Bearing history

Bearing History
Bearing History

Bearings have been in existence since ancient days, but they have been modernized based on the new innovations of the 20th century. Read on to learn more about bearing history.

Short Timeline Of Bearing History

Here is a brief bearing timeline history according to research:

  • 2600 BC: Ancient Egyptians constructed pyramids through moving pieces of stones as roller bearings.
  • 40 BC: There was an ancient wooden ball bearings that was utilized in supporting a rotating table.
  • 1500 AD: Leonardo Da Vinci early helicopter concept design used ball bearings.
  • 17th Century: The caged bearings were described by Galileo for the first time.
  • 1740: First caged roller bearing H3 was introduced by John Harrison for marine timekeeping.
  • 1794: Philip Vaughn was awarded the first patent for the ball race.
  • 1869: Jules Suriray Parisan bicycle received first patent for a radial ball bearing.
  • 1898: Timken tapered roller bearing receives first patent.
  • 1907: SKF set a new standard of design by introducing new self-aligning ball bearings.
  • 1917: United States determined to create an informal group to help in manufacturing bearings during world war I.
  • 1980s: Robert Schroeder introduced the first bi-material plain bearing.
  • 2000s: There are inventions of ball bearings and roller bearings that are used in diverse industrial applications.

Origins Of Bearings

Bearings originated when scholars looked deeply into the ancient egyptians wall painting and came to the conclusion that the pyramids were built by mounting one stone upon another with ancient rolling components.

The First Concept Of Bearings

The first set of people to make use of bearings were the ancient Egyptians In 2,600 BC. They use roller bearings for large stone transportation and this helps them become popular in no time. In addition, the bearings used by the ancient Egyptians were simple bearings that were made from materials like wood and stone.

Leonardo Da Vinci, Father Of The Modern Bearing

Leonardo Da Vinci involvement in bearings all began when he started creating his own early helicopter design in the 16th century. His act makes it the first time ball bearings are included in a design concept, because the helicopter design features the early version of modern bearing.

How Bearings Contributed To The Industrial Revolution

Bearings contributed to the industrial revolution when bearings with high-strength steel were excessively produced for the first time in history in the mid 18th century to 19th century. This production contributed to refining axle, and the enhancement of radial ball bearings in bicycles and machinery, accelerating bearing innovation and contributed to the progress of industrial bearings.

TIMKEN And SKF Join the Race


Since investors now know bearings reduce friction in machinery, Henry Timken went ahead to set up TIMKEN bearing manufacturing company in 1899. Timken created his own unique bearing types which are the tapered roller bearings you know today.

SKF on the other hand joined the race in 1907, the name of the founder is Sven Wingquist. SKF introduced double row self-aligning bearing, and later on established itself in more than 10 countries manufacturing about 180 bearings a day.

Progress In The 20th  Century

Fast Forward to the 20th century, bearing technology and innovation has gone through remarkable progress which are driven by the factors below:

  1. The introduction of high quality materials like chrome steel and stainless steel for durability and efficient performance. 
  2. Invention of roller bearings for axial and radial load carrying.
  3. Advancement in precision engineering to give the bearings tighter tolerance for efficiency.
  4. Invention of anti-friction bearings to minimize friction and wear in various applications.
  5. Introduction of sealed bearings for protection against contaminants.
  6. Creation of specialized bearings like thrust bearings, angular bearings, and ceramic bearings for specific applications need and high performance.

The Impact Of Bearing Improvement On The Military

Bearings demand by the military during war time especially in world war II shows how military have helped to improve bearings overtime. The military triggered advancement in bearing technology to meet the significant needs of the war, and this makes manufacturers focused more on improving the performance and efficiency of the bearings.

The Use Of Ball Bearings Today

Today ball bearings are used in different industries to minimize friction and enhance smooth operations. See some examples below:

Automotive Industry
Automotive Industry

Automotive Industry: Ball bearings are used in vehicle wheels to reduce friction, to bear heavy loads, and to enhance the overall performance.





Industrial Machinery
Industrial Machinery

Industrial Machinery: Ball bearings help to enhance proper rotation and maximize overall performance in industrial machinery e.g motors, conveyor systems, and pumps.






Aerospace: It ensures reliability and efficient transfer of forces and performance while reducing friction in aircraft engines.






Power Generation
Power Generation

Power Generation: In the process of transferring the weight and radial forces from the rator to the stationary structure, bearings are used in holding the radial position of the rotor in rotating machineries.





Medical Equipment
Medical Equipment

Medical Equipment: Low friction ball bearings are employed in diverse medical devices like respirators, surgical power tools, mikro-blood pump and so on to proper support and moderate axial and radial loads.





Consumer Electronics
Consumer Electronics

Consumer Electronics: Ball bearings enhance the smooth and rest assured functioning of different electronic devices like laptop, home furniture, children toys, and so on.



In conclusion, bearing history shows a journey of progress in bearing industry, from ancient civilization, to variety designs, and to the precision engineering of today’s bearing.

More Resources

3 Inch Bearing – Source:

Koyo Bearing – Source:

C4 Bearing – Source:

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