from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • noun A device containing a usually spherical chamber or container, in which steam is heated and ejected through one or more narrow tubes to create propulsion or torque.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • noun A form of blast-lamp for use in chemical laboratories, in which an alcohol flame is deflected by a stream of alcohol vapor escaping from a jet, this vapor being produced from liquid alcohol in a little boiler over the original flame.
  • noun An instrument illustrating the expansive force of steam generated in a closed vessel, and escaping by a narrow aperture, said to have been invented by Hero of Alexandria in the second century BC.


  • What Sharkey found was that Hero, who had designed everything from the aeolipile (the world's first steam-engine, see picture above) to "a vending machine that dispensed a shot of holy water in exchange for a coin," had designed a mobile theatre, complete with Dionysus and some female worshippers, all automata, which came in on a sort of self-propelled, self-guided cart.

    Automata in the Ancient World

  • If you look at the fact that there are more than ten times the number of people alive today than in da Vinci's time (and less before that), it is no wonder that this innate intelligence did not catch fire, and Hero's steam-powered aeolipile (for example) remained a curiosity.

    Automata in the Ancient World

  • Such is the vehemence of these attacks, that the unfortunate subjects of them are often driven backwards for great distances at immense speed, on the well-known principle of the aeolipile.

    Autocrat of the Breakfast Table


The word 'aeolipile' comes from 'Aeolus' ("god of the winds") and 'pila' ("a ball").