Plants and animals locate their habitats at the convenience of lakes, streams and rivers. Environmentalist Aldo Leopold in his book, “A Sand County Almanac” noted how rivers had the wisdom to choose a path that took them past large towns and cities. When we humans started getting picky about our neighbourhoods, we had to find a way to take some of that water with us and the pump industry was born.
The Shadoof, 2000 BC, is the first recorded pump in history. Used for irrigation, it was invented by the Egyptians and consisted of a long rod mounted at about one fifth its length on a fulcrum. At the short end was a counterweight, a stone or any other handy material, to help lift a bucket hanging from the other end. It would take water from a stream and swing around to dump it into an irrigation ditch.
For the next 3712 years, men pretty much pulled, lifted and hand-cranked to move water until Thomas Newcomen configured steam power to move water in 1712. The Newcomen engine was a boiler, a piston and a walking beam connected to a positive displacement pump. James Watt later improved the design, doubling fuel efficiency.
The pump industry grew and adapted various configurations of the Newcomen – Watt approach to a variety of pumping needs. Then in 1851, British inventor John Appold designed the curved vane centrifugal pump. Two years later Seabury S. Gould cast the first all-metal pump and six years after that, Henry R. Worthington gave us the first direct-acting steam pumping engine. Worthington’s contribution was used to power canal boats and U.S. naval ships.
Rapid development of pump variations followed in the second half of the 19th century which saw the introduction of boiler feed pumps, refinement of centrifugal design, the vane pump, slurry, pipeline and refinery pumps, the deep well turbine pumps, gear pumps and the sliding vane pump.
Early 20th century developments included the liquid ring vacuum pump, the trash pump, gear pump refinements, irrigation pumps, all by familiar names like Gould, Worthington, Siemens, Nash and Viking among others.
Not only do mechanical configurations continue to evolve but improvements in metallurgy and development of composite materials offer pump users a wide variety of pumping systems to meet their special needs.