Wind Energy

History of Windmills: Pioneers in Ancient Times

The Encounter of Wind Power with Humans

The History of Windmills traces back to the deep roots of human history, forming an intriguing narrative that has evolved in various geographical locations. In this article, we will take a look at the history of windmills and explore how this unique technology emerged, evolved, and influenced the world.

Rüzgar Değirmenleri Tarihi

Ancient Times: The Earliest Uses of Wind Power

The idea of harnessing wind power began long before the emergence of windmills, dating back to ancient times. Around 200 BC, the Pharaohs in Egypt would sail on the Nile River using sails. Although they did not have knowledge of the aerodynamics of these sails, they effectively utilized the power of the wind.
However, when we delve deeper into the history of windmills, we have some clues from technical drawings and other sources that reveal how people attempted to harness wind power for their needs even before recorded history.

The Historical Timelines of Windmills

The history and technological development of windmills can be divided into two significant time periods:

  1. Ancient History (200 BC – 1100 AD): During this period, the idea of harnessing the power of the wind emerged, but full technological development did not yet take place.
  2. Medieval Period (1100 AD – 1800 AD): Windmills began to proliferate in Europe and North America during the medieval period.

Now, let's examine these two periods in more detail.

Unrealized Idea: Hammurabi's Vision

The idea of harnessing wind energy dates back to Hammurabi, who lived as far back as 1700 BC. Hammurabi envisioned setting up windmill networks to irrigate agricultural fields, but this idea was never realized.

Hammurabi ve rüzgar gücü
King Hammurabi of Babylon

The First Wind-Powered Device: Heron's Discovery

İlk rüzgarla çalışan cihazın tasarımını yapan kişi, Yunan mühendisi İskenderiyeli Heron’dur. M.S. 1. yüzyılda kendi müzik aletini rüzgarla çalıştırmak için rüzgar tahrikli bir tekerlek geliştirdi. Bu, rüzgarla çalışan cihazların ilk kayıtlı tarihidir.

Heron of Alexandria Rüzgar gücüyle çalışan piyano
Source: interestingengineering.com

Islamic World and Windmills

The origin of windmills in the Islamic world can be traced back to the Persian lands. These regions were pioneers in constructing windmills for the purpose of grinding grain and drawing water. These windmills had vertical-axis blades and operated directly under the influence of the wind. They had a mechanically simple design and were constructed using common materials like wood.

Sailwind Windmills: The Role of Aerodynamics

Sailwind windmills included sails with an aerodynamic (wing profile) structure that generated lift as the wind passed over them. Therefore, sailwind windmills were machines that operated on the principle of lift and had different types on both horizontal and vertical axes.
Aerodynamics played an effective role in the design of sailwind windmills, even though people did not have knowledge about aerodynamics during that period. They were applying these principles naturally.
These windmills, which had been used in the Islamic world for a long time, returned to Europe as knowledge during the Crusades. This marked a period when the technological development of windmills rapidly progressed, and wind energy began to develop across various regions of Europe.


The history of windmills is a reflection of how humanity has harnessed the power of nature to meet its energy needs. This journey, spanning from ancient times to the Middle Ages, has been shaped by technological advancements and cultural changes. Understanding the history of wind energy can help us better comprehend contemporary energy production technologies like modern wind turbines. For detailed information about historical windmills in Anatolia, you can read our articles on Anadolu’nun Tarihi Yel Değirmenleri-1 and Anadolu’nun Tarihi Yel Değirmenleri-2 .

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When did people start using wind energy?

Wind energy began to be used in ancient times. Around 200 BC, the Pharaohs used sails to navigate the Nile River.

2. How were windmills used in the Islamic world?

Windmills in the Islamic world were commonly used, particularly for the purposes of grinding grain and drawing water. These mills operated with vertical-axis blades and worked directly under the influence of the wind.

3. How did sailwind windmills work?

Sailwind windmills included sails with a structure that generated lift as the wind passed over them. These sails played a significant role in the aerodynamic design of wind-driven machines.

Source: windmillstech