Waterwheel: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Water wheel article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An overshot water wheel standing 42 feet high powers the Old Mill at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, USA

A water wheel is a machine for converting the energy of free-flowing or falling water into useful forms of power, the development of hydropower. In the Middle Ages, waterwheels were used as tools to power factories throughout different counties. The alternatives were the windmill and human and animal power. The most common use of the water wheel was to mill flour in gristmills, but other uses included foundry work and machining, and pounding linen for use in the manufacture of paper.

A water wheel consists of a large wooden or metal wheel, with a number of blades or buckets arranged on the outside rim forming the driving surface. Most commonly, the wheel is mounted vertically on a horizontal axle, but the tub or Norse wheel is mounted horizontally on a vertical shaft. Vertical wheels can transmit power either through the axle or via a ring gear and typically drive belts or gears; horizontal wheels usually directly drive their load.

A mill pond is formed when a flowing stream is dammed to feed a waterwheel. A channel for the water flowing to or from a water wheel is called a mill race (also spelled millrace) or simply a "race", and is customarily divided into sections. The race bringing water from the mill pond to the water wheel is a headrace; the one carrying water after it has left the wheel is commonly referred to as a tailrace.[1]

The main difficulty of water wheels was their inseparability from water. This meant that mills often needed to be located far from population centers and away from natural resources. Water mills were still in commercial use well into the twentieth century, however.

Modern Hydro-electric dams can be viewed as the descendants of the water wheel as they too take advantage of the movement of water downhill.



Since ancient times, waterwheels have been used as tools to power factories in many different counties. The alternatives were the windmill and human and animal power. The most common use of the waterwheel was to mill flour in gristmills, but other uses included foundry work and machining, and pounding linen for use in the manufacture of paper.

Water wheels are known to have appeared at roughly around the same time in several different regions. The horizontal mill appears almost simultaneously in the Middle East, Europe and China between 100 BC and 100 AD. The vertical mill also appears at roughly around the same time in the Middle East, Mediterranean Basin and China.[2] When and where the water wheel originated thus remains unclear, with various different hypotheses being proposed regarding its origins.[3][4]


Ancient Near East

According to a number of historians of technology, the water wheel likely originated from somewhere in the ancient Near East during the last few centuries BC. According to Terry S. Reynolds and R. J. Forbes, it may have originated there in the 3rd century BC for use in moving millstones and small-scale corn grinding.[5] Reynolds suggests that the first water wheels were Norias and, by the 2nd century BC, evolved into the vertical watermill in Syria and Asia Minor, from where it spread to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.[6] S. Avitsur also supports a Near-Eastern origin for the watermill.[7] According to Donald Routledge Hill, water-powered Norias have been used in the Near East since at least 200 BC.[8]

The water wheel was traditionally dated to the last century BC in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly in Asia Minor and Greece, but recent scholarship assigns the appearance of the water wheel to an earlier date in ancient Egypt, where it appeared by the 3rd century BC.[9][10] This is seen as an evolution of the paddle-driven water-lifting wheels that had been known in Egypt a century earlier.[9] According to John Peter Oleson, both the compartmented wheel and the hydraulic Noria may have been invented in Egypt by the 4th century BC, with the Sakia being invented there a century later. This is supported by archeological finds at Faiyum, Egypt, where the oldest archeological evidence of a water-wheel has been found, in the form of a Sakia dating back to the 3rd century BC. A papyrus dating to the 2nd century BC also found in Faiyum mentions a water wheel used for irrigation, a 2nd-century BC fresco found at Alexandria depicts a compartmented Sakia, and the writings of Callixenus of Rhodes mention the use of a Sakia in Ptolemaic Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy IV in the late 3rd century BC.[10]

