IWA Publishing

Ancient water robotics and Abou-l Iz Al-Jazari

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Although water resources have been developed throughout the centuries for the service of different civilizations, at different scales and in different regions, their use in automation has been conceived only recently. Research into the history of water from an automation point of view has led to some unknown or hidden facts. Starting from the ancient Greek period before the prophet Christ and after about the 12th century, many researchers tried to make use of water power for working some simple but effective devices for the service of mankind. Among these are the haulage of water from a lower level to a higher elevation by water wheels in order to irrigate agricultural land. Hero during the Hellenistic period and Vitruvius of the Roman Empire were among the first who tried to make use of water power for use in different human activities, such as water haulage, watermills, water clocks, etc. The highlights of these works were achieved by a 12th century Muslim researcher, Abou-l Iz Al-Jazari, who lived in the southeastern part of modern day Turkey. He reviewed all the previous work from different civilizations and then suggested his own designs and devices for the use of water power in automation of excellent types. He even combined animals and water power through early designs of valves, pistons, cylinders and crank mills, as will be explained in this paper. His works were revealed by German historians and engineers in the first quarter of the 19th century. Later, an English engineer translated his book from Arabic into English, revealing the guidelines for modern automation and robotic designs originating from the 12th century. This paper gives a brief summary of the early workers' devices and Abou-l Iz Al-Jazari's much more developed designs with his original hand-drawn pictures.

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