Scientific Inventions of the 19th Century
Running Head: SCIENTIFIC INVENTIONS OF THE 19TH CENTURY 1
ScientificInventions of the 19th Century
Scienceis a process of discovery. It is a way of building knowledge aboutour surroundings and the universe. It helps us understand and exploitthe world around us for our own benefits. It requires the developmentof ideas and testing those ideas through practical means. Scientificinventions, helps us improve our lives. For example, the invention ofthe electric bulb enabled us to see at night as if it were daytime,we are no longer restricted to working only during the day, but alsoduring the night.
Withthe invention of the telegraph, we could easily communicate over longdistances. The locomotives enabled us to transport goods and servicesover long distances and enhanced business activities. It goes withoutsaying that science is the means by which we get what we need fromnature. The following gallery will showcase some of the scientificinventions that were made in the 19th century and earlier. Some ofthem are quite amazing (Peter Bowler & Iwan Morus, 2005).
Mostof these discoveries and inventions were related in one way oranother. For example, the Stephenson’s rocket, and the BenzPatent-Motorwagen are related because they are for locomotion andsolve the problem of transport. The Antikythera mechanism, Apple 1,and the Nebra Sky Disk are all used for calculations for solvinganalytical problems. While the telegraph, electric bulb, and theBaghdad battery, make use of the discovery of electricity. The cottonGin is used for making work easier, especially when harvestingcotton, while the Roman Dodecahedrons could have been used tocalculate harvesting times based on celestial calculations. All theseinventions are connected in a way, to solve our problems.
The electric bulb
The Nebra Sky Disk
Arrangementof the artefacts at the exhibition
The Antikythera mechanism
The Baghdad battery
The cotton Gin
Figure1. The Art Gallery
Thefollowing is an in-depth discussion about each of the artifacts.
Thiswas the world’s first steam locomotive, which was constructed byGeorge Stephenson as the chief engineer. Until the invention of thediesel locomotives, Stephenson’s rocket was the standard design forwhich future locomotives were built. This locomotive was not built inAmerica, but in England by George and Robert Stephenson’sFather-and-son business, in 1829. It was primarily for the new linesthat were being built in the United States. The locomotive was aspecial design compared to the rest since it had horizontal pistonsand multiple flues.
Duringlocomotive trials in 1829, of the three locomotives that entered thecompetition, Stephenson’s Rocket emerged the winner. It was ableto cover 35 miles in just 3 hours and 12 minutes, carrying 13 tons ofwagons and clocked a speed of 12 mph. when not loaded, it clocked aspeed of 29 mph. All the three judges present at the exhibitionvoted for it. It was awarded first place. After its triumphant win,the Stephenson Company was contracted to produce the locomotive forthe Liverpool to Manchester line (Cooksey, 2004a, p. 50).Figure2.Stephenson’s Rocket. Source (Cooksey,2004, p.52)
Thiswas the first Apple computer, developed by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak,and Ron Wayne. The amazing thing about this gadget is that it was notdeveloped in a lab or a garage, but in Steve Wozniak’s bedroom inLos Altos Crist Drive. The printed circuit board was developed bySteve Wozniak, while the operational manual written by Ron Wayne.Steve Jobs advertised the product to family and friends. When theypresented the computer at a Homebrew computer club in 1976, the ownerof Byte Shop (the only computer shop at that time), offered topurchase 50 Apple 1 at a cost of $500 each.
Thecomputer was just a bare circuit board and was mostly meant for thehobbyist that would add keyboards and displays. The computer had thefollowing specifications:
Processor:1.023 MHz MOS technology processor
Memory: 4k RAM (which can be expandable to 8 and with a clever hack, to 65k)
Ports:supports any ASC11 keyboard and any monitor
Display:supports up to 40 characters per line, with a frame rate of about60.05 Hz
Oneinteresting fact about Apple 1 is that Steve Jobs had priced it at$777.77. Since the price seemed to be too high, he reduced it to$666.66 (the mark of Satan), when asked why he chose that number, hesimply said that he removed one from the original price.
Figure3. Apple 1. Source (“AppleI,”)
Thiswas the first car to have ever been built. It was built in 1885 andwas designed to be propelled by a motor. The car was made in MannheimGermany by Rheinishe Gasmotorenfabrik Benz. Benz after being granteda patent for his invention, unveiled the automobile in 3rd July 1886.The car had three wheels and the engine was mounted on the back. Itwas constructed with steel tubing combined with wooden panels.
Anotherinteresting design about the car is that it had steel-spiked wheelswith rubber tires. The steering consisted of a toothed rack that wasused to pivot the unsprang from the wheel. The speed transmission wasvia a simple belt. The engine was a 954 cc four-strokesingle-cylinder engine, which produced 0.5 kW at 250 rotations perminute (rpm). This was a powerful, and classic automotive (Adrianabrains, 1992, p. 90). The elegant design made it one of a kind, and amust-have jewel for the rich and wealthy of that time.
Figure4. Benz Patent-Motorwagen source (Adrianabrains, 1992)
TheNebra Sky Disk
Thiswas a bronze disc, which was discovered in Germany at Saxon-Anhalt,buried in a prehistoric site enclosed on a hill. It was discoveredburied along with two axes, a bronze chisel, and two precious swords.The disc weighs approximately 2.2 kilograms and is 30 cm wide. It isdecorated with gold symbols of the sun, the moon, and the stars, in ablue-green plate. The symbols can be interpreted as a full moon, thesun, lunar crescent and a star cluster called Pleiades.
