Stories - Ancient and Modern Ways To Harness The Wind

(Left) A 14th-century manuscript by Al-Dimashqi shows a cross-section of a typical windmill whose vertical vanes rotate around a vertical shaft*, (Right) Windmills in the Iranian region of Nishtafun Right (Source)

Stories - Ancient and Modern Ways To Harness The WindAn old windmill still stands in Herat, Afghanistan.
(Source: 1001 inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization, 3rd eition, page 131)

As described by Al-Istakhri (10th century), Al-Qazwini (d. 1283), Al-Dimashqi (d. 1326-27).  [1] A thousand years ago, geographer Al-Istakhri wrote of seeing windmills used to provide power, running mills that were built everywhere.

Unlike the traditional European design, Central Asian windmills had vertical shafts onto which vertical vanes were mounted to catch the wind. Built on top of castles or at the crest of hills, the windmills had two stories. In one story were the millstones, one connected to a vertical wooden shaft. This shaft extended into the other story, where six to twelve windmill sails were mounted vertically, covered in cloth or palm leaves. The structure of the windmill was open to catch the wind on the northeast side.[2]

Traditional courtyard houses were developed more than 4,500 years ago as private and energy-efficient family homes. Built with shared walls, these courtyard houses incorporated natural cooling elements in design. These included wind towers, which would catch moving air and channel it down from the roof terrace to pass through party walls to subterranean rooms.

Houses would have a variety of inward-facing rooms and spaces at different floor levels around a planted courtyard to suit different seasons and to enhance privacy.

Stories - Ancient and Modern Ways To Harness The Wind“The first definite reference to the use of the windmill came early in the Islamic period. ‘Umar, the second caliph, had heard that a Persian in his entourage had boasted of being able to construct a wind-driven mill. When challenged to do so, the Persian said, “I will build a mill of which the whole world will talk”. Unfortunately, he never did, but the story shows that windmills were known in Persia in the early seventh century – a fact confirmed by Arab geographers writing somewhat later.”  ( From Jiddah to Yorkshire Paul Lunde)(Source)

New windmills springing up across the landscape are now wind turbines, generating electricity to run a host of different machines. Current research in an English university is now investigating the possibility of setting up small vertical windmills based on old designs for household use.

Get the full story from 1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization Reference (4th  Edition) Annotated. 

Stories - Ancient and Modern Ways To Harness The WindWind Energy Timeline – From Persian Windmills Crushing Grains to Vesta’s Wind Turbines Churning out 8 MW of Output by Pradhnya Tajne (Source)


[1] Cited by Yaqut, Dictionary of Persia, 301, in Carra de Vaux, Les Penseurs, op. cit., 191.

-Al-Istakhri, Das Buch der Lander, trans. by A. D. Mordtmann (Hamburg, 1845).

-Al-Qazwini, Works, Wustenfeld, ed. (Cottingen, 1849), Vol. II, 134, in R. J. Forbes, Studies, op. cit., 116.

-Al-Dimashqi, Manuel de la cosmographie arabe, trans. by A. F. Mehren (Amsterdam, 1964), 246, in R. J. Forbes, Studies, op. cit., 117.

[2] Ibid.

Stories - Ancient and Modern Ways To Harness The WindModel of a “Persian Windmill” in the German Museum, Munich. Image File:Persische Windmühle Model – Deutsches Museum München.jpg by Saupreiß and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. (Source)