Ancient Mesopotamia has also been suggested as another possible place of origin. Irrigation machines are referred to in Babylonian inscriptions, but without details on their construction, suggesting that water power had been harnessed for irrigation purposes. According to Hugh P. Vowles, the primitive use of water-rotated wheels may date back to Sumerian times, with references to a "Month for raising the Water Wheels", though it is not known whether these wheels were turned by the flow of a river.[11] According to Faruk El-Yussif, the utilization of water power by means of simple paddle wheels for irrigation and drainage purposes appears to have also been developed in Mesopotamia.[12] It has been suggested that the water wheel may have been used in Upper Mesopotamia as early as the 7th or 6th centuries BC, based on an interpretation of an Akkadian cuneiform tablet dating back to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.[10] The tablet was found at Harran and describes various irrigation apparatus, followed by a description of a water channel resembling a sluice (or alternatively a qanat). According to J. Laessoe, it implies the use of an undershot water wheel, specifically a hydraulic Noria, powered by the water as it flows through the passage under the lock-gates behind which it was stored up. The tablet is not entirely preserved, thus any Akkadian terms for a sluice or water-wheel cannot be determined.[13]

Western world

Greco-Roman Mediterranean

Drainage wheel from Rio Tinto mines

The earliest clear literary evidence of a water wheel comes from ancient Greece and Asia Minor, being recorded in the work of Apollonius of Perge of c. 240 BC, surviving only in Arabic translation. This has led to suggestions that it may be a later Arabic addition to the treatise.[14] Mithradates VI Eupator of Pontus had a water mill at his palace at Cabira before 71 BC.[15] In the 1st century BC, the Greek epigrammatist Antipater of Thessalonica was the earliest to make a clear reference to the waterwheel, which Lewis has recently argued to be a vertical wheel. Antipater praised it for its use in grinding grain and the reduction of human labour:

Hold back your hand from the mill, you grinding girls, even if the cock crow heralds the dawn, sleep on. For Demeter has imposed the labour of your hands on the nymphs, who leaping down upon the topmost part of the wheel, rotate the axle; with encircling cogs it turns the hollow weight of the Nisyrian millstones. If we learn to feast toil-free on the fruits of the earth we will taste again the golden age.[16]

Sequence of wheels found in Rio Tinto mines

Modest numbers of water wheels have been identified in various parts of the Greek and Roman World, and they may have once been much more extensive than historians have recognised. Most towns and cities had good aqueducts, and it would not have been difficult to harness part of the supply to driving water wheels for milling, fulling, crushing and sawing wood and stone such as marble. The Romans used both fixed and floating water wheels and introduced water power to other parts of the Roman Empire. The basic construction is described by the engineer Vitruvius writing in 25 BC in his work De Architectura.

The Romans were known to use waterwheels extensively in mining projects, with enormous Roman-era waterwheels found in places like modern-day Spain. They were reverse overshot water-wheels designed for dewatering mines. A series of overshot mills existed at Barbegal near Arles in southern France where corn was milled for the production of bread. The Roman poet Ausonius mentions a mill for cutting marble on the Moselle. Floating mills were also known from the later Empire, where a wheel was attached to a boat moored in a fast flowing river.

Early Medieval Europe

Ancient water-wheel technology continued unabated in the early medieval period where the appearance of new documentary genres such as legal codes, monastic charters, but also hagiography was accompanied with a sharp increase in references to watermills and wheels.[17]

The earliest vertical-wheel in a tide mill is from 6th century Killoteran near Waterford, Ireland,[18] while the first known horizontal-wheel in such a type of mill is from the Irish Little Island (c. 630).[19] As for the use in a common Norse or Greek mill, the oldest known horizontal-wheel were excavated in the Irish Ballykilleen, dating to c. 636.[19]

The earliest excavated waterwheel driven by tidal power was the Nendrum Monastery mill in Northern Ireland which has been dated at 787 although a possible earlier mill dates to 619. Tide mills became common in estuaries with a good tidal range in both Europe and America generally using undershot wheels.