Thetwo golden arcs on the sides of the disk are at an angle of 82degrees, which indicates the angle between the position of the sunsetin summer and its position in winter solstice is at 51 degrees northin Mittelberg. The arch at the bottom of the plate can be interpretedas the Milky Way. This artifact shows that people had started thescientific study of the skies (Sun, stars and the moon) a long timeago. This disc is the oldest portable instrument that was used tomark the solstices (AprilHolloway, 2014).
Figure5. TheNebra Sky Disc. Source (AprilHolloway, 2014)
Thisinvention was capable of producing twenty bales of cotton. It pickedmore cotton compared to slaves that it made slavery to beeconomically unviable. It is credited as one of the machines thatreduced slave trade. The first cotton gin was made of one roller anda flat hard surface and was used to separate the cotton fiber and theseed. During the early 20thcentury, the one roller gin was replaced with a two roller gin inChinese and Indian markets (Lakwete, 2005).
Fig6. Thecotton Gin. Source (Danelek,2010)
Theelectric bulb was developed by Edison in 1878. Before his invention,people were using gaslight. With financial assistance from Vanderbiltfamily and J.P Morgan, he set up Edison electrical light company,which was basically meant to research and develop the light bulb.This happened in 1879. The first bulb used a platinum filament, whichmade it long-lasting and affordable. By 1881, he had set up a companyin Newark for producing electric light bulbs.
Thesebulbs were so popular that they were showcased and used for bigevents such the Paris Lighting Exhibition. What is amazing about thehistory of the light bulb is that Edison took hundreds of ours toperfect it, and stayed awake the whole 40 hours the bulb worked.However, it was not Edission only who invented the light bulb, therewere other competitors from Russia, Canada, America, and French.These bulbs came with all manner of filaments, from carbon, iridiumand platinum, to platinum. However, it was Edison who took credit forthe invention since he was the one who patented it first (Levi, 2003,p. 37)
Figure7. ElectricBulb.Source (Danelek,2010)
Thetelegraph was developed in 1837 by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail, inthe United States of America. This was a communication gadget and issaid to have been used by the president of the United States(President Abraham Lincoln) to get information on the outcome of thebattle of Gettysburg within hours after the war was over. And wasused for communication in the white House within minutes. It was animportant instrument of communication especially in times of war.Before the telegraph, people used to communicate by sendingmessengers or using smoke and fire signals.
Theinvention of the telegraph made long distance communication easysince it used electrical signals sent through a conducting wirebetween two stations. After developing the telegraph, Samuel Morsedeveloped the Morse code, which matched every alphabetical letter toa set of dashes and dots. This allowed for simple transmission ofcomplex messages over a great distance on the telegraph lines (Coe,2003).
Fig8. The telegraph. Source (Danelek,2010b)
Thisis a device that was found in the Roman Empire. It was scattered allover the empire, about a hundred of them were discovered and all wereidentical. Each one of them had a hollow bronze or stone, about 12-4cm in diameter, and with 12 flat sides. Each of the sides had a holeand small balls sticking out from all the corners. They were calleddodecahedrons, and some scientist think they were used for measuringthe best time for sowing while some think that they were used forastronomical purposes. Irrespective of what they were, they are aform of scientific artifact that depicts how people in the early agesattempted to measure and predict their environmental variables for aprosperous future (LeClaire, 2014).
Figure 9. RomanDodecahedrons. Source (Danelek, 2010)
Thiswas the first mechanical computer. It was discovered in a shipwreckin Antikythera in Greek. It was buried under water at a depth of 45meters. This gadget was designed for calculating astronomicalpositions. It is basically made up of a complex gear of wheelsassembled in a box and with dials on the outside. It is a perfectexample of the level of expertise of Greek engineering. It is awonder how the Greeks did it without technological advancements. Whatis amazing about it is the level of accuracy to which it calculatesastronomical movements.
Itis hypothesized that Hipparchus might have been the one who designedit. This is because he was an ancient astronomer around 190BCE. Hewas also the first person to speculate about the rotation of theearth round the sun (Kristina Killgrove, 2016).
Figure10. The Antikythera mechanism. Source (Kristina Killgrove, 2016).
Thisis a device that consists of a 5.5-inch clay vessel, looking like aflower vase. On the inside, it consists of a copper cylindersupported by asphalt. Within the copper cylinder, there is anoxidized iron rod. Most scientist, include Wilhelm Kong who was thedirector of Iraq’s National museum, thought the battery could havebeen used for electroplating gold onto silver items. The battery onlyneeded to be filled with an alkaline or acid to produce electricity.However, some archeologist believe that it was used as a storagevessel and not a battery (Haughton, 2006, p. 132)
Figure11. The Baghdad battery. Source (Kristina Killgrove, 2016)
Thesescientific artifacts show how inventive our human mind is, that wecan make very impressive gadgets to help us solve our problems suchas picking cotton, communicating over long distances, and movinggoods and people over long distances. Science has enabled us to dowhat other animals will never be able to do—dominate the planet. Wehave been able to come up with vaccines for diseases such aspenicillin, malaria, polio etc. Scientific findings open our eyes tocountless opportunities and resource at our disposal. Just imaginewhat the world would be like without electricity.
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