Talk:Hero of Alexandria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Biography / Science and Academia (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Biography, a collaborative effort to create, develop and organize Wikipedia's articles about people. All interested editors are invited to join the project and contribute to the discussion. For instructions on how to use this banner, please refer to the documentation.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the science and academia work group (marked as Mid-importance).
WikiProject Mathematics (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject Mathematics
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Mathematics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Mathematics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Mathematics rating:
C Class
Mid Importance
 Field: Mathematicians
WikiProject Ancient Egypt (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Ancient Egypt, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Egyptological subjects on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.

(Early comments)[edit]

The edit of 21:01 6 Nov 2005 removed the claim that Hero proved his formula, citing Funk and Wagnall. This is bizarre; Hero's proof is well known. As mentioned on Heron's formula, it appears in his Metrica. (This according to Heath, who is about as authoritative an individual as one can imagine on this matter, and, for that matter, who gives the proof in detail.) Accordingly I now restore that claim. -- 23:39, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

  • Hercules shoots arrow at hissing dragon when apple is lifted

I've moved this here from the Projects section as it doesn't seem to make any sense or have any context. If anyone can expand on it and tidy it up (assuming it refers to an actual project) then I guess it can be returned. --Myfanwy 17:57, 3 May 2006 (UTC)

Not sure who originally wrote the sentence, but it is ambiguous. I believe this is an actualy project of Hero's - "Hercules" is just a little model of Hercules and the "hissing dragon" is a model of a dragon. It's just one of the little mechanical inventions of Hero's. FranksValli 20:56, 3 May 2006 (UTC)

History Channel[edit]

I just watched an episode of Ancient Marvels on the History Channel that largely dealt with Hero's works. The program showed a self-refilling vessel that would refill a basin with water to a certain level after water had been removed; however, the program did not say this was one of Hero's works. I am assuming someone saw the program and added the device incorrectly, so I am taking it out. The program also discussed the Hercules contraption mentioned above, I'll add something about that is more clear.--Bkwillwm 23:26, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

Is Heron Really Greek?[edit]

Wikipedia should be different and not like other encyclpedia that contradict themselves. How do we know heron was a greek? Alexandria was in Africa (Egypt) not Greece. It was ruled (or under the colony) of Greece as at that time. That does not make him Greek. USA was once colonized by Great Britain before the independence.That does not make americans British or all other countries colonized by britain, British. One error that has plagued many encyclopaedia today is the designation of a Greek nationality to some early philosophers that not much is known of. Wikipedia is not like those encyclopedia. How does it seem to read about hero of Alexandria(Egypt) and read that he is greek and then click on the alexandria link only to discover that Alexandria is actually in egypt? Avoid Contradiction. We have a clue to his nationality. That clue is his name. "heron of alexandria". In those days people were surnamed after there place of origin/birth. I am considering changing the greek nationality to egyptian nationality or at least removing the word "greek". io_anthony 20:37 Sep 23, 2006 (UTC)

EDIT Anonymous Greek has a question: If Heron of Alexandria was an Egyptian, why did he write in Greek, and not in Latin or better yet in Hieroglyphics?: Wikipedia Quote:

The city of Alexandria was named after its founder, Alexander the Great, and as the seat of the Ptolemaic rulers
of Egypt, quickly became one of the greatest cities of the Hellenistic world. End quote. 

In conclusion, since Alexander the Great was a Macedonian, it is reasonable to say that ALEXANDRIA was part of Macedonia. in which case, Heron was a Macedonian and his works should have been in Macedonian! (A language invented in our 20th century. (Bulgaro-Serbo-Albanian, Slavic language). Plato, (a Greek?), said once : Ignorance is the root and stem of all evils. Works known to be of Hero's hand:

  *' Pneumatica', a description of machines working on air, steam or water pressure, including the hydraulis or water organ.[1]
   * Automata, a description of machines which enable wonders in temples by mechanical or pneumatical means (e.g. automatic opening or closing of temple doors, statues that pour wine, etc.). See Automata.
   * Mechanica, written for architects, containing means to lift heavy objects.
   * Metrica, a description of how to calculate surfaces and volumes of diverse objects.
   * On the Dioptra, a collection of methods to measure lengths. In this work the odometer is described, and also an apparatus which resembles a theodolite.
   * Belopoeica, a description of war machines.
   * Catoptrica, about the progression of light, reflection and the use of mirro

--(please sign your comments)

We can infer that Heron was ethnically Greek based on the historic records from that time. It has nothing to do with Alexander the Great's nationality or ethnicity. There were Greeks, Jews, as well as Egyptians living in Alexandria during and after the Ptolemaic era. It also has nothing to do with the language in which he wrote. Spain ruled the Philippines during the 17th century, so its government and administrative institutions conducted all business in Spanish. The local population also adopted Spanish culture and converted to Catholicism. That doesn't make every Spanish-speaking Filipino a Spaniard, just as Spanish-speaking persons living in Mexico today are not necessarily Spanish.