Cistercian monasteries, in particular, made extensive use of water wheels to power watermills of many kinds. An early example of a very large waterwheel is the still extant wheel at the early 13th century Real Monasterio de Nuestra Senora de Rueda, a Cistercian monastery in the Aragon region of Spain. Grist mills (for corn) were undoubtedly the most common, but there were also sawmills, fulling mills and mills to fulfill many other labor-intensive tasks. The water wheel remained competitive with the steam engine well into the Industrial Revolution. At around the eighth to tenth century, a number of Irrigation technologies was brought into Spain and thus introduced to Europe. One of those technologies is the Noria, which is basically a wheel fitted with bucket on the peripherals for lifting water. It is similar to the undershot waterwheel mentioned later in this article. It allowed peasants to power watermills more efficiently. According to Thomas Glick's book, Irrigation and Society in Medieval Valencia, the Noria probably originated from somewhere in Persia. It has been used for centuries before the technology was brought into Spain by Arabs. Thus the distribution of the Noria in the Iberian peninsula "conforms to the area of stabilized Islamic settlement".[20]. This technology has a profound effect on the life of peasants. The Noria is relatively cheap to build. Thus it allowed peasants to cultivate land more efficiently in Europe. Together with the Spaniards, the technology then spread to North Africa and later to the New World in Mexico and South America following Spanish expansion.

Ancient China

Two types of hydraulic-powered chain pumps from the Tiangong Kaiwu of 1637, written by the Ming Dynasty encyclopedist Song Yingxing (1587-1666).

Chinese water wheels almost certainly have a separate origin, as early ones there were invariably horizontal waterwheels. By at least the 1st century AD, the Chinese of the Eastern Han Dynasty were using waterwheels to crush grain in mills and to power the piston-bellows in forging iron ore into cast iron.

In the text known as the Xin Lun written by Huan Tan about 20 AD (during the usurpation of Wang Mang), it states that the legendary mythological king known as Fu Xi was the one responsible for the pestle and mortar, which evolved into the tilt-hammer and then trip hammer device (see trip hammer). Although the author speaks of the mythological Fu Xi, a passage of his writing gives hint that the waterwheel was in widespread use by the 1st century AD in China (Wade-Giles spelling):

Fu Hsi invented the pestle and mortar, which is so useful, and later on it was cleverly improved in such a way that the whole weight of the body could be used for treading on the tilt-hammer (tui), thus increasing the efficiency ten times. Afterwards the power of animals—donkeys, mules, oxen, and horses—was applied by means of machinery, and water-power too used for pounding, so that the benefit was increased a hundredfold.[21]

In the year 31 AD, the engineer and Prefect of Nanyang, Du Shi (d. 38), applied a complex use of the waterwheel and machinery to power the bellows of the blast furnace to create cast iron. Du Shi is mentioned briefly in the Book of Later Han (Hou Han Shu) as follows (in Wade-Giles spelling):

In the seventh year of the Chien-Wu reign period (31 AD) Tu Shih was posted to be Prefect of Nanyang. He was a generous man and his policies were peaceful; he destroyed evil-doers and established the dignity (of his office). Good at planning, he loved the common people and wished to save their labor. He invented a water-power reciprocator (shui phai) for the casting of (iron) agricultural implements. Those who smelted and cast already had the push-bellows to blow up their charcoal fires, and now they were instructed to use the rushing of the water (chi shui) to operate it ... Thus the people got great benefit for little labor. They found the 'water(-powered) bellows' convenient and adopted it widely.[22]

Due to its widespread use in China by the 1st century AD, the historian E. C. Curwen has suggested that the hydraulic Noria may have originated in ancient China some time before the 1st century BC.[23]

Waterwheels in China found practical uses such as this, as well as extraordinary use. The Chinese inventor Zhang Heng (78–139) was the first in history to apply motive power in rotating the astronomical instrument of an armillary sphere, by use of a waterwheel.[24] The mechanical engineer Ma Jun (c. 200–265) from Cao Wei once used a waterwheel to power and operate a large mechanical puppet theater for the Emperor Ming of Wei (r. 226-239).[25]

Ancient India

The early history of the watermill in India is obscure. Ancient Indian texts dating back to the 4th century BC refer to the term cakkavattaka (turning wheel), which commentaries explain as arahatta-ghati-yanta (machine with wheel-pots attached). On this basis, Joseph Needham suggested that the machine was a noria. Terry S. Reynolds, however, argues that the "term used in Indian texts is ambiguous and does not clearly indicate a water-powered device." Thorkild Schiøler argued that it is "more likely that these passages refer to some type of tread- or hand-operated water-lifting device, instead of a water-powered water-lifting wheel."[26]

