The ball bearing

Who invented the ball bearing?

The ball bearing, accompanies you in the majority of your movements. This small device can be found on the wheels of your skateboard, your bike or your car, but also in the industry, as for example on the printing presses of your newspapers. It allows for smoother rotational movements without losing strength. For once, Leonardo da Vinci had a hand in the development of this invention. But it was in the time of the Pharaohs that a process equivalent to rolling was used for the first time.

“It was on the construction site of the Giza pyramids that the original idea for the bearing was born.”

4,500 years ago, in Egypt, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world was being built. It was on the construction site of the pyramids of Giza that the original idea of the bearing was born. At the time, the huge blocks of limestone – weighing an average of 2.5 tons each – had to be transported to the site to be built. The Egyptians devised a rotating system based on wooden logs to facilitate the transport of these raw materials.

“The inventor understands that by isolating the rolling elements of the device, friction related to the friction of the various elements is prevented…”

In the 15th century, in 1485, Leonardo da Vinci, our favorite Florentine inventor, discovered the principle of rolling. Wondering how it works, he drew several sketches. These are probably the first technical drawings representing the mechanism of a ball bearing. The inventor understands that by isolating the rolling elements of the device, friction due to the friction of the different elements is prevented and the movement is made more fluid.

It was in 1779, at the height of the industrial revolution, that the French engineer and physicist Charles-Augustin Coulomb first developed the machining of ball bearings. But it was not until 1794 that a Welshman, Philip Vaughan, filed the first patent.

In 1907, 422 years after da Vinci’s drawings, the Swedish engineer Sven Wingquist developed a ball bearing strong enough to improve the performance of his employer’s textile machines, launching its industrial application.