I don't know what biographical records we have on Hero, but we do know that the Ptolemaic rulers kept the three major ethnic social groups in Alexandria apart in order to subjugate and exlcude non-Greeks. We also know that, even though it was located in Egypt, Alexandria was a major Hellenistic city, so the predominant culture was Greek, as were all of its official and unofficial social institutions. This included the Musaeum (which includes the Library of Alexandria) where Hero taught. And since Hero was also a prominent figure in the Greek & Roman elite circles, it's very unlikely that he was an Egyptian. In fact, native Egyptians were often looked down upon by the Greeks, who described them as muggers in one of the few surviving records from the period.
--Subversive Sound (talk) 15:05, 5 October 2009 (UTC)

Lecture notes[edit]

It is also believed that Hero taught at the Museum in Alexandria because most of his writings appear as lecture notes for courses in mathematics, mechanics, physics and pneumatics.

Is this for real? As in, one of the main reasons we know about his stuff is the lecture notes students were making in this guy's classes? ManicParroT 19:41, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

No, "lecture notes" means notes that Hero would have made as notes for himself when delivering lectures.--Mathew5000 00:53, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

How complete is the bibliography?[edit]

(bibliography in Greek)

The Eleventh Edition Encyclopaedia Britannica [1] lists some other works not currently mentioned in this Wikipedia article, unless I am misunderstanding something. It says: "The geometrical treatises which have survived (though not interpolated) in Greek are entitled respectively Definitiones, Geometria, Geodaesia, Stereometrica (i. and ii.), Mensurae, Liber Geoponicus, to which must now be added the Metrica recently discovered by R. Schöne in a MS. at Constantinople. These books, except the Definitiones, mostly consist of directions for obtaining, from given parts, the areas or volumes, and other parts, of plane or solid figures. A remarkable feature is the bare statement of a number of very close approximations to the square roots of numbers which are not complete squares." --Mathew5000 19:03, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

Can we add a link to a small invention of Heron of Alexandria?[edit]

When I was young, my brother made a long chain out of key chain loops where when you drop one and it looks like it drops down the chain. It is either called the Magic Chain or the Chain of Heron. I had trouble (as an adult) finding this on the web and it took months of going to the library and looking online to find it. Does the Wikipedia include small but very old inventions and how to build them? I finally found it (a couple of years ago) and saved the web pages.

Can we add this somehow? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by LarryAGrossman (talkcontribs) 17:39, 29 January 2007 (UTC).

History Channel part 2[edit]

I watched a fascinating show last night on the History Channel called "Machines of the Gods" which is a part of the "Ancient Discoveries" series. A good deal of the show was dedicated to Heron, specifically the many devices he invented that were used by the temples to help instill faith, awe and new members and such. It appears he made the very first weeping statue where the eyes of a statue/icon would bleed. I've looked at some of the links on this article and found a few devices he made for the temples but I'm mostly interested in the bleeding statue(s). Does anyone have a link or an idea where I could find out more on the subject? I'm planning to work some on the weeping statue article and this would be a great historical piece to add to it. Cheers! Mr Christopher 15:34, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

I saw the show as well, and am also very interested in further scholarly study of his inventions of deception; if true it certainly casts a different light on the type of person he may have been. The History Channel does not do a very good job of referencing its sources and so it would be nice to pull together all the known sources on this topic into his article.--Baumgaertner (talk) 21:52, 12 November 2009 (UTC)


Why is this article 'Hero' instead of 'Heron'? I know the normal standard (which I support) in to render Greeks in Latinisation, but in this case, 'Heron' is the standard form in English. The page on what Heron is best known for is called 'Heron's formula' and references him as 'Heron'. Has this been discussed before? The way, the truth, and the light 07:33, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Since it apparently hasn't been discussed before, I will propse the move. The way, the truth, and the light 12:42, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

