Almost 2,300 years ago during the rule of Ptolemy in ancient Egypt, revolutionary breakthroughs were being made in physics and mathematics. It was during this period that Erasthonese approximated the circumference of the earth; Aristarchus posited that the Earth revolves around the sun; and Ctesibius made a number of inventions that still form the basic principles of air compressors and vacuums today.
Known as “the father of pneumatics,” Ctesibius made many advances in pneumatics — with the discovery of air’s elasticity — and in hydraulics. He is credited with creating the first pipe organ, which utilized a hand operated pump to send air compressed by the weight of falling water through pipes of various lengths and circumferences.
Though the application is far from modern pipe organs and other sophisticated uses of compressed air we have today, Ctesibius’ instrument is one of the first known examples of employing compressed air. Ctesibius also invented other contraptions that utilized compressed air, including an air-powered catapult and a force pump.