Although he's often called Hero, his actual name was Heron. He
lived in Alexandria, Egypt in the first century A.D. (From around 10
A.D. to around 75 A.D., probably.) He was a mathematician and inventor,
and he focused on geometry and things that had to do with water and air
pressure. He's most famous for Heron's Formula, which has to do with
the lengths of the sides of triangles. He wrote a lot of books about
his work, many of which were stored in the Library of Alexandria. This
library is pretty famous because it was lost, so to speak, during wars
in that area, and the books inside weren't found until nearly a
thousand years later.
He came up with a lot of inventions, including what he called the
aeolipile, which was the first ever steam-based motor. It was basically
a metal ball that could turn on a metal tube that ran through it. It
had two bent pipes sticking out opposite sides. Steam came in through
the tube in the middle and went out through the pipes on the sides. The
steam pushing out through the holes in the sides made the ball spin.
Unfortunately, no one ever really used this motor.
For more information about Hero's Fountains, check out our answer
to the question about that. You can get to it under the Cool Stuff
About Air: Water section of our questions list.
Also, here's a link to a really good page all about Heron of Alexandria
. Good luck with your project!
(republished on 07/18/06)