With so little argumentation, it's difficult to assess this request. I do note, however, that "Hero of Alexandria" is about twice as common on the Internet as "Heron of Alexandria". It was requested that this article be renamed but there was no consensus for it be moved. One might consider moving Heron's formula to "Hero's formula" if consistency is desired. --Stemonitis 13:50, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

Well, there was no objection to it; I thought that constituted consensus. "Heron's formula" is twenty times as common as "Hero's formula"; I'd never seen anything but "Heron's formula". Since he is principally known for this, I feel it should dictate the preference. The way, the truth, and the light 14:39, 29 April 2007 (UTC)
Stemonitis, did you remember to remove Wikipedia and its mirrors from your search? Because when I did it I got roughly equal results, and the same when I restricted it to English-only results. I didn't comment because I had no objection, and the ghits were roughly equal. Mak (talk) 17:00, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

Hero is the standard English of his name, not Heron, and regardless of how mathematicians like to refer to his formula. Eponymous-Archon (talk) 02:39, 24 March 2014 (UTC)

"Standard"? By what criterion? Since English, unlike many languages, does not have some sort of official academy to decree what is standard, the only criterion is usage and acceptance. Since both are equally accepted, and both are commonly used, on what basis can one regard one as more "standard" than the other? The editor who uses the pseudonym "JamesBWatson" (talk) 12:52, 24 March 2014 (UTC)
Standard by usage, claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Plato is not Platon, and Heron is nowhere near as common as Hero, and Heron is not commonly used outside of mathematical circles, it seems. Google ngrams shows a varying ratio always and decisively in favor of Hero. The traditional "rule" is to latinize Greek names, though there is always some variation is usage, esp. in modern authors who are more likely to try to leave the names unlatinized. Eponymous-Archon (talk) 03:00, 21 May 2014 (UTC)

Ethnicity vs Culture[edit]

I think the agendas on the ethnicity of Heron and other Alexandrians add abstraction and imprecision to the project. Hero and all Alexandrian mathematicians of the same school should be labeled as Greek mathematicians, linked to either Greek mathematics or ancient Greece. Those people belong to a school of Greek mathematics, they had Greek names, wrote in Greek and were considered Greek by the standards of their society. Just because some scholars have hypothesised some non-Greek origins it doesn't mean that we have to change all established scholarship on the topic and link to unrelated cultures and schools. The practice of labeling those scholars anything but Greek because of a possible distant non-Greek origin would be as absurd as to label Diocletian an Illyrian emperor instead of a Roman Emperor. I hope you understand how wrong and misleading it would be. How do terms like 'Alexandrian' or 'Egyptian' or 'Hellenistic' help a reader who wants to become familiar with Ptolemy and look up his works, or even the works of other mathematicians of the same school? They don't. Speculations about origins should be made on a separate section and not in the lead. The lead should stick to "Greek mathematicians", as they have been categorised by scholars of all eras. If there are no objections I'll replace the mainstream cultural group they belong to. "Ethnicity unknown" makes no argument because in the Hellenistic-Roman as well as the modern period, culture takes precedence over dubious ethnic identifiers and exonyms such as 'hellenistic'. Miskin 17:22, 4 August 2007 (UTC)

