Leonardo da Vinci’s Ball Bearing
Leonardo da Vinci invented the ball bearing between the years 1498-1500. He designed it to lower the friction between two plates that would be in contact in his other famous design for the Helicopter. His helicopter would never have flown as humans to do not have anywhere near the power to weight ratio necessary to lift themselves against the force of gravity – this is the reason why birds have such large breasts ;), their power to weight ratio far exceeds that of humans. Although the helicopter design went down like a lead balloon, the ball bearing is a different story.
History of the Ball Bearing
The first known discovery of a ball bearing type device was found in the Roman Empire abut 40AD, this was a simple rotating table with balls underneath, presumably to allow the people eating at the table to simply rotate the table to get at other foods.
The next known mention of any type of ball bearing was almost 1500 years later with Leonardo’s design. 100 years after Leonardo’s design, Galileo Galileo would also mention an early form of ball bearing. It wouldn’t be until 1792 that there was a patent filed for the “modern” ball bearing – it was granted to the Englishman Philip Vaughn in 1791.
Ball Bearing Uses
Ball bearings can be found in any machine that has rotary motion, in fact, if you are reading this on a PC or Laptop, there is a ball bearing in the fan cooling the CPU. They can be found in engines, kitchen appliances, bicycles and a million other machines. They are so important that the Royal Air Force regularly bombed German Ball Bearing Factories during World War 2 in an effort to try to stop the German War Machine.
Nowadays ball bearings are created by machine and can attain an accuracy of within thousandths of a millimeter, the smallest of which are used in watches and remote control/RC helicopters. You can learn more about Leonardo’s use of the ball bearing within his helicopter – Leonardo da Vinci’s Helicopter.