The History of Automatic Doors

It is believed by many historians that a Greek engineer and mathematician, Heron of Alexandria, born in the first century CE invented the first automatic doors. To share his experiments and theories, he wrote a book by the name Pneumatica. The book was published in 1903, it mentions a mechanism that was used to open doors of a temple. The mechanism was power by the heat of a fire which caused a build-up of atmospheric pressure in a brass vessel.

Water-Powered Automatic Doors

This is a method in which some water is pumped into containers that act as weights, enabling ropes to open the temple doors. This method was later used to open gates of the city. There were more than 80 mechanical appliances that Heron designed to work via water, air, or steam.

First Modern Automatic Doors

Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt were credited with inventing the first automatic doors that are similar to the ones used today. In 1960, the first automatic doors were installed in Corpus Christi in Texas using a mat actuator. Due to this, a new industry was born in the same year and throughout the 60’s sliding automatic doors became the norm in many establishments like stores, banks, and public buildings.

Motion Detectors

The 1970s brought with not only digital cameras and Rubik’s Cubes but also motion detectors to activate the sliding automatic doors. Also, the American National Standards Institute wrote the first standard for power operated doors. Throughout the 80s, infrared presence sensors were made due to safety reasons, revolving doors were introduced, and motion detection became the norm for most sliding doors. It is interesting to see how the idea of automatic doors changed over the years, from being used originally by Heron in temples and in city gates, to being the main type of doors used in almost every store or service building. It is like magic every time we enter through an automatic door, it opens just before we are to touch it, it closes behind us efficiently, Heron’s creation, later Horton’s and Hewitt’s has made a lasting impact on our world.

Further reading

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