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An Egyptian Shadoof used to draw water from the Nile
An Egyptian Shadoof used to draw water from the Nile

The Story of Pumps

Power Plant Design Specialist
11 comments Technology

Imagine, you are taking a hot shower in a five star hotel in a hill resort and suddenly shower goes dry! Or working in a power plant and the power goes off with boiler tripping due to low water level in the drum!!
Think of city of Chennai or Mumbai; millions of people are dependent on supply of drinking water, the lifeline, from a very distant source to the tune of 50-100 km.

Or think of the modern civilization without petrol and diesel filling stations; not available at every corner of the city or highway!!
Be it a civic utility, an industry, a Medicare facility, city water supply & drainage or a warship, pumps are in the heart of every system, working flawlessly round-the-clock.

Let’s look at glorious history of the pumps
Long before Sir Isaac Newton discovered the Law of Gravity, ancient human civilization was aware that water flows down automatically from higher to lower level i.e., ice melt at mountains or rainfall occurs in valley flows down quickly through rivers travelling hundreds of kilometers before falling in to seas.
Attempts have been made through centuries to store water at higher level in catchment areas in valley or trapped areas in rocks in forts on hill tops for use by royal families and army regiments through natural downward flow principle as per need. But questions remained how to use water available at ground level to a palace or a fort located at higher altitude!! Probably, this was the motive behind development of pumps.
Let’s look at the pages of history to glimpse through how pumps were invented!!!
Long before Christ was born, around 2000 BC; Egyptians invented the shadoof to raise water. It used a long suspended rod with a bucket at one end and a weight at the other. Using the fulcrum and the counter weight, water was lifted from lower to higher level
Around 200 BC, the first scientific pump visualized by the great mathematician Archimedes - the Archimedean screw pump. It is considered one of the greatest inventions of all time and is still in use today. It considers rotating screw principle in a static body for pumping liquids and granulated solids.
Thereafter history is silent on development of pump till 1475 AD, when the first machine that could be characterized as a centrifugal pump was developed; a mud lifting machine that appeared in a treatise by the Italian Renaissance engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini. From this time onwards era of modern pump starts and scientists & engineers all over the world worked to establish different pump technologies. Few important developments in chronological order are as below -
In 1588 AD, Sliding vane water pump technology is described by Italian engineer Agostino Ramelli in his book “The Diverse and Artifactitious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli,” which also included other pump and engine designs.
In 1593 Frenchman Nicolas Grollier de Servière creates an early design for a gear pump.
On 1636 Pappenheim, a German engineer invented the double deep-toothed rotary gear pump, which is still used to lubricate engines. This gear pump made it possible to dispense with the reciprocating slide valves used by Ramelli. Pappenheim drove his machine by an overshot water wheel set in motion by a stream and was used to feed water fountains.
On 1650 Otto van Guericke invented the piston vacuum pump, which used leather washers to prevent leakage between the cylinder and the piston.
In 1675 Sir Samuel Moreland — an English academic, diplomat, spy, inventor and mathematician patented the packed plunger pump, capable of raising great quantities of water with far less proportion of strength than a chain or other pump. The piston had a leather seal. Moreland's pump may have been the first use of a piston rod and stuffing box (packed in a cylinder) to displace water.
In 1687 French-born inventor Denis Papin developed the first true centrifugal pump, one with straight vanes used for local drainage.
In 1830 Modern screw pump is invented by Revillion.
In 1845 Henry R. Worthington invented the first direct-acting steam pumping engine. Worthington Pump designed its first products to power canal boats and U.S. naval vessels. Worthington later pioneered pump designs for boiler feed, oil pipeline and hydro-electric applications.
In 1851 British inventor John Appold introduces the curved vane centrifugal pump. Also, John Gwynne filed his first centrifugal pump patent. His early pumps were used primarily for land drainage, and many can still be seen today in pump house museums.
In 1857 Worthington produced the first horizontal, duplex, direct-acting steam pumps for boiler feed.
In 1859 Jacob Edson invented the diaphragm pump and founded the Edson Corporation in Boston, Mass., to manufacture and sell his pump.
In 1868 Stork Pompen of Hengelo, Netherlands, pioneers the concrete volute pump for water drainage.
In 1870 UK Professor Osborne Reynolds develops an original design of a centrifugal pump.
In 1874 Charles Barnes of New Brunswick invented the vane pump.
In 1897 Preston K. Wood made the first deep well turbine pump in Los Angeles, California.
In 1899 Robert Blackmer invented rotary vane pump technology, a pump design that was an important departure from the gear principle and predecessor to today's sliding vane pumps.
In 1900 Siemens filed the first German patent for liquid ring vacuum pumps and compressors.
In 1901 Byron Jackson developed the first deep well vertical turbine pump.
In 1902 Aldrich Pump Company began manufacturing the world's first line of reciprocating positive displacement pumps for steel mills and mine dewatering.
In 1918 Byron Jackson produced the first hot oil pumps for the petroleum industry.
In 1927 Aldrich produced the first variable stroke multi-cylinder reciprocating pump
In 1929 Pleuger incorporated in Berlin, Germany. Its first offerings were submersible motor pumps for dewatering in the construction of underground railways and subways. This year Byron Jackson used the first double casing feed pump in a power plant.
In 1933 J.C. Gorman and Herb Rupp introduced a pump with a “non-clogging” feature. It outperforms any other self-priming centrifugal pump previously invented.
In 1936 Robert Sheen invented the metering pump. The core of his invention was a method of controlled volume that was inherent to the pump. The first pumps were assembled in the basement of his father, Milton Roy Sheen's, home.
In 1939 Dorr-Oliver Pump Company developed the Oliver Diaphragm Slurry pump for slurry transfer. Originally designed for mining slurry transfer with their associated acids, it developed into a Primary Sludge Underflow Pump for the wastewater industry starting in the 1970s after the Clean Water Act. This year Smith Precision Products Company developed the first liquefied gas transfer pump for LP gas.
In 1942 The Gorman-Rupp team created the first commercially available solids-handling trash pump to respond to the contractor's need for a pump to withstand the considerable rigors of pumping out trash-laden septic tanks, cesspools and outhouses.
Besides, there are innumerable inventions on pump components, seals and materials.

How the pump works?
We have seen that liquid flows naturally from higher level to lower level due to gravitational force of earth. As it travels, it gathers momentum and can accumulate huge kinetic energy which could move large rocks, trees easily. This is a familiar scene in a fast moving stream/river descending from mountains or in a flood situation during monsoon.
The relation between static and dynamic energy in a fluid was first established in 1738 by Dutch-Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli in his book “Hydrodynamica”, which states that for an inviscid flow, an increase in the speed of the fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure or a decrease in the fluid's potential energy.
The concept of ‘Pump’ utilizes principle of imparting dynamic energy in a fluid stream through a mechanical device. As the fluid stream is brought to rest, the fluid dynamic energy gets converted to potential energy thus enable pushing fluid from one place to another, especially from a lower to a higher altitude.
Let’s take Lesson 2 to understand the physics and mathematical principles behind Pump hydraulics.

1) The History of Pumps: Through the Years by Michelle Segrest
2) The Bernoulli Principle by Joe Evans

Last modified onTuesday, 09 August 2016 18:54
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