I think you are forgetting one more important point: the Alexandrians were all citizens of the Roman province of Aegyptus (Egypt). That in itself would make their nationality Egyptian or Roman, regardless of ethnicity or culture. Calling them Greeks would be no better than referring to Americans as English people, just because they speak English. "Alexandrian" would be the most neutral term for them, as it doesn't imply anything about their ethnicity or culture. Jagged 85 21:04, 4 August 2007 (UTC)
However, I do agree with your suggestion that discussions on his origins should be in another section, rather than the lead section. Jagged 85 21:12, 4 August 2007 (UTC)
I think that it is a very false logic to make comparisons with modern standards. There was nothing Egyptian about the Greek colonists who founded Alexandria, in fact Cleopatra (last Hellenistic ruler of Egypt) was the first of the Ptolemies who accepted to learn and understand the Egyptian language. Not all Alexandrians were born in the Roman province of Aegyptus, for some 300 years before Cleopatra they were born under the self-proclaimed Greek dynasty of the Ptolemies, so this makes their ethnicity Greek. But even under the Roman Empire, most Alexandrians did not have Roman citizenship. The Roman citizenship was awarded to all free-born men of the Roman Empire after Constitutio Antoniniana i.e. 3rd century AD. The majority of Alexandrians do not belong to that category so there's no need to debate on that. Last but not least, Alexandria was separated in quarters: the main quarter, known as the Greek quarter, and two other quarters, the Egyptian and Jewish one. Alexandrians belonged to the culture and ethnicity of their quarter. Those who wrote in Greek, lived in the Greek quarter and had a Greek ethnicity independently of their distant origin (with the exception of some Hellenized Jews). Those who wrote in Egyptian were equivalently considered Egyptians. So as you can see, plain "Alexandrian" does not suffice, as Alexandrians had different status and rights. Plus there was no specific "Alexandrian civilisation" so there's no reason to invent one. Alexandrian Greeks and their science belonged to the Greek culture of the Hellenistic period (a modern concept). If you want to draw a parallel you should look at the Roman Emperors. The emperors of the Illyrian dynasties are never considered anything but Roman emperors. Officially there was no such thing as "Egyptian ethnicity", there hasn't been an independent ancient Egypt since before Cyrus the Great. I suggest that the head links to the specific culture and/or official ethnicity, i.e. the article Greek mathematics or Greeks and that there's a separate section (say biography?) talking about the theories or rather assumptions on their actual ethnic origins. Miskin 16:11, 6 August 2007 (UTC)
Hello Miskin,
I've found many problems with your edits, such as:
1. You sourced your sentence "Hero belonged to the Greek society of Alexandria" with five sources that mention him as Greek and not simply as belonging "to the Greek society of Alexandria".
2. You further removed all statements that explicitly called Heron Greek while keeping those statements that claim that Heron had Egyptian or Phoenician origin. You consequently removed any mention of the current prevailing theory that Heron was Greek.
3. You then added "his exact family tree was not recorded in antiquity", which doesn't explain anything at all and is a regression in quality from the previous statement "His ethnic background was not recorded in ancient times".
4. Your alterations have made this article less coherent in structure and in language than previous versions.
It is for these reasons that I have reverted your edits. selfwormTalk) 00:10, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

I'm sorry to see that you're failing to see my point. That hero was considered Greek by everyone in his time and by the vast majority of modern scholars is something factual. However, I strongly contest that a neutral article should not put so much focus on racial/ethnic labels. Hero was regarded Greek by his contemporaries, by culture and by citizenship. Whether his ancestors were 100% immigrants from Greece that we can never know, and therefore ignore. It's out of order to say that he may have been Egyptian or Phoenician because one scholar has noticed Semitic and Egyptian influences in his work. What you call coherent structure and language seems to me like plain revisionist ranting and a violation of WP:UNDUE. I think editors here should take a look at WP:BIO to find out for themselves how a good biography is structured. Miskin 17:03, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Even if the Egyptian Greeks didn't have what we have been calling Roman citizenship, those are still Greco-Romans by dint of having to live under the laws and in the society of the Roman Empire. They were residents of that empire, and residents of Egypt besides, and they should properly be classified as Greek, Egyptian, and Roman from a structural and historical point of view, even though they might not have been considered Romans at the time. (talk) 05:54, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

I removed the background section altogether. Despite the impression created by juxtaposing unconnected and loose comments on Hero, there has never been a scholarly question mark behind his ethnicity or adherence to the Greek school of thought. The main instigator of the pseudo-debate, Jagged 85, has been meanwhile subject of a RFC/U for systematic bias and a Cleanup is underway. He was also very active in negating the Greek character of other ancient Greek scholars and engineers such as Seleucus of Seleucia, Marinus of Tyrus, Apollodorus and others. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 10:45, 1 May 2011 (UTC)

Boyer Quote[edit]

This topic deals with the following quote from Boyer's A History of Mathematics:

Boyer (1991). "Greek Trigonometry and Mensuration". pp. 171–172. At least from the days of Alexander the Great to the close of the classical world, there undoubtedly was much intercommunication between Greece and Mesopotamia, and it seems to be clear that the Babylonian arithmetic and algebraic geometry continued to exert considerable influence in the Hellenistic world. This aspect of mathematics, for example, appears so strongly in Heron of Alexandria (fl. ca. A.D. 100) that Heron once was thought to be Egyptian or Phoenician rather than Greek. Now it is thought that Heron portrays a type of mathematics that had long been present in Greece but does not find a representative among the great figures - except perhaps as betrayed by Ptolemy in the Tetrabiblos.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Firstly, Boyer mentions that "Heron once was thought to be Egyptian or Phoenician rather than Greek." This statement clearly means that Heron had had at one point in the past though to have been an Egyptian or a Phoenician but that that identification is at present generally rejected by historians. The "rather than Greek" part of the statement implies that the Heron's current identification is generally accepted by historians to be Greek. Now, Boyer goes on to explain that "Now it is thought that Heron portrays a type of mathematics that had long been present in Greece but does not find a representative among the great figures". This statement means that it is now generally accepted by historians that Heron was Greek.

