Simon Stevin’s inclined plane


Simon Stevin (1548-1620) was an influential mathematician and engineer with a broad range of interests. He offered new insights and discoveries in the development of decimal numbers and the laws of inclines, gravity, hydro statics, and fortification. Although Stevin never earned the same lasting reputation as Galileo or Isaac Newton, his contributions to the advancement of mathematical theory are noteworthy.

Simon_Stevins_land boat

He invented a carriage which had sails attached to it and would be driven by the force of the wind. Stevin and Prince Maurice, along with a party of 26 people used this carriage on the beach and it is said that the carriage was moving even faster than a normal horse bound carriage would.


He studied the principles of mechanisms and machines. He had seen many perpetual machine proposals. One particularly interested him: a chain looped over a pair of asymmetric ramps. Some made the claim that it should move of its own accord because there were more balls, and therefore a greater weight, on one side of the apparatus. They were sure it would move if only you could get rid of that pesky friction.
Stevin analyzed this and showed that the chain would not move, for in fact the system is always in static equilibrium. In doing this he invented an important principle for the analysis of machines: the Principle of Virtual Work a principle that may be found in engineering mechanics books even today.

Simon Stevin statue in Bruges