Timing is everything.
Thomas Edison was born in the middle of the Industrial Revolution and was a tireless promoter. Henry Ford utilized the technologies of the day, combined with new concepts to create mass production, to put his name on millions of cars. George Washington Carver gained fame during the post-Reconstruction era, revolutionizing biological engineering and agriculture, was frequently called on by Presidents and Kings. Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the greatest of all time, epitomized the Renaissance ideal, but would anyone have heard of him if he’d been born in the middle of the Dark Ages?
While Heron of Alexandria certainly wouldn’t have been as successful without the Great Library and the laboratory of thought that the city of Alexandria provided, it was also probably the Library’s downfall that helped bury Heron in obscurity.
Because only in recent times, two thousand years after Heron lived, are we beginning to appreciate what he created. Can any other inventor of that time – even the great Archimedes – lay claim to the steam engine, force pump, syringe, primitive robots, vending machines, wind-powered devices, not to mention his many artifacts of war?
Heron’s biggest challenge, besides the burning of the Library, was that he was born before more modern communications like the printing press and the telegraph wire, that might have spread his inventions far and wide.
I firmly believe, that had things been slightly different during Heron’s time, that he could have set off an Industrial Revolution two thousand years ago. Check out this short video on his early version of the steam engine, the aelopile:
Since reading extensively about Heron’s life in research for the Alexandria Saga, I’ve come to appreciate the cognitive scale of the city of Alexandria at that time. It would be fascinating to go back and watch people’s reactions to Heron’s automatas, that were proudly displayed on street corners as hallmarks of the City of Wonders.
It would also be a wonder to bring Heron into the future and let him see how much his inventions had predicted it. I’m sure he’d spend most of his time lamenting the things he’d gotten wrong, but his real genius was how much he’d gotten right.
While it’s true that timing is everything and for Heron of Alexandria, the circumstances just weren’t ripe for his technologies to change the world. However, it gives me great pleasure to know that progress is inevitable. That advancement isn’t just a lucky break or a creative accident.
And besides, in an alternate timeline – one documented in my books, the Alexandria Saga – Heron’s inventions did change the world. So it’s nice to know that it could have happened, even if it didn’t. *wink*
If you’d like to read more about a fictional (and female) version Heron of Alexandria, you can find the first ebook in the series for $3.99:
The greatest mystery of the ancient world remains the identity of who set fire to the Great Library in Alexandria.
One hundred years later, Heron of Alexandria—the city’s most renown inventor and creator of Temple miracles—receives coin from a mysterious patron to investigate the crime. Desperate to be free of the debts incurred by her twin brother, she accepts and sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the Roman Empire and change the course of history forever.
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