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You may not really be aware of the automatic opening doors you walk through at the grocery store, or the emergency room, or a warehouse. But without them, you would be caught trying to open a door with your hands full, or putting yourself and others at risk of cross-contamination. In the past, people saw the need for such technology, and they developed the ideas and technology that would bring us today’s sliding entrance doors.

The history of the automatic door goes way way back, to about 2000 years ago. Heron of Alexandria was a great mathematician and inventor who described in great detail, including some drawings, for not one but two different automatic door applications.

The first application was powered by heat from a fire lit by the city’s temple priest. After a few hours, atmospheric pressure built up in a brass vessel, causing it to pump water into adjacent holding containers. These holding containers acted as weights, that through a series of ropes and pulleys would open the temple’s doors, at just about the time people would be arriving for prayer. Heron used a similar application to open the gates to the city.

So, Heron may have invented the application, but automatic door systems have obviously come a long way in the last 2000 years. Automatic entrance doors as we know them today were created by Lew Hewitt and Dee Horton back in the 1950s. Hewitt and Horton realized that swing doors had trouble operating in windy Corpus Christi, TX, where they were located. So they invented the automatic sliding glass door to circumvent the windy conditions.

Horton Automatics, Inc. was formed in 1960, placing the first automatic opening doors on the market and establishing a brand-new industry. The business still operates in Corpus Christi today.

So the next time you cruise smoothly through the automatic opening doors at the supermarket, send a thank you to Heron, Hewitt, and Horton for inventing the most convenient and most popular of commercial entrance doors, so that you’re not juggling an armload of bags trying to open a door. Find more on this here.


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July 2024