Ctesibius or Ktesibios or Tesibius (Greek: Κτησίβιος; fl.
285–222 BC) was a Greek inventor and mathematician in Alexandria,
Ptolemaic Egypt. He wrote the first treatises on the science of
compressed air and its uses in pumps (and even in a kind of cannon).
This, in combination with his work on the elasticity of air On
pneumatics, earned him the title of "father of pneumatics." None of
his written work has survived, including his Memorabilia, a
compilation of his research that was cited by Athenaeus. Ctesibius'
most commonly known invention today is a pipe organ (hydraulis), on
which the invention of the piano was later based.
4 Further reading
Ctesibius was probably the first head of the Museum of Alexandria.
Very little is known of his life, but his inventions were well known.
It is said (possibly by Diogenes Laertius) that his first career was
as a barber. During his time as a barber, he invented a
counterweight-adjustable mirror. His other inventions include the
hydraulis, a water organ that is considered the precursor of the
modern pipe organ, and improved the water clock or clepsydra ("water
thief"). For more than 1,800 years the clepsydra was the most accurate
clock ever constructed, until the Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens
detailed the use of pendulums to regulate clocks in the year AD 1656,
when he actually built a working prototype.
Ctesibius described one of the first force pumps for producing a jet
of water, or for lifting water from wells, and examples have been
found at various Roman sites, such as at
Silchester in Britain. The
principle of the siphon has also been attributed to him.
According to Diogenes Laertius,
Ctesibius was miserably poor. Laertius
details this by recounting the following concerning the philosopher
When he had gone to visit
Ctesibius who was ill, seeing him in great
distress from want, he secretly slipped his purse under his pillow;
Ctesibius found it, "This," said he, "is the amusement of
Ctesibius's work is chronicled by Vitruvius, Athenaeus, Pliny the
Philo of Byzantium who repeatedly mention him, adding that
the first mechanicians such as
Ctesibius had the advantage of being
under kings who loved fame and supported the arts.
commentator on Euclid) and Hero of
Alexandria (the last of the
engineers of antiquity) also mention him.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Ctesibius. "Greek physicist and inventor,
the first great figure of the ancient engineering tradition of
Landels, J.G. (1978). Engineering in the ancient world. Berkeley:
Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03429-5.
Lloyd, G.E.R. (1973). Greek science after Aristotle. New York: Norton.
Vitruvius (1914). The Ten Books on Architecture. Cambridge: Harvard
Ancient Greek mathematics
Aristaeus the Elder
Isidore of Miletus
Theon of Alexandria
Theon of Smyrna
Zeno of Elea
Zeno of Sidon
On the Sizes and Distances (Aristarchus)
On Sizes and Distances
On Sizes and Distances (Hipparchus)
On the Moving Sphere (Autolycus)
The Sand Reckoner
Problem of Apollonius
Squaring the circle
Doubling the cube
Library of Alexandria
Timeline of Ancient Greek ma