Who Invented the Vending Machine in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, there was a remarkable invention that revolutionized the way people purchased goods. This invention is known as the vending machine, and it was first created by a mathematician and engineer named Hero of Alexandria.

Who was Hero of Alexandria?

Hero of Alexandria, also known as Heron, was a Greek mathematician and engineer who lived in Alexandria during the first century AD. He was a prolific inventor, credited with numerous discoveries and inventions that revolutionized ancient technology.

The Invention of the Vending Machine

Hero’s most famous invention is undoubtedly the vending machine, which he called “the coin-operated holy water dispenser.” The machine worked by allowing people to insert coins into a slot on top of the machine and then dispense a fixed amount of holy water.

The mechanism behind the vending machine involved an inverted container filled with liquid that had an opening at the bottom. When coins were inserted into the slot on top of the machine, they would fall onto a pan attached to a lever.

This would release a valve that opened up the container and allowed water to flow out through the opening at its base. The amount of water dispensed by each coin was pre-set so that only one dose could be obtained per coin.

The Significance of Hero’s Invention

Hero’s vending machine was significant for several reasons. Firstly, it allowed people to purchase goods without needing to interact with vendors directly. This made transactions faster and more efficient since people could get what they needed without waiting in line or negotiating with sellers.

Secondly, it introduced automation into commerce for the first time in history. The use of mechanical devices to automate tasks would become increasingly common over time, leading to further technological advancements.

Finally, Hero’s invention paved the way for modern vending machines that we see today. While his initial design only dispensed holy water, modern vending machines can dispense a wide variety of goods ranging from snacks and drinks to electronics and books.


In conclusion, Hero of Alexandria was the inventor of the vending machine in ancient Greece. His creation was significant for introducing automation into commerce and paving the way for modern vending machines.

Today, vending machines are ubiquitous, found in airports, schools, malls, and other public places. We owe this convenience to Hero’s ingenuity and innovative spirit.