Jagged85's statement in his edit history says that "Boyer didn't explicitly claim most reject it" (by "it" it is meant Heron's Egyptian or Phoenician identification). He then proceeded to change the word "most" to "many". Now, although Boyer did not explicitly state that most reject the identification, he did quite implicitly state that it is currently generally accepted that Heron was a Greek. Furthermore, I would also like to note that Boyer didn't explicitly claim many reject it, although he did implicitly state that. And so I would have to reject Jagged85's replacement of the word "most" with the word "many".

For the reasons just given in this post, I will change the article to state that it is currently generally accepted by historians that Heron was Greek. The new sentence will read "The historian Boyer explains that Hero's identification as an Egyptian or a Phoenician was largely due to the strong Babylonian influence on his work and that it is currently generally accepted by historians that Heron was a Greek,[9] although this identification is not accepted by all historians." selfwormTalk) 22:40, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the explanation and for re-wording that part. The current wording of the section looks a bit more balanced now. Jagged 85 05:28, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
I too am happy that we have balanced the article and reached an agreement. Take care. selfwormTalk) 05:40, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
Selfworm this is exactly the kind of polemics that I was trying to avoid. It's clear to me that those revisionist ethnic labels are based on dubious assumptions on racial origins, and do not reflect the mainstream modern nor ancient cultural perception of Hero. For that reason I changed "Alexandrian from Alexandria" to "Greek mathematician" with a link to Greek mathematics (the school of mathematics in which Hero is unarguably categorised). This does not aim to imply anything on his racial ancestry, but in any case as you said it earlier, him being a Greek is the prominent view. Hence this formulation abides by the WP:UNDUE section of NPOV. Secondly I removed the part which says "although this identification is not accepted by all historians" . In simple propositional logic the statement "most people think" is equivalent to "not all people think". Repeating it strikes like weasel wording. Miskin 17:22, 16 August 2007 (UTC)


One thing that would help us resolve the disputes about the lead in the biography of Alexandrian Greek scholars is that question of citizenship/nationality of Alexandrians. As you probably know Alexandria was the capital of self-proclaimed Greek state of Ptolemaic Egypt, and was founded by Greek colonists from numerous Greek cities (unlike archaic colonists who came all from one city). However, Alexandria did have a Jewish and an Egyptian district. Citizens of Greek, Jewish and Egyptian citizenship had different legal rights and cultural traits (including language). Therefore all Greek-speaking people like Heron who were born prior to 30 AD (Roman conquest of Egypt) had a Greek citizenship/nationality. Similarly during the centuries of Roman Egypt, the Greek-speaking Alexandrians continued to have a Greek nationality. It was only after Constitutio Antoniniana that all citizens of the empire acquired a Roman citizenship. The status of nationality/citizenship in Roman Alexandria is studied extensively in the context of its Jewish citizenry which would often apply for Greek citizenship. For example the textbook "The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian: A Study in Political Relations" explicitly mentions that "it is beyond dispute that some individual Jews in Alexandria obtained Greek citizenship", and that "in his letter written in late 41 (AD), Claudius speaks of the Jews as living in a city "not their own" and contrasts the Jews and Alexandrians in such a decisive way as to put it beyond doubt that only the Greeks were technically Alexandrians". Also the textbook "Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict" goes on to say that "Alexandrian citizenship appears to have been a desirable indicator of status even after Constitutio Antoniniana granted Roman citizenship to all of the empire's free inhabitants in 212 AD and that "Caracalla himself drew a distinction between true Alexandrians and Egyptians who had migrated to the city" I think this answers the question about the official citizenship of the Greek mathematicians of Alexandria such as Hero and Ptolemy. I also hope that this will help with some editors' anachronistic perception of ancient Alexandrian society. Greek-speaking Alexandrians were the ancestors of Greek colonists and apparently there were strong cultural barriers between the Greek Alexandrians and the non-Greeks residing in the city. Ancient Greek colonisation should not be confused with the context of modern colonisation in which the colonists assimilated the local elements and made them speak their language. Therefore terms such as Greeks, Jews and Egyptians have a clear political, ethnic and cultural significance in that ancient context. Miskin 18:02, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