According to Needham and W. Ling, water-wheels were widespread in ancient India.[4] Irrigation water for crops was provided by using water raising wheels, some driven by the force of the current in the river from which the water was being raised. This kind of water raising device was used in ancient India, predating its use in the later Roman Empire or China.[27] According to Greek historical tradition, India received water-mills from the Roman Empire in the early 4th century AD when a certain Metrodoros introduced "water-mills and baths, unknown among them [the Brahmans] till then".[28]

Around 1150, the astronomer Bhaskara Achārya observed water-raising wheels and imagined such a wheel lifting enough water to replenish the stream driving it, effectively, a perpetual motion machine.[29] The construction of water works and aspects of water technology in India is described in Arabic and Persian works. During medieval times, the diffusion of Indian and Persian irrigation technologies gave rise to an advanced irrigation system which bought about economic growth and also helped in the growth of material culture.[30]

Water wheel powering small village mill in Museum of Folk Architecture and Life, Uzhhorod, Ukraine

Islamic world

Arab engineers took over the water technology of the hydraulic societies of the ancient Near East; they adopted water wheels as early as the 7th century, excavation of a canal in the Basra region discovered remains of a water wheel dating from this period. Hama in Syria still preserves one of its large wheels, on the river Orontes, although they are no longer in use.[31] One of the largest had a diameter of about 20 metres and its rim was divided into 120 compartments. Another wheel that is still in operation is found at Murcia in Spain, La Nora, and although the original wheel has been replaced by a steel one, the Moorish system during al-Andalus is otherwise virtually unchanged. Some medieval Islamic compartmented water wheels could lift water as high as 30 meters.[32] Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi's Kitab al-Hawi in the 10th century described a noria in Iraq that could lift as much as 153,000 litres per hour, or 2550 litres per minute. This is comparable to the output of modern Norias in East Asia which can lift up to 288,000 litres per hour, or 4800 litres per minute.[33]

The industrial uses of watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century, while horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills were both in widespread use by the 9th century. A variety of industrial watermills were used in the Islamic world, including gristmills, hullers, paper mills, sawmills, shipmills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, and tide mills. By the 11th century, every province throughout the Islamic world had these industrial watermills in operation, from al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.[34] Muslim and Christian engineers also used crankshafts and water turbines, gears in watermills and water-raising machines, and dams as a source of water, used to provide additional power to watermills and water-raising machines.[35] Fulling mills, paper mills and steel mills may have spread from Islamic Spain to Christian Spain in the 12th century. Industrial water mills were also employed in large factory complexes built in al-Andalus between the 11th and 13th centuries.[36]

Waterwheel in Djambi, Sumatra c. 1918

The engineers of the Islamic world developed several solutions to achieve the maximum output from a water wheel. One solution was to mount them to piers of bridges to take advantage of the increased flow. Another solution was the shipmill, a type of water mill powered by water wheels mounted on the sides of ships moored in midstream. This technique was employed along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in 10th century Iraq, where large shipmills made of teak and iron could produce 10 tons of flour from corn every day for the granary in Baghdad.[37] The flywheel mechanism, which is used to smooth out the delivery of power from a driving device to a driven machine, was invented by Ibn Bassal (fl. 1038-1075) of Al-Andalus; he pioneered the use of the flywheel in the saqiya (chain pump) and noria.[38] The engineers Al-Jazari in the 13th century and Taqi al-Din in the 16th century described many inventive water-raising machines in their technological treatises. They also employed water wheels to power a variety of devices, including various water clocks and automata.

Modern usage

The great water wheel in the National Slate Museum in Wales

The most powerful waterwheel built in the United Kingdom was the 100 hp Quarry Bank Mill Waterwheel near Manchester. A high breastshot design, it was retired in 1904 and replaced with several turbines. It has now been restored and is a museum open to the public.

The biggest working waterwheel in mainland Britain has a diameter of 15.4 m and was built by the De Winton company of Caernarfon. It is located within the Dinorwic workshops of the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, North Wales.

