Geek Trivia

The First Steam Engine Was Known As What?

A Mill Engine
An Aeolipile
A Newcomen Dynamo
A Watts Box
Which Sport No Longer Includes The Component It Was Literally Named After?
A woodcut illustration of an aeolipile
Public Domain/Wikimedia

Answer: An Aeolipile

Although the 18th and 19th centuries might be known as the Age of Steam thanks to the rising use of steam engines and their influence on transport and commerce, the roots of the steam engine reach much further back.

The first recorded instance of a steam engine dates all the way back to the first century AD writings of Hero of Alexandria. He wrote of a rocket-style engine that converted water into steam and used the steam to spin a sphere outfitted with two crook-necked nozzles. The name, aeolipile, translates to “the ball of Aeolus”—Aeolus was a king endowed by the gods with the winds (and known as the Keeper of the Winds).

There is no evidence that the aeolipile was ever put to any practical use and is believed to have served simply as a temple wonder—a device intended to inspire awe and curiosity in the observer.