Let’s play a little bit of trivia. Are you able to name the person who invented the telephone? If you said Alexander Graham Bell then you would be correct, one point for you. Do you know who made the discovery of gravity? If Sir Isaac Newton came to mind, you would be correct again. Two points so far! How about naming the person who invented the first vacuum pump? Yeah, I didn’t think so. You end with a gentleman’s two points, nothing to be ashamed of. Get ready to add some trivia knowledge to that ever growing brain of yours!
The first vacuum pump was invented by Otto Von Guerricke, a German physicist, in 1650. He demonstrated his invention by designing two hemispheres with a vacuum inside. These hemispheres were designed to demonstrate the vacuum pump invention, and specifically to demonstrate the power of atmospheric pressure. The design of the world’s first vacuum pump consisted of a piston and cylinder with one-way flap valves. This demonstration took place on May 8th, 1654. For his demonstration, Otto Von Guerricke had a team of 30 horses try to separate the two hemispheres, which were held together by the force of the vacuum contained inside. Even with all that horsepower the valves could not be separated until the valve was opened, which allowed the vacuum to be released.
Today, these hemispheres serve as an example of the significance of air pressure; makeshift spheres are used in various schools as air pressure experiments and currently sit in the Deutsches museum in Munich, Germany. The Otto von Guericke Society often reenacts this famous experiment around the world, the most recent taking place in March of 2000. This demonstration and invention inspired many more to build on it and led us to where vacuum pumps are today, used in virtually every industry for some task or another. Luckily the name didn’t stick, because Madgeburg Hemispheres just doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as Hoover or Dyson.