Who Invented The Vibrator (And Did Cleopatra Use Bees?)

There is something to be said, and a fascinating tale, about the male-centric history of vibrators – even if the buzz about Cleopatra inventing them is false.
AI-Created Painting Of Hollowed Gourd Glowing From Within With Three Bees Flying Inside
Updated:November 2022

The easiest answer for who invented the electric vibrator is Joseph Mortimer Granville in the late 1800s.

As with most of history, however, things are a little more complicated than that.

Here’s what you need to know about the invention of the vibrator:

  • The vibrator as we know it today bears little resemblance to those of yesteryear, which, if we’re being honest, is a damned good thing.
  • Cleopatra is rumored to have “invented” the vibrator by using a hollowed gourd filled with bees, but there is no historical proof that supports this legend.
  • Mechanical vibrators emerged toward the late 1800s, with the first steam-powered vibe being patented by Dr. George Taylor in 1869.
  • The first electromechanical vibrator, however, was patented by Joseph Mortimer Granville in the early 1880s.
  • Mechanical vibrators (at the time of their invention) were primarily developed for the treatment of muscle aches and related health ailments — not genital stimulation.
  • It is a well-known “fact” that vibrators were used in doctor’s offices to treat female hysteria — by deploying orgasms and therefore helping women to “settle down” in the process — however, this was not as widespread a practice as it is rumored to be.

The forefathers of the modern vibrator were invented in the late 1800s and as we discussed in another article, those devices were often frightening (if not at least a little amusing) to look at.

We’ll take a look at who really invented the vibrator (and why), and also consider whether Cleopatra actually could have had a hand in the vibrator’s invention.

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Who Invented The Vibrator

Who Invented The Vibrator?

Sex toys have been around for millennia and what we consider the first real electric vibrator can be attributed to Joseph Mortimer Granville (c. the early 1880s) but did someone beat him to the punch with a more primitive version?

Technically, yes.

Dr. George Taylor invented the first steam-powered vibrator in 1869 — a little more than a decade before Granville patented his electric version.

But why were vibrators originally invented?

The vibrator was actually intended to be a full-body massager capable of relieving sore and aching muscles, while also (supposedly) curing a variety of other health ailments.

The original version designed by Taylor was a steam-powered table, with the engine kept in another room.

The first electrical and hand-held vibrator, however, is much closer to modern massage guns and back massagers meant to relax muscles and relieve pain.

The most common belief about the vibrator’s invention is that it was meant to bring women to climax as part of the treatment for “hysteria.”

Hysteria is a (now) debunked medical condition attributed to women who were stressed, lethargic, or dared to speak an independent thought aloud.

Doctors would manually massage the clitoris to release a sexual blockage they believed existed — a process that sometimes took up to an hour to complete.

While rubbing one out does tend to relax people, the idea of being clinically fingered for around an hour sounds like it would have the opposite effect.

In truth, however, there is no proof that this practice was as widespread as rumor leads us to believe.

Even Granville himself said his invention should not be used to masturbate.

Eventually, electric vibrators were marketed to the public and made freely available for purchase and use at home.

As anyone who has ever been a teen left alone with a neck massager will tell you, it wouldn’t be long before women were finding more enjoyable ways to use Granville’s invention.

A vibrator, a hot cup of tea, and a snack. Sounds like a perfect Sunday afternoon.

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Did Cleopatra Really Invent A Vibrator

Did Cleopatra Really Use A Gourd Full Of Bees As A Vibrator?

No, at least there is no evidence that proves it.

It has been said that Egyptian queen Cleopatra used a hollow gourd filled with bees to please herself, with the buzzing bugs providing the vibration — although the legend sometimes claims that she used a papyrus box.

But did Cleopatra invent a vibrator?

Digging for the origin of this claim, the earliest mention of Cleopatra and her vibrating bees — anywhere — was in Brenda Love’s book, “The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices.” in 1992.

Cleopatra’s bees are a thing of myth — and an insane one, at that.

Aside from the terrifying concept of putting a swarm of angry bees between your legs, the logistics are mind-boggling.

Whose job was it to get them in there? Did Cleopatra fill the gourd herself, and how did she stay in the mood while scooping live bees into it?

The whole thing sounds horrifying, but if it were true, there’s something to be said for respecting the commitment.

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Conclusion

In Conclusion

Even though the buzz around Cleopatra inventing the vibrator is false, there is something to be said about the male-centric story surrounding what we think of as vibrators.

Doctors weren’t interested in liberating women or treating their sexual needs when the mechanic vibrator was invented in the 1800s.

Patriarchal society wanted women to stay in their place, and we are all grateful they didn’t.

The vibrator has come a long way over the past 150 years and thankfully bears little resemblance to its antique predecessors, but their history sheds a light that allows us to appreciate them — and all the pleasure they offer now.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Complete Guide To Vibrators and Everything Vibrators hub, in-depth and evolving resources that comprehensively explore all aspects of vibrators from the different types and how to use them, to materials and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

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