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Mankind doesn’t really evolve. Not as a people. We copy, mimic, and integrate, all standing on the shoulders of the great men that came before. It’s an inherently unsteady system, and especially tragic where we can peer back through history and spot one of the rare and special truly great men who was, in his time or the generations thereafter, disregarded.
One such man was Hero of Alexandria. One of the Greek inventors of the first century AD, his geometric proof “Hero’s formula” was embraced and lived beyond him, he put automatic supermarketesqe doors on the temple, made a coin-operated vending machine for holy water, and built a fully automatic machine gun for arrows; but the one invention that really should have earned him notoriety was completely missed by the men of the era.
Hero created a steam engine, but they called it a aeolipile. Basically, a sealed boiler pot with a pipe running up to a sphere that would spin with the release of steam. The invention was likely dismissed because that’s all it did; it was a sight, but not practical at that time.
In 1600 years, when the steam engine was reinvented in France, ideas for its use came fast and frequent, but it hasn’t been until near the 21st Century that the first inventor of the world’s most used engine type has gotten any credit.