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The History of Automatic Doors

The History of Automatic Doors

Have you ever considered the rich history of the automatic door? No? Well allow us to educate you.

Many of us take for granted the centuries of innovation that has led to the automatic door. Without it, we would be stuck in the past, manually opening doors like savages.

Thankfully, the automatic door is now ubiquitous across the globe, saving us many valuable seconds and preventing the spread of many unwanted germs. And who do we have to thank for such a ground-breaking invention?


Modern automatic sliding doors | Royal Industrial Doors


When were automatic doors invented?

It all started with a mathematician known as Hero of Alexandria. And Hero he was.

Hero of Alexandria is credited with inventing the first known automatic door — all the way back in the 1st Century AD. While his automatic door wasn’t much like the automatic doors we know and love today, it did share a few key resemblances.

For starters, his automatic door was, well, automatic. For the first time in history, a door could be opened without touching it. Instead, water would be heated by a large fire and pumped from one receptacle into containers. With the help of a couple pulleys and ropes, the newly filled containers would open the door.

That’s about as far as the resemblances end.


When did automatic doors first become popular?

Hero’s automatic door would eventually be developed further. It just took a little waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

For 1800 years.

Yes, the next milestone in the history of automatic doors didn’t occur until 1931. It was then that two American engineers, Horacy H. Raymond and Sheldon S. Roby designed the first optical device to open an automatic door.

Then came Dee Horton and Lee Hewitt in 1954, who designed automatic doors that were activated with pressure sensors known as mat actuators. The actuators sensed a person’s weight to identify when someone was approaching.

Next came automatic doors that were activated by motion sensors. These were developed in the 1970s and became a huge hit. This is largely because motion sensors assisted in providing disabled access. Motion-activated doors could be found in a wide variety of commercial establishments, including hotels, banks and restaurants.

And it didn’t stop there. Automatic revolving doors became commonplace in the 1980s. By the 1990s, most doors were using active infrared sensors as the standard activation method.

Pressure sensors, motion sensors and infrared sensors are still found in most automatic doors to this day. And you can find out more about how automatic doors work in greater depth through our article.


Royal Industrial Doors is a leading provider of automatic doors throughout Luton, Stevenage, Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas. With over 25 years of experience, we know how to manufacture, install and service automatic sliding doors to your needs. All our doors are bespoke, meaning you’ll receive a door in the exact style, colour and size you need.

Enhance your business with an automatic door today. Contact our team for more information.


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