I've kept the lead paragraph as "Alexandrian", which is by far the most neutral term. It doesn't imply anything at all about ethnic or racial or cultural or national origins. All discussions regarding his background is already explained in the Background section. There is no need to make any assertions in the lead paragraph. Also, Egypt was conquered in 30 BC, long before Hero's birth, not in 30 AD. Jagged 85 04:27, 25 August 2007 (UTC)
I don't see how can an editor force an allegedly neutral term on something which isn't a controversial topic. As another editor pointed out there already is a consensus and a prevalent view in the academic sources. You're free to include fringe views and alternative theories in a different section, but you don't have the right to breach WP:UNDUE and push minority POV in the lead. The existence of "Greek" vs "Jewish" vs "Egyptian" ethnicities in Hellenistic and Roman Alexandria has been explained to you, therefore the date of Hero's birth doesn't change the fact that he was of Greek citizenship. I made a personal effort to explain to you why 'Alexandrian' is an ambiguous term but you don't seem to care so much. Miskin 09:15, 26 August 2007 (UTC)


You would be right if it was for tiny minority views (like the Phoenician theory), but a possible Egyptian identity is not a tiny minority view by any means, but is certainly a significant view with prominent adherents including Victor Katz and George Sarton. As far as I know, there is no rule against significant minority views being mentioned in the lead section. I think it would be better to at least mention both views, as long as it is made clear which view is the majority and which view is the significant minority. Jagged 85 11:00, 26 August 2007 (UTC)
Fortunately there is such a rule, see WP:UNDUE. Miskin (talk) 21:50, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

"Deceiving believers"[edit]

I've removed this as it duplicates some material in the next paragraph: "Hero was known for his amazing mechanical ingenuity in the ancient world, including his contributions in military technology and theatre. He also created devices used in temples to instill faith by deceiving believers.(needs citation)" There is a sort-of citation available: "By combining religious mysteries with the very practical side of pneumatic science as developed by Hero of Alexander..." in A History of the Life Sciences by Lois N. Magner, but is "deceiving believers" a bit strong? --Old Moonraker (talk) 07:10, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Hero's influence[edit]

I'm curious about one thing. How come nobody in ancient Rome seems to have picked up on Hero's research and made further machines of their own? Or used them for making things and moving things? If they had proceeded forth on those couple of flanks, the Industrial Revolution might have begun much earlier than it did. Can someone say "one of the largest blown opportunities in history"? (talk) 05:42, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

The Roman intellectuals were not so much into this kind of stuff and the average Roman citizen was illiterate. However when the Arabs conquered Egypt they translated many of the ancient Greek texts into Arabic and even made their own research in some topics, Hero's inventions included. Miskin (talk) 22:55, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

Inventor or Describer??[edit]

In the 1851 translation notes to Pneumatica it is stated that there is doubt over how many (if any) of the machines were actually invented by Hero, since Hero himself claims to be recording the works of previous writers (

This has serious implications for this article, and everywhere that mentions 'his' aeolipile (for example), since the text invariably states "invented by Hero", rather than "described by Hero". That Hero described these devices is an undeniable fact, since we quote from his writings, but as for the actual origination of the ideas I would suggest that that is more debatable, and hence we should not be describing him as the inventor of anything.

I am only 'familiar' with the translation of Pneumatica, which makes clear this doubt. Are his other writings more defensible of him as inventor?

The basic question I am asking here is, "am I justified in replacing:

'the aeolipile, invented by Hero'


'the aeolipile, described by Hero'?"

(Don't want to be criticised of OR.)

EdJogg (talk) 09:18, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Fair Point. It will almost certainly be better to say "attributed to Hero"/"Earliest description by Hero". Many engineers have produced works detailing machines/machine elements that were invented by others. I'm sure that I once read than Felix Wankel compiled one on existing pump designs, as part of his work towards his engine. There are also a huge number of books like the 1893,"507 Mechanical Movements Mechanisms and Devices" by Henry T. Brown. Pneumatica appears to very like this kind of book, so I'm prepared to go along with what Hero said in it regarding the origin of the designs. (I too have only read it in translation)
steve10345 (talk) 20:05, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
I agree with you EdJogg. Perhaps it can be worded: "Hero was the first to record *blank* invention(s)". Wizard191 (talk) 18:01, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm almost certain that you are false... his "holy-water vending machine" was actually used (along with several other inventions) according to a video [2]. Robert M Johnson (talk) 10:49, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