The largest working waterwheel in the world is the Laxey Wheel (also known as Lady Isabella) in the village of Laxey, Isle of Man. It is 72 feet 6 inches (22.10 m) in diameter and 6 feet (1.83 m) wide and is maintained by Manx National Heritage.

Development of water turbines during the Industrial revolution led to decreased popularity of water wheels. The main advantage of turbines is that ability to harness head much greater than the diameter of the turbine, whereas a water wheel cannot effectively harness head greater than its diameter. The migration from water wheels to modern turbines took about one hundred years.


The Anderson Mill is undershot, backshot, and overshot using two sources of water. This allows the speed of the wheel to be controlled

Most water wheels in the United Kingdom and the United States are (or were) vertical wheels rotating about a horizontal axle, but in the Scottish highlands and parts of southern Europe mills often had a horizontal wheel (with a vertical axle). Water wheels are classified by the way in which water is applied to the wheel, relative to the wheel's axle. Overshot & pitchback waterwheels are suitable where there is a small stream with a height difference of more than 2 meters, often in association with a small reservoir. Breastshot and undershot wheels can be used on rivers or high volume flows with large reservoirs.

Horizontal wheel

The wheel is usually mounted inside the mill building below the working floor. A jet of water is directed on to the paddles of the water wheel, causing them to turn. This is a simple system, usually used without gearing so that the axle of the waterwheel become the spindle of the mill. This system is sometimes called the Norse mill. In a sense it is the ancestor of the modern turbine.

Undershot wheel

Undershot water wheel

An undershot wheel (also called a stream wheel[39]) is a vertically-mounted water wheel that is rotated by water striking paddles or blades at the bottom of the wheel. The name undershot comes from this striking at the bottom of the wheel. This type of waterwheel is the oldest type of wheel. It is also regarded as the least efficient type, although subtypes of this waterwheel (eg the Poncelet wheel, Sagebien wheel and Zuppinger wheel) allow somewhat greater efficiencies than the traditional undershot wheels. The advantages of undershot wheels are that they are somewhat cheaper and simpler to build, and have less of an environmental impact—as they do not constitute a major change of the river. Their disadvantages are—as mentioned before—less efficiency, which means that they generate less power and can only be used where the flow rate is sufficient to provide torque.

Undershot wheels gain no advantage from head. They are most suited to shallow streams in flat country.

Sabegien, Poncelet and Zuppinger waterwheel

Undershot wheels are also well suited to installation on floating platforms. The earliest were probably constructed by the Byzantine general Belisarius during the siege of Rome in 537. Later they were sometimes mounted immediately downstream from bridges where the flow restriction of arched bridge piers increased the speed of the current.

Breastshot wheel

A breastshot water wheel

A vertically-mounted water wheel that is rotated by falling water striking buckets near the center of the wheel's edge, or just above it, is said to be breastshot. Breastshot wheels are the most common type in the United States of America[citation needed] and are said to have powered the American industrial revolution.

Breastshot wheels are less efficient than overshot wheels (see below), more efficient than undershot wheels, and are not backshot (see below). The individual blades of a breastshot wheel are actually buckets, as are those of most overshot wheels, and not simple paddles like those of most undershot wheels. A breastshot wheel requires a good trash rake and typically has a masonry "apron" closely conforming to the wheel face, which helps contain the water in the buckets as they progress downwards. Breastshot wheels are preferred for steady, high-volume flows such as are found on the fall line of the North American East Coast.

Overshot wheel

Overshot water wheel

A vertically-mounted water wheel that is rotated by falling water striking paddles, blades or buckets near the top of the wheel is said to be overshot. In true overshot wheels the water passes over the top of the wheel, but the term is sometimes applied to backshot or pitchback wheels where the water goes down behind the waterwheel.

A typical overshot wheel has the water channeled to the wheel at the top and slightly beyond the axle. The water collects in the buckets on that side of the wheel, making it heavier than the other "empty" side. The weight turns the wheel, and the water flows out into the tail-water when the wheel rotates enough to invert the buckets. The overshot design can use all of the water flow for power (unless there is a leak) and does not require rapid flow.

