History of Water Filters from Ancient To Present

History of Water Filtration from Ancient to Present Day

History of Water Filters

Waterworks and Water Purification Methods

Ancient to Present Waterworks

From ancient times to the present, water filters have evolved out of necessity, first to remove materials that affect appearance, then to improve bad tastes and finally to remove contaminants that can cause disease and illness.  Water filtration systems are used in manufacturing and for home water treatment to remove chlorine from drinking water and other impurities that we may not want like bacteria, fluoride, excess sediment, sodium, nitrate and by-products of chlorine. more information. Below you'll find some important historical information on drinking water systems and early water purification to present day. Also, included are some of the basics of water filtration plus recommended methods for contaminant removal.

Wells, canals, aqueducts, reservoirs and distribution pipes were built as a community effort to bring water to a central supply. These waterworks were built by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Persians and Phoenicians centuries before the birth of Christ. The bible contains several references to public water supplies, one in Genesis gives an account of the herdsmen of Isaac striving with the natives of the valley of Gerar for wells, one dug by Abraham around 1700 B.C.  In the 8th century B.C., King Hezekiah of Judah brought water from a pool identified as Siloam, through a 1,777 foot conduit to the city of Jerusalem.

The Romans built more than 200 aqueducts between 312 B.C. and 455 A.D., now found at many ruins of aqueduct bridges in Rome and throughout Italy.

In the United States colonies from 1652 to 1800, 16 waterworks systems were built.  The cities include Boston, MA, Bethlehem, PA, Providence, RI, Geneva, NY, Plymouth, MA, Salem and Plymouth, MA, Hartford, CT, Portsmouth, NH, Worcester, MA, Albany, NY, Peabody, MA, New York City, Morristown, NJ, Lynchburg, VA, Winchester, VA and Newark, NJ.

Water Treatment and History of Water Filters

The earliest record of the beginnings of water treatment is linked to Hippocrates (known as the "Father of Medicine") in the 4th century B.C.  He advised boiling water to improve taste and then filtering through a cloth bag.  Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.), in his Historia Naturalis, discusses the characteristics of potable water.  In Egypt and China they put alum in tubs to clarify the water.

By 1935, Sir Henry Doulton, of the Royal Doulton® china company of London in the UK, invented the ceramic cartridge for removing bacteria from water.

In more recent times, treatment of water to remove pathogenic organisms began around 1892 after Dr. Robert Koch traced the cholera epidemic in Hamburg, Germany, to its unfiltered water supply.  Since 1855, in London, England, a parliamentary statute required its water supply to be filtered through slow sand filters.  Slow sand filters were  introduced into the United States around 1870 and a modern rapid-sand filtration plant was built in 1902 at Little Falls, NJ.  In 1909, liquid chlorine was developed for disinfection of water supplies.

History of the Doulton® Ceramics

The Royal Doulton china company in the UK, was founded in 1815 by John Doulton and his partner John Watts in Lambeth, Soulth London.  It was then famous for its production of fine-bone china, art pottery, ornamental and commemorative pieces and of course their renowned tableware used by the Royal Family and high society as a mark of status.

John Doulton's son, Sir Henry Doulton, joined the company in 1835 and with it brought the entrepreneurial energy and vision that turned it into Britain's leading manufacturer of sanitary wares and other industrial ceramics. One of his innovations was the introduction of steam-powered potters' wheels that put Doultons ahead of the competition. He was knighted in particular for innovation in sanitary and new glazed sewage systems that were instrumental in reducing the spread of fatal diseases such as dysentery, cholera and the like, particularly in dense urban areas. Much of the original sanitary infrastructure was made by Doultons. A stark contrast to the fine-bone porcelain for which it is more commonly known!

In 1837, Queen Victoria commissioned Doulton to develop a water filter for the Royal household after recognizing the present health dangers in her drinking water.  Doulton created a gravity fed stoneware filter that combined the technology of a ceramic filter with the artistry of a hand crafted pottery water container. Queen Victoria then honored Doulton with the right to display the Royal Crest on each filter.

In 1862, Henry introduced the Doulton Manganous Carbon water filter, the same year that Louis Pasteur's experiments with bacteria conclusively exploded the myth of spontaneous generation and proved that all microorganisms arise from other microorganisms. This more advanced understanding of bacteria making it possible to direct research and development efforts to the creation of a porous ceramic capable of filtering out these tiny organisms.

In 1877, Sir Henry Doulton took over the Nile Street Burslem factory of Pinder Bourne.  Here they produced industrial ceramics for water filtration along with art pottery and table wares.  Then, by 1882, they were producing fine-bone china.

By 1901, King Edward VII knighted Henry Doulton and honored the company by authorizing it to use
the word ROYAL in reference to its products.  In 1906, Doulton introduced a filter that proved to be equal to the one Louis Pasteur had developed in France. It was rapidly adopted by hospitals, laboratories and for use in domestic water filtration throughout the world.  The popularity and effectiveness of even the early 20th century designs has resulted in their continued use in Africa and the Middle East.  The range and efficiency of Doulton domestic water filters has been widely extended over the years to meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated uses. 


Special thanks to Daniel Doulton® (http://www.doulton.org--a direct descendant of Sir Henry Doulton®) who gave me permission to publish information about the Doulton® family and their contribution to society with the innovation of sanitary wares and ceramic water filters.  This eventually evolved into the production of the Sterasyl ceramic bacteria filter.