It is a persuasive video (aren't they always?) and certainly interesting. Equally it is unhelpful, since it makes out Hero to be the greatest inventor and mind of his day, yet the translation to which I refer above suggested that it was not Hero who had actually designed/made these things. Does this count as scholarly research? EdJogg (talk) 13:57, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

By no means is a documentary (on the History Channel, at that) a proper source for anything, however there are a few scholars in the video discussing Heron as an inventor. Heron was essentially a "contractor" (of sorts) for temples, and without actually having created anything, I feel his "career" would have been far less than lucrative. I, unlike you, have done little or no original research on Heron, and for this reason I stand very open-minded to your claim. All that I do know of Heron and his career are the opinions of scholars, most of which believe he did actually invent the things he "described." Robert M Johnson (talk) 13:36, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

I must admit that I was surprised by the number of scholars contributing with the same viewpoint, although there was always the nagging thought (for me) about where they obtained their information from (having previously encountered errors in respected published material while researching WP articles). Nevertheless I think I must revert to sitting on the fence, as I do not have the time to research further to support my views. Hopefully someone with more time can investigate in more detail. EdJogg (talk) 15:54, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree. Robert M Johnson (talk) 17:50, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

I have removed the claim Hero invented the aeolipile until a reliable citation is available. De architectura describes an object with the same name and is published nearly 100 years prior to Hero's publication. Please reconcile this inconsistency in either dates or the claim of an invention to an author. Granite07 (talk) 23:51, 2 July 2009 (UTC)
This changes things somewhat! Is there a direct online reference available? -- EdJogg (talk) 12:05, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
The citation is on the Aeolipile page, Ten Books on Architecture, Book I Chapter 6.2 [3](Morris Hicky Morgan translation with illustrations). I was working on a paper and wanted to reference the first use of a steam engine (it sounds to be essentially as a toy or science experiment). I recalled reading about the eolipile (though could not remember the name, had to search various terms) in De architectura a couple years ago. I was surprised to see the Wikipedia page stating the Aeolipile was invented by someone who had been born after De architectura was published. There are several explanations possible: 1) someone edited De architectura sometime during the past 2,000 years, that the ten books are a compilation has been speculated by others, 2) Hero's publication date is incorrect, though Vitruvius makes no mention of him as Hero of Alexandria, possibly he had another name, 3) Hero has been misquoted as the inventor and he has merely failed to properly cite his references, Vitruvius also does not cite a reference or make claim to be the inventor. This implies a third unknown text that contains a description of the Aeolipile. Lets wait a few more years for the ancient texts to be digitized, synonym searches to be improved, translation searches perfected, and better search for multiple spellings of the same term such as aeolipile and eolipile (phonetic search?). Granite07 (talk) 18:50, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
Since the more recent scholars agree on the date of Hero and his writings as the date here at WP, I've been bold and modified all the pages that refer to the aeolipile (about 20 worth attending to). Now all references are much more vague, indicating that the first documented evidence is BC, and not claiming that anyone that we know invented it. But it is fair to say that the engine is often known as "Hero's engine". I have a note of the articles modified and will adjust them further in due course.
EdJogg (talk) 00:18, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

Accuracy of statement atributing loss of Heron's manuscripts?[edit]

I question the neutrality and accuracy of the statement that the loss of Heron's works were due to the Christian mob that the articles claim. Had that been the case, they would not around for the Arab to perserve. Had the works been truly lost due to the burning of the library by Christian mobs in the in the 3rd and 4th century as claimed, they could not have been perserved by the Arabs, who did not come in until the 7th century.

All the Arab Greek sources came from areas that had been under Christian for around 3 centuries. All the Greek lands and the Mediteranean, including Egypt, were part of the Roman Empire, and so when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity in the 4th century, all the Greek works, including Heron's, would have been under Christian rule until the coming of the Arabs in the 7th century. There are Muslim stories attributing the destruction of the Library to a Muslim ruler. The truth is, we do not know what happen to Heron's and the much of the other lost works of Greeks authory. We have no evidence that the works were missing at the time of the Muslim conquest, and while the Arabs later became leaders of the civilizations, at the time the Muslims conquerored Alexandria, the Arabs were uncivilized barbarians from the desert. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:26, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Researching Heron[edit]

