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What Was Dispensed by the World’s First Vending Machine?

Hero of Alexandria -- also known as Heron of Alexandira -- was a mathematician, engineer and inventor who lived in Egypt, which was then a province of the Roman Empire, during the 1st century AD. Hero used his deductive gifts to create numerous mechanical inventions, including the first steam-powered device, an automatic door opener, a device that aided surveyors, a crude fire engine, the first syringe, and a wind-powered organ. Hero is also credited with inventing the first known vending machine, which dispensed a splash of holy water whenever a worshipper inserted a heavy coin.

Power of the mind:

  • Hero was either Greek or a Hellenized Egyptian. He was a prolific writer, but many of his manuscripts and designs have been lost over time.

  • Hero was a follower of the groundbreaking work of Ctesibius, the man thought to be the first head of the Museum of Alexandria. Scholars assume that Hero taught there as well.

  • Computations known as Heron’s algorithm (for determining the square root of a number), and Heron’s formula (for finding the area of a triangle when its side lengths are known) came from the ancient mathematician’s analytical mind.

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