The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Scientists and Inventors of the past. Achievements of the 19th century

Category: Short stories

In various places of the world archaeologists find the traces of life of our distant ancestors—household articles and instruments of production. By these finds we learn how man, in the process of labour, created various tools and then perfected them. Throughout the whole history of the development of human society men always created new in­struments of production, used new materials and applied new methods of processing. That was what we call now the progress of technics.

In the process of labour man himself was constantly changing. Finally he understood that it would be easier and quicker for him to obtain what he needed if he first made a tool.

A powerful incentive to the material and technological progress was the discovery of fire which, in its turn lead to the discovery of metals. During the same period which lasted thousands of years, man created the first machines. They were very simple, but this was a great step forward.

The perfection of means of production made it pos­sible to produce more clothing and food than man needed. That was the beginning of the division into the poor and the rich because those in power appropriated the greater part of the produce.

