Who Invented the First Gear?

Many historians attribute the first-known gear mechanism to the South-Pointing Chariot in ancient China. Toothed gears were later described by the Ancient Greeks.

The Chinese South-Pointing Chariot was designed in the 27th century B.C. by Emperor Huang Di. It was later recreated by Chinese designer Ma Jun, who lived between 200 and 260 A.D. The chariot was a vehicle with geared wheels and an indicator that always pointed southward, much like a compass but without the need for a magnet.

During the fourth century B.C., Ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle wrote about a wheel that rotates and turns another wheel in the opposite direction. By the third century B.C., water wheels and clocks were common in the Greek peninsula. They also made an appearance in the sketches of Leonardo da Vinci. However, the first specific mention of gears did not come about until 50 A.D. Hero of Alexandria, a mathematician and inventor in Greece, was the first to write about them.

The first patent for gear hobbing was filed in 1835 by English inventor Joseph Whitworth. Gear hobbing is the process where teeth on the gears are cut. Gear technology advanced progressively throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.