Saturday, July 7, 2012

Things I Find Fascinating: 10 Major Historical Inventions And How They Came Into Existence

1)  CAST IRON:  Invented in China in the 6th century BC, cast iron was poured into molds to make ploughshares and pots as well as weapons and pagodas. Cast iron is now commonly used to make engine cylinder blocks, flywheels, gears, axle bearings, track wheels, crankshafts, camshafts, and cookware, to name a few.

2)  WHEELBARROW:  Invented by the ancient Greeks in the early around 400 BC, the one-wheeler (as it was then called) was used to carry light loads from one place to another. Twelve centuries later, the wheelbarrow came into popular use in Europe, more commonly used for farming and gardening.

3)  PAPER:  Paper, and the pulp-making process, was said to be developed in China during the early 2nd century AD by the Han court eunuch Cai Lun, although the earliest archaeological fragments of paper derive from the 2nd century BC in China. Today, the need for paper is quickly diminishing due to the preeminence of the Digital Age. Paper has, however, proved to be a crucial invention for hundreds of years, and will probably, in some form or another, continue to be for much longer. (I hope, at least.)

4)  GUNPOWDER:  Gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality. Ironically, they instead discovered an "elixir" which would create greater instances of mortality than any other natural means in the hundreds of years to come, even till today.

5)  EYEGLASSES:  The first eyeglasses were made in Italy around the year 1286. Earlier inventions, such as the magnifying glass, led to the use of convex lenses to correct poor vision. Despite the hundreds-years-later invention of contact lenses, eyeglasses continue to be widely used among the populace. Incidentally, non-corrective sunglasses were invented by the Chinese about a hundred years earlier. Around the same time, Inuits also had their own version of goggles to protect against snow blindness.

6)  PRINTING PRESS:  Another invention whose use these days has now become almost unnecessary is the printing press. Invented in 1440 by German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg, the printing press soon led to the mass production of mechanized bookmaking. A single Renaissance Era printing press could produce 3,600 pages per workday, compared to 40 pages per day by the previously used system, typographic hand-printing.

7)  PARACHUTE:  The oldest parachute design appears in an anonymous manuscript from 1470s Renaissance Italy, showing a free-hanging man clutching a cross-bar frame attached to a conical canopy. Appropriately enough, the French word "parachute" means to "protect from a fall."

8)  STEAM LOCOMOTIVE:  The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive was built by Richard Trevithick in the United Kingdom in 1804. Trevithick's design incorporated a number of important innovations that included using high-pressure steam which reduced the weight of the engine and increased its efficiency. Railway steam locomotives quickly became the preferred method of travel for long distances, as well as the ideal way to transport goods from one place to another.

9)  INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB:  The electric light bulb was first patented in England in 1878 by Joseph Swan after having experimented with it since 1850. Thomas Edison worked on improving the bulb patented by Swan and was granted a U.S. patent in 1879. Historians can actually point to 22 other inventors who invented earlier versions of incandescent lamps before Swan or Edison. However, it was Edison's version that outlasted the others, due to three important factors: 1) An effective incandescent material; 2) A higher vacuum than others had been able to achieve; and 3)
 A high resistance that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable.

10)  WORLD WIDE WEB:  The World Wide Web, a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet, was first proposed in March 1989 by English engineer and computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The project was publicly introduced in December 1990. The rest, as they say, is history....

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