The process of compression plays an essential role in modern life, helping humans complete tasks in a variety of ways. Compressors are critical components in many industries (oil/gas, manufacturing, construction, automotive, industrial, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, mining, food & beverage, etc.). The following is a brief history of how these pivotal machines became the multi-purpose devices they are today. 

The Earliest Compressors 

The earliest compressors were essentially the lungs of human beings, used to blow on hot embers, stoking a fire for cooking and heating.

The 1500s 

When people began melting metals (copper, gold, tin, lead), they required a more powerful source of air movement to create a higher temperature. Hand-operated bellows became widely used, followed by foot bellows, producing a blast of air that helped achieve the temperatures needed. 

The 1600s

In 1641, Otto von Guericke developed an air pump that he used to create a vacuum. This design is the predecessor of modern piston compressors. 

The 1700s

The 1700s saw the rapid evolution of compressor technology. In 1762, an English engineer named John Smeaton designed the earliest mechanical compressor, a waterwheel-driven blowing cylinder. In 1776, John Wilkinson invented the blasting machine, an early prototype of today’s industrial air compressor. In 1779, English-born George Medhurst invented a motorized air compressor that was widely used in the mining industry. He helped create a compressed air rail system. 

The 1800s

In the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution was well on its way and the specialized use of compressed air increased as did the need for different pressures. 1829 saw the patenting of the first compound air compressor, compressing air in successive cylinders. In 1857, the French-Italian rail system adopted compressors to move large air volumes. 1862 saw the Mount Cenis Tunnel project in Switzerland purchase compressed-air drills, allowing them to complete the project twice as fast as expected. In 1888, An Austrian engineer built the first compressor plant in Paris and inventors began to create and patent accessories that required compressed air. 

The 1900s

The new century brought portable compressors (mounted on wheels) and large, single-stage compression cylinders driven by steam or oil engines became common. Portable compressors, along with new air and pneumatic tools, enabled bridgework, road construction, and railroad development. Non-lubricated compressors appeared on the market in the early 1930s. 1935 saw the screw compressor patented in Sweden and compressors began powering drills, stamping machines, and equipment for hauling and pumping.


Today, numerous types of air compressors are available which are vital to the productivity of many industries and the global economy. Air compressor technology continues to advance and diversify, keeping up with the ever-changing needs/demands of progress.

Gaspro Compression Corporation

GASPRO has been at the forefront of compressor evolution since 2004. We offer a large product line that includes two-stage sour and sweet service reciprocating compressors, single-stage sour and sweet service reciprocating compressors, rotary vane, hydraulic, and blower compressors. Our robust design, excellent service, innovative solutions, and operator friendliness have helped build our reputation. We create low-maintenance, user-friendly packages that meet or exceed industry standards. Working with clients, Gaspro develops packages for cost-efficient, extended operation. We continually innovate and improve to meet the changing demands of the industry. Contact us for all your compressor, vapour recovery and BTEX control system needs.