Unlike undershot wheels, overshot wheels gain a double advantage from gravity. Not only is the force of the flowing water partially transferred to the wheel, the weight of the water descending in the wheel's buckets also imparts additional energy. The mechanical power derived from an overshot wheel is determined by the wheel's physical size and the available head, so they are ideally suited to hilly or mountainous country. On average, the undershot wheel uses 22 percent of the energy in the flow of water, while an overshot wheel uses 63 percent, as calculated by English civil engineer John Smeaton in the 18th century.[40]

Overshot wheels demand exact engineering and significant head, which usually means significant investment in constructing a dam, millpond and waterways. Sometimes the final approach of the water to the wheel is along a lengthy flume or penstock.

Backshot wheel

A backshot waterwheel at New Lanark World Heritage Site, Scotland.
A pitchback or "backshot" waterwheel

A backshot wheel (also called pitchback) is a variety of overshot wheel where the water is introduced just behind the summit of the wheel. It combines the advantages from breastshot and overshot systems, since the full amount of the potential energy released by the falling water is harnessed as the water descends the back of the wheel.

A backshot wheel continues to function until the water in the wheel pit rises well above the height of the axle, when any other overshot wheel will be stopped or even destroyed. This makes the technique particularly suitable for streams that experience extreme seasonal variations in flow, and reduces the need for complex sluice and tail race configurations. A backshot wheel may also gain power from the water's current past the bottom of the wheel, and not just the weight of the water falling in the wheel's buckets.

A mid-nineteenth century water wheel at Cromford in England used for grinding locally mined barytes.

Hydraulic wheel

A recent development of the breastshot wheel is a hydraulic wheel which effectively incorporates automatic regulation systems. This is known as the Aqualienne, developed by a French company : H3E Industries[41].

Hydraulic wheel part reaction turbine

A parallel development is the hydraulic wheel/part reaction turbine that also incorporates a weir into the centre of the wheel but uses blades angled to the water flow. The WICON-Stem Pressure Machine (SPM) exploits this flow.[42] Estimated efficiency 67%.

The University of Southampton School of Civil Engineering and the Environment in the UK has investigated both types of Hydraulic wheel machines and has estimated their hydraulic efficiency and suggested improvements, i.e The Rotary Hydraulic Pressure Machine. (Estimated maximum efficiency 85%).[43]

These type of waterwheels have high efficiency at part loads / variable flows and can operate at very low heads, < 1 metre. Combined with direct drive Axial Flux Permanent Magnet Alternators and power electronics they offer a viable alternative for low head hydroelectric power generation.


Overshot (and particularly backshot) wheels are the most efficient type; a backshot steel wheel can be more efficient (about 60%) than all but the most advanced and well-constructed turbines. Nevertheless, in some situations an overshot wheel is preferable to a turbine.[44]

The development of the hydraulic turbine wheels with their improved efficiency (>67%) opened up an alternative path for the installation of waterwheels in existing mills, or redevelopment of abandoned mills.


Water Wheels have traditionally been used to power mills. More recently, water wheels have been adapted for the production of electricity. Small scale Hydro power plants are being used to power generators, creating clean electricity.


A water wheel consists of a large wooden or metal wheel, with a number of blades or buckets arranged on the outside rim forming the driving surface. Most commonly, the wheel is mounted vertically on a horizontal axle, but the tub or Norse wheel is mounted horizontally on a vertical shaft. Vertical wheels can transmit power either through the axle or via a ring gear and typically drive belts or gears; horizontal wheels usually directly drive their load.

Headrace, tailrace

A mill pond is formed when a flowing stream is dammed to feed a waterwheel. A channel for the water flowing to or from a water wheel is called a mill race (also spelled millrace) or simply a "race", and is customarily divided into sections. The race bringing water from the mill pond to the water wheel is a headrace; the one carrying water after it has left the wheel is commonly referred to as a tailrace.[1]


Traditionally water wheels have been made mostly from wood. Steel in overshot (and pitchback) wheels allows higher speeds. A wooden wheel with a wooden axle cannot necessarily sustain high speed needed for hydroelectric power generation.

