Kinetic art combines art, engineering and mathematics - I am not sure which of these three components comes first. And there are not only these three - creativity in finding ways to express ideas, making parts... Leonardo da Vinci was reading ancient texts and then sketching ideas of those machines which led him to add his own fantasies. Was he thinking only about practical uses of his machines? Perhaps not, because many ideas we now find in his Notebooks are way ahead of its time. Was he the first kinetic artist?
Art historians are calling Marcel Duchamp to be the first for his Bicycle Wheel in 1913. From MOMA description:
"Bicycle Wheel is Duchamp's first Readymade—class of objects he invented to challenge assumptions about what constitutes a work of art. Here Duchamp chose two mass-produced parts—a bicycle wheel and a kitchen stool—and put them together in an assemblage, creating a sort of nonfunctional machine."
KMODDL. When I found the video about Reuben Margolin making wave sculptures, I remembered my writing on history of linkages which now I wish I could re-do. (I guess I should put it on my "to do" list.)
This is really fascinating. When you watch it, do not miss fast paced place when he does calculations! :-)
It prompted me to find some more kinetic sculptures - like this one in BMW museum:
Joe Gilbertson Kinetic Sculpture:
Teo Jansen and kinetic sculptures:
Arthur Ganson has several videos on his page.
Here are more links to kinetic sculptures, and of course you can search for more.