Waterpower, power produced by a stream of water as it turns a wheel or similar device. The waterwheel was probably invented in the 1st century bce, and it was widely used throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times for grinding grain, operating bellows for furnaces, and other purposes. The more-compact water turbine, which passes water through a series of fixed and rotating blades, was introduced in 1827 by Benoît Fourneyron, a French experimenter, whose first turbine developed about 6 horsepower. By 1832 he had perfected a turbine capable of developing 50 horsepower. Various modifications followed Fourneyron’s design, notably those of James Thomson (about 1851) and James B. Francis (1855), using radial flow inward. Water turbines, used originally for direct mechanical drive for irrigation, now are used almost exclusively to generate electric power. See also hydroelectric power.
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:
history of the organization of work: Advances in technology…applications of wind power and waterpower; these marked the beginning of the replacement of human labour by machine power. Starting in the late 10th century, waterwheels, long used for grinding grain, were applied to many industrial processes that included tanning, olive pressing, sawing wood, polishing armour, pulverizing stone, and operating…
Waterwheel, mechanical device for tapping the energy of running or falling water by means of a set of paddles mounted around a wheel. The force of the moving water is exerted against the paddles, and the consequent rotation of the wheel is transmitted to machinery via the shaft of the…
Benoît Fourneyron, French inventor of the water turbine. The son of a mathematician, he graduated in the first class of the new Saint-Étienne engineering school in 1816. While working in the ironworks at Le Creusot, he studied a proposal advanced by…
More About Waterpower2 references found in Britannica articles
- medieval technology