Until around 1820 water wheels in North America were generally built with a wooden axle (usually from seasoned white oak) with three or more spokes extending through the wood axle and interlocked inside. Additional spokes attached to pocket holes in the axle and were wedged inside the wood axle. These wheels generally had metal gudgeons held in place on the ends of the shafts using wedges and steel hoops, which allowed the wood axle to have a small metal tip on the end. These metal tips or "journals" would then ride on wood or stone bearings. A water wheel made this wheel was called a Compass Wheel. Sometimes a wood axle would need to be replaced after only a year or two prompting the development of "hybrid wheels". After 1820, water wheels began to have steel hubs and later steel axles with wood spokes, rims, and paddles. These hybrid wheels eliminated the often problematic wood axle and allowed the addition of more spokes. Later cast-iron and all-steel wheels were used.

Iced water wheel

See also

Example applications

The following installations use a water wheel as the prime mover:

Water turbines
For devices to lift water for irrigation
Devices to lift water for land drainage


  1. ^ a b Dictionary definition of "tailrace"
  2. ^ Adriana de Miranda (2007), Water architecture in the lands of Syria: the water-wheels, L'Erma di Bretschneider, p. 37, ISBN 8882654338 
  3. ^ Pierre Lemonnier (2002), Technological choices: transformation in material cultures since the Neolithic, Routledge, p. 198, ISBN 0415296447 
  4. ^ a b Adriana de Miranda (2007), Water architecture in the lands of Syria: the water-wheels, L'Erma di Bretschneider, p. 37, ISBN 8882654338 
  5. ^ Adriana de Miranda (2007), Water architecture in the lands of Syria: the water-wheels, L'Erma di Bretschneider, pp. 37-8, ISBN 8882654338 
  6. ^ Terry S. Reynolds (2003), Stronger Than a Hundred Men: A History of the Vertical Water Wheel, Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 25, ISBN 0801872480 
  7. ^ Adriana de Miranda (2007), Water architecture in the lands of Syria: the water-wheels, L'Erma di Bretschneider, p. 38, ISBN 8882654338 
  8. ^ Donald Routledge Hill (1996), "Engineering", in Roshdi Rashed, Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, Vol. 3, pp. 751-795 [775]
  9. ^ a b Orjan Wikander (2008), "Chapter 6: Sources of Energy and Exploitation of Power", in John Peter Oleson, The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World, Oxford University Press, pp. 141-2, ISBN 0195187318 
  10. ^ a b c Adriana de Miranda (2007), Water architecture in the lands of Syria: the water-wheels, L'Erma di Bretschneider, pp. 38-9, ISBN 8882654338 
  11. ^ Vowles, p. 413
  12. ^ Faruk El-Yussif (1983), "Condensed History of Water Resources Developments in Mesopotamia", Water International (Routledge) 8 (1): 19-22 [19], doi:10.1080/02508068308685995 
  13. ^ Adriana de Miranda (2007), Water architecture in the lands of Syria: the water-wheels, L'Erma di Bretschneider, pp. 47-8, ISBN 8882654338 
  14. ^ John Munro (5 June 2002). "Industrial Energy from Water-Mills in the European Economy, Fifth to Eighteenth Centuries: the Limitations of Power". University of Toronto. http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/ecipa/wpa.html. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  15. ^ Lewis, p. 50-65
  16. ^ Lewis, p. 66 quoting (in his own translation) Anthologia Palatina, 9.418
  17. ^ Wikander 2000, pp. 372f.; Wilson 2002, p. 3
  18. ^ Murphy 2005
  19. ^ a b Wikander 1985, p. 155–157
  20. ^ Glick, p. 178
  21. ^ Needham, p. 392
  22. ^ Needham, p. 370
  23. ^ Adriana de Miranda (2007), Water architecture in the lands of Syria: the water-wheels, L'Erma di Bretschneider, p. 38, ISBN 8882654338 
  24. ^ Morton, p. 70
  25. ^ Needham, p. 158
  26. ^ Reynolds, p. 14
  27. ^ Pacey, p. 10
  28. ^ Wikander 2000, p. 400:
    This is also the period when water-mills started to spread outside the former Empire. According to Cedrenus (Historiarum compendium), a certain Metrodoros who went to India in c. A.D. 325 "constructed water-mills and baths, unknown among them [the Brahmans] till then".
  29. ^ Pacey, p. 36
  30. ^ Siddiqui
  31. ^ al-Hassani et al., p.115
  32. ^ Lucas, Adam (2006), Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology, Brill Publishers, p. 26, ISBN 90-04-14649-0 
  33. ^ Donald Routledge Hill (1996), A history of engineering in classical and medieval times, Routledge, pp. 145-6, ISBN 0415152917 
  34. ^ Lucas, p. 10
  35. ^ Ahmad Y Hassan, Transfer Of Islamic Technology To The West, Part II: Transmission Of Islamic Engineering
  36. ^ Lucas, p.11
  37. ^ Hill; see also Mechanical Engineering)
  38. ^ Ahmad Y Hassan, Flywheel Effect for a Saqiya.
  39. ^ Stream wheel term and specifics
  40. ^ The History of Science and Technology by Bryan Bunch with Alexander Hellmans pp.114
  41. ^ [1]
  42. ^ Oewatec
  43. ^ Low Head Hydro
  44. ^ For a discussion of the different types of waterwheel, see Syson, p. 76-91


