Who Invented The Automatic Door?

Automatic doors are used throughout the world. From supermarkets to schools and hospitals to offices. You may be surprised to find out that automatic doors actually originated in ancient Greece. Greek mathematician Heron of Alexandria invented an automatic door system using a series of ropes and pulleys. 

The first automatic door

The idea was that the temple door should open automatically when the fire was lit and close automatically when the fire was extinguished. By lighting the fire on the ground at the altar in front of the temple, heat would build up and create pressure in a welded container under the temple. The liquid inside the container would pass through a hose into another container suspended from the ceiling and connected to the underground doorpost of the temple door.

The invention of the automatic door

With the weight of the water increasing, the door would magically open for the audience by dragging the pulley rope and slowly pulling the rope attached to the doorpost. When the flame goes out and the heat disappears, the liquid will be sucked back into the first container, the second container will become lighter, and the well-balanced counterweight will pull in the other direction, closing the door behind it.

The invention of automatic doors

The History of Automatic Doors

After the initial Greek foray into automatic door systems, it wasn’t until the 20th century that automatic doors were developed as a popular product. In 1931, two American engineers, Horace H. Raymond and Sheldon S. Roby designed the first optical device to open an automatic door. The invention was installed in Wilcox’s Pier Restaurant to help waiters carrying plates and glasses.

Placed between the kitchen and the dining room, the doors sprang open the moment a photoelectric eye detected a person’s approach.

“Through the invention,” wrote the Hartford Courant, “there is no longer need for waitresses to kick open doors or use their hands for anything other than carrying in the trays.”

In a letter to Stanley Works, the restaurant’s president wrote:

“They are one of the most satisfactory pieces of equipment which we have ever installed … and have certainly speeded up the service of our waitresses.”

In 1954, during a period of post-war optimism, another pair of Americans, Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt invented the first automatic doors operated by mat actuators. Mat actuators use a hidden electronic system inside the door mat. When someone stands on the mat the door automatically opens. They became increasingly popular throughout the 1960s with automatic sliding doors being installed in many public buildings such as banks, hotels, and shopping centres.

First automatic opening doors
The History of automatic doors. Wilcox's Pier Restaurant in West Haven

Motion activated automatic doors

During the 1970s, motion sensors were invented and used to actuate the opening of automatic doors. This triggered a boom in popularity with automatic doors helping to provide disabled access and opening up buildings using contactless technology on a grand scale.

In the 1980s, automatic revolving doors were released and motion detectors became increasingly common for automatic sliding doors. In the 1990s, automatic folding doors were invented and active infrared sensors became the standard activation method.

In today’s high-tech society, automatic doors have become a common sight on commercial buildings across the globe. At The Automatic Door Company, we have over a decades experience installing and servicing automatic doors. We have all the essential skills and knowledge to ensure that your automatic doors continue to provide the highest levels of performance for years to come.

If you’d like to find out more about our range of products and services contact us today. Call us on 0800 0838630 or send us a message.

When were doors invented


Images taken from Artefacts Berlin

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