In short, hydraulics is a topic in applied science and engineering that deals with the mechanical properties of liquids. It may seem a relatively modern phenomenon but nothing could be further from the truth. The word itself is of Ancient Greek origin and comes from ὕδωρ or hydor (Greek for water) and αὐλός or aulos, Greek for pipe). The application of hydraulic technology has been in use since ancient times and has often formed a key part of past civilisations’ society.
Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt
Water power was used in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to help irrigation since 6000 BC. Hydraulics was also used to invent the first water clock in this region around 2000 BC.
Ancient Greece used hydraulics for agriculture too but was also responsible for other innovations such as hydraulic wheels, the force pump and the earliest fire engines.
Besides their famous road network, possibly the most famous feature of the Roman Empire was their awe-inspiring aqueduct system. These elegant feats of architecture straddled the landscape of ancient Europe and allowed the development of large cities by providing clean water to its populace.
Ancient And Medieval China
Ancient China was a civilization that utilised the power of hydraulics in their society for agriculture extensively. During the medieval Song dynasty, Du Shi used a water wheel to produce cast iron by powering a set of bellows, while the inventor Zhang Heng used the technology to provide astronomical observation by the rotation of an armillary sphere.
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