circular item that rotates about an axial bearing; one of the six simple machines

A wheel is a disc or circle-shaped mechanical device. Its main purpose is to allow things to roll; in other words, the wheel spins, and object on the wheels moves more easily along the ground. It is a simple machine.[1] The principle behind the wheel is that of mechanical advantage.[2]

Old wooden wheels with spokes
The windlass is a well-known application of the wheel and axle

Most land vehicles roll on wheels. Wheels are often used in pairs, connected by a rod of wood or metal known as an axle. The wheel and axle turn together. The part of the wheel that attaches to the axle is called the hub.

The wheel with an axle is the basis of many machines, not just vehicles. The potter's wheel, the lathe and the windlass are examples.[2] Many machines have wheels with teeth, known as gears.

History Edit

Drawing of a drinking-cup, dated to 3500-3350 BC. The object shown on the left has been interpreted as some kind of wagon, below or near a bridge. This would make it the oldest known depiction of a wheel. The cup is known as Bronocice bowl today.

Most experts believe that the ancient Mesopotamians invented the wheel about 4000 BC.[3][4]

People in Asia also discovered it on their own around 3500 BC. The Inca and Maya had wheels on children's toys around 1500 BC, but they did not use wheels for work. Africa south of the Sahara desert, Europe, and Australia did not have the wheel until people there met people from Europe. Early wheels were solid disks; the spoked wheel was invented around 2000 BC. The earliest documentation of a vehicle with wheels is a painting dated between 3350–3500 BC.

Uses Edit

Today, wheels are used in cars, carts, airplanes, wheelchairs, bicycles, trains, and skateboards, in addition to many more devices.

References Edit

  1. Prater, Edward L. 1994. Basic Machines, Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center, NAVEDTRA 14037
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bowser, Edward Albert, 1890, An elementary treatise on analytic mechanics: with numerous examples. (Originally from the University of Michigan) D. Van Nostrand Company, pp. 190
  3. True potter's wheels, which are freely-spinning and have a wheel-and-axle mechanism, were developed in Mesopotamia (Iraq) by 4200–4000 BC. D.T. Potts (2012). A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. p. 285.
  4. The oldest surviving example, which was found in Ur (modern day Iraq), dates to about 3100 BC.