Hey guys, I saw the now-famous eps. of The History Channel a few years ago. Accordingly Heron of Alexandria apparently devised some clever devices that employed the altar fire in conjunction with hydraulics to work dancing statues, lactating statues, and statues that cried tears of blood. Temples in other Greek cities followed suit. Roman visitors to Greek temples were amazed by such displays, but thought such duplicity was impious. Perhaps that is what lies behind Varro's opinion that the introduction of images (from the Greeks) had led to a less than pious or reverent form of worship in his own time. Could anyone help me find evidence of his inventions involving idols? Upon searching through the following resource (the only one I have found to date), I have come up empty-handed:

Thanks! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:51, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Hero's Text Preserved by the Arabs?[edit]

The third paragraph reinforces the commonly held belief (one the that Internet helps foster) that the "Arabs" "preserved" ancient science, mathematics and philosophy when the sad fact is that the majority of it is long lost. The majority of the extant texts of Hero are in fact preserved in Greek.

Lede, again[edit]

In an effort to accommodate the views of many contributors the lede seems to have lost its way regarding Heron's field of knowledge, ethnicity and place of residence. Was he a mathematician, physict (?physicist) or engineer? Was he Greek, Roman or Egyptian? Any tidying would need a deft touch: suggestions, please? --Old Moonraker (talk) 11:11, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

A recent edit has improved this (thanks, User:Charlesdrakew) but the point is still valid. --Old Moonraker (talk) 21:40, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

Misuse of sources[edit]

This article has been edited by a user who is known to have misused sources to unduly promote certain views (see WP:Jagged 85 cleanup). Examination of the sources used by this editor often reveals that the sources have been selectively interpreted or blatantly misrepresented, going beyond any reasonable interpretation of the authors' intent.

Diffs for each edit made by Jagged 85 are listed at Cleanup6. It may be easier to view the full history of the article.

A script has been used to generate the following summary. Each item is a diff showing the result of several consecutive edits to the article by Jagged 85, in chronological order.

Johnuniq (talk) 11:28, 3 May 2011 (UTC)

Checked and corrected where necessary. For more background information, please see RFC/U and Cleanup. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:49, 3 May 2011 (UTC)

Fermat's Principle[edit]

The article claims that Heron 'discovered' that between points A and B in a constant medium light will follow the shortest path.

In other words it is claiming that he discovered that light travels in a straight line.

I'm not sure if this is what the author meant but in its current form this is patently nonsense. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:58, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

Imaginary Numbers[edit]

It would seem to me that Hero would have described Irrational numbers (for example, square root of 2), not imaginary numbers (square root of negative one). I don't have the referenced source, however. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:03, 7 November 2013 (UTC)

It is certainly imaginary numbers that are referred to in the source, not irrational numbers. However, the statement in the Wikipedia article is a complete misreading of the source. The Wikipedia article said "The imaginary number, or imaginary unit, is also noted to have been first observed by Hero", but the whole point of the relevant passage in the source is that Hero failed to observe the occurrence of the square root of a negative number. I have therefore removed the statement from the article. The editor who uses the pseudonym "JamesBWatson" (talk) 13:05, 24 March 2014 (UTC)
I think some mention of it it is warranted. A good example is to look at the language used in Timeline of algebra: "Heron of Alexandria, the earliest fleeting reference to square roots of negative numbers." (talk) 13:53, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

Requested move June 2014[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: not moved. (non-admin closure) Calidum Talk To Me 04:32, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

Hero of AlexandriaHeron of Alexandria – The original Greek name is: Ήρων, i.e. with an "n" at the end and it is Ήρων, from Alexandria the city and has nothing to do with Alexander... See at:Ήρων. Futuristas (talk) 10:44, 21 June 2014 (UTC)

  • Agree. Most modern sources use the correct spelling, but there are many older sources that use Hero. Looking to the future, Heron should be the primary target for WP. Bill Cherowitzo (talk) 16:26, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Disagree. We don't "look toward the future", we reflect the common nomenclature. ----jpgordon::==( o ) 17:02, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
  • On the face of it oppose I'd like to see nom provide a GBooks curve for last 30 years. In ictu oculi (talk) 11:49, 23 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Per WP:COMMONNAME, Hero is still most prevalent. -- Necrothesp (talk) 12:46, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

coin operated device[edit]

Does anyone know if the holywater dispenser was given a name?Specially a latin name?--Jondel (talk) 00:48, 31 October 2014 (UTC)