The History of the World’s First Automatic Door

The modern automatic door may be something that we take for granted now, but it’s only in the last couple of decades that we have come to expect shops, airport, offices, gyms and other public space doors to slide open for us!

The first use of doors of any kind at all can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, when they were first used on tombs. The ancient Greeks also began to incorporate them into their builds in order to separate houses from the outdoors, and for use internally to define different living spaces. The Greeks may not have been the first to make doors, but they are actually credited with having invented the world’s first version of an automated model!


A range of different doors has been discovered in artefacts from ancient Greece. Records show that pivots were used at the tops and bottoms of their doors in order to hang them, and that doors ranged in complexity, with double and triple doors and even sliding models being used. Typically, they were made from bronze and marble rather than wood – possibly for security as well as artistry and durability – and they would have been found on more affluent homes. Some of these models were made to fold on a hinge, but generally they were all fairly difficult to use thanks to their heavy materials.


The development of the first automatic door
Dating back to the 1st century AD, the famous mathematician, Heron, used a hydraulic system which relied on heavy water displacement in order to move the doors of an important Greek temple in Alexandria. Heron is most commonly known for his early and pioneering work in the field of mechanics and he was a talented inventor. His most critical work discovered to date was found in 1896. Called ‘the Metrica’, it contains key insights into geometry, including formulas for estimating tangible numbers in square root calculations. His work was heavily influenced by another leading inventor of the time, Archimedes.


Heron was particularly interesting because his interest in applied mathematics – or the practical application of numbers – led to innovations such as the world’s first vending machine, which was a water fountain powered by coins and of course, the first automatic door.


The first automatic sliding door
The use of automatic sliding doors finally became a common commercial concept in the USA in the 1950s. Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt noticed that swing doors struggled to open when the winds were high in Corpus Christi. So they set out to create a better alternative, and the sliding door was born. Horton Automatics Inc. was incorporated in 1960 and the first sliding automatic door was launched commercially, creating a new industry overnight.

Automatic Access doors

Today’s wide choices
Today, Automatic Access supplies a wide range of doors that all use the latest technologies and cutting-edge designs. From swing and sliding doors, revolving doors, balanced, bi-fold and folding doors that are suitable for anything from shop fronts through to hotels, museums and office lobbies, we are proficient in the supply, application and maintenance of automatic doors.

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