Locksmithing is probably one of the most ancient professions known to man. The fact that the first lock was introduced 4000 years ago in Egypt clearly proves that people always had the need to protect their homes. There was just the matter of who will provide them with the means to do it.
First locks were made of wood and the first key-based lock was made in Assyria. The fact that it uses the same pin tumbler mechanism like a lot of modern locks today shows that this profession, no mater how much it evolved during the time, still retained much of its roots.
It wasn’t until the Romans created the first metal locks that there was much need for true locksmiths, however. With this, people were rapidly figuring out how much their lives would be safer if only they had a good lock on their door and so, the need for locksmith’s services grew and grew. Roman locksmiths can be credited for much more, starting with the design of smaller keys (earlier civilizations used larger keys), first padlocks and also introduced warded locks. From that point, the warded lock was the standard up until the 17th century.
In the middle ages European progress halted. With this halted the locksmith profession as well. In another part of the world, China to be precise, locksmith profession thrived however. They were able to invent the combination lock. It is a lock which does not require a key for opening but a right alignment of various symbols (letters, numbers, etc) on a dial. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the European locksmiths developed their version of a combination lock. It was in Germany.
In the 18th century, a locksmith from England named Joseph Bramah created the first mass-produced locking mechanism which required a key.
Two man from the 19th century, father and son, Linus Yale and Linus Yale Jr., designed and created the lock with a cylindrical plug, that has pin tumblers that were aligned in a row along the turning axis. These two can also be credited for creating the first serrated key, much like what we normally use today. The first locks were still not secure enough, even though they needed a key. The problem was that any key could open any lock. It was Jeremiah Chubb, who patented a “detector lock” in 1818. This was the first lock that could be opened only with its own key.
Today, security measures are increasing rapidly. This often meant that the standard, mechanical locks are not enough. That is why electrical locks were introduced. First electrical locks were used by companies and financial institutions, but they gradually found their way into our homes as well. They can be electromagnetic, with a motor, electric latch release or electric cylindrical locks.
As you see, locksmithing evolved much from its early beginnings as a result of heightened need for security, however, it stayed very close to its origins.