer, laid the foundation for Newton

1656 AD........... Christiaan Hyugens, Clockmaker, Inventor of the pendulum clock

1687 AD........... Isaac Newton, Gravity - based on a knowledge of how planets interact – through time!

1707 AD........... Scilly Naval Disaster, loss of 2000 sailors due to insufficient Navigational tools – Longitude

1712 AD...........Thomas Newcomen, Mechanic, First practical piston steam engine (with gears) to pump water from coal mines, to stay warm in England.

1714 AD........... British Parliament Prize – The Longitude Act of 1714

1720 AD........... Joseph Williamson, Clockmaker developed differential gear and patent

1739 AD .......... Henry Hindley, Instrument Maker, First Dividing Engine for graduations accurately

1751 AD........... Charles Étienne Louis Camus, He really did properly describe the Involute Gear Geometry

1751 AD........... Jacques De Vaucanson, Machine Tool maker, first metal lathe to make larger gears

1752 AD........... Leonhard Euler, Mathematician, Polymath, also Involute Gear Geometry and more

1761 AD........... John Harrison, Clockmaker; In the end he won the British Parliament Prize on Longitude. His work changed Navigation-forever. All he wanted was to work on his clocks in his shop.

1768 AD........... James Cook, Captain, Navigator, British Explorer, sailed the first sea trials with Harrison and his “H4” clock and reported great accuracy.

1768 AD........... Jesse Ramsden, London's Instrument Maker, Marked many Nautical Instruments, his famous dividing wheel is located in the Smithsonian.

1781 AD........... Kästner, Abraham Gotthelf, Mathematician, wrote systematic summation of gearing calculations

1798 AD........... Henry Maudslay, Machine Tool Maker, Father of Machine tools, locksmith. Trained Robers, Napier and Clements who all made significant machine contributions

1835 AD........... Joseph Whitworth, Machine Tool Maker, “Whitworth Threads”, First Hob Patent

1851 AD............Great Exhibition, London, 1 May to 15 October 1851

1852 AD........... Patent Office of Britain from the Patents Law Amendment of 1852

1855 AD............Exposition Universelle, Paris, 15 May to 15 November 1855

1856 AD........... Christian Bernard SCHIELE, Inventor, First Hobbing Machine Patent, see patent drawing

1870 AD........... Reinecker Machine Tool Company-Germany.  Used early hobbing process and machines, sold and moved to Russia.  There is very little written about this company and their machines.  Date is very approximate. 

1874 AD........... William GLEASON, Founder of Gleason Works, exists today as Gleason Corporation.

1881 AD........... Warner-Swasey Co., Machine Tool and Instrument Makers, Constructed large worm gears for Observatories across the USA

1889 AD........... G.B. GRANT, Machine Tool Maker, Spur and Worm Gear Hobbing Machines. His original company spawned Boston, Lexington, Cleveland and Philadelphia Gear Works Companies.

1893 AD........... Rudolf Diesel, Invention of the Diesel Engine

1896 AD........... Edwin R. FELLOWS, Inventor of the Gear Shaping process and machines, many in use today, and a brand of Bourne & Koch with ongoing support.

1900 AD........... Robert Herman PFAUTER, Locksmith, First Universal Hobbing Machine for Spur and Helical Gears. Pfauter America was Purchased by Gleason Corp. in 1997.  Pfauter worked in the Reinecker machine tool plant prior to starting his company. 

1901 AD........... Carl Edvard Johansson, Inventory and Scientist. He solved in a very practical way the conversion from inches to meters, and gave us “Jo-Blocks” to make interchangeable parts at great scale.

1903 AD........... Founding of Ford Motor Company. There are only two people in the world that could enter Henry Fords Office without knocking, Edsel Ford and Carl Johansson

1908 AD........... Sam Sunderland, Patent that later Parkinson and then MAAG purchased for planning gears

1913 AD........... Max MAAG, Inventor, Gearboxes, Gear Generators Bevel Gears

1914 AD............First Edition of Machinery's Handbook

1916 AD........... Founding of American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA)

1947 AD .......... Invention of the Bipolar Transistor...then computers...just for....automation and modern CNC machinery

2020 AD........... Founding of Evolvent Design, LLC

 PS  The Naburian is a name we made up.  But the maker of the Antikythera Mechanism cannot go nameless.  This person was the original mechanical engineer, mathematician, astronomer, craftsman and artist.  Likely it took a team of people to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to make the device.  The effort, regardless, is extraordinary for any day in our history. 

© Evolvent Design, 2020

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