  • al-Hassani, S.T.S., Woodcock, E. and Saoud, R. (2006) 1001 inventions : Muslim heritage in our world, Manchester : Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation, ISBN 0-9552426-0-6
  • Allan. April 18, 2008. Undershot Water Wheel. Retrieved from http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Hydro/UnderShot/WaterWheel.htm
  • Glick, T.F. (1970) Irrigation and society in medieval Valencia, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-46675-6
  • Hill, D.R. (1991) "Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East", Scientific American, 264 (5:May), p. 100-105
  • Lucas, A.R. (2005), "Industrial Milling in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: A Survey of the Evidence for an Industrial Revolution in Medieval Europe", Technology and Culture, 46 (1), p. 1-30, doi:10.1353/tech.2005.0026
  • Lewis, M.J.T. (1997) Millstone and Hammer: the origins of water power, University of Hull Press, ISBN 0-85858-657-X
  • Morton, W.S. and Lewis, C.M. (2005) China: Its History and Culture, 4th Ed., New York : McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-141279-4
  • Murphy, Donald (2005), Excavations of a Mill at Killoteran, Co. Waterford as Part of the N-25 Waterford By-Pass Project, Estuarine/ Alluvial Archaeology in Ireland. Towards Best Practice, University College Dublin and National Roads Authority, http://www.acsltd.ie/cms/uploads/02_02_kiloteran_mill_-_ucd.pdf 
  • Needham, J. (1965) Science and Civilization in China - Vol. 4: Physics and physical technology - Part 2: Mechanical engineering, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-05803-1
  • Nuernbergk, D.M. (2005) Wasserräder mit Kropfgerinne: Berechnungsgrundlagen und neue Erkenntnisse, Detmold : Schäfer, ISBN 3-87696-121-1
  • Nuernbergk, D.M. (2007) Wasserräder mit Freihang: Entwurfs- und Berechnungsgrundlagen, Detmold : Schäfer, ISBN 3-87696-122-X
  • Pacey, A. (1991) Technology in World Civilization: A Thousand-year History, 1st MIT Press ed., Cambridge, Massachusetts : MIT, ISBN 0-262-66072-5
  • Reynolds, T.S. (1983) Stronger Than a Hundred Men: A History of the Vertical Water Wheel, Johns Hopkins studies in the history of technology: New Series 7, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-2554-7
  • Shannon, R. 1997. Water Wheel Engineering. Retrieved from http://permaculturewest.org.au/ipc6/ch08/shannon/index.html.
  • Siddiqui, Iqtidar Husain (1986) "Water Works and Irrigation System in India during Pre-Mughal Times", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 29 (1), p. 52–77, doi:10.1163/156852086X00036
  • Syson, l. (1965) British Water-mills, London : Batsford, 176 p.
  • Wikander, Örjan (1985), "Archaeological Evidence for Early Water-Mills. An Interim Report", History of Technology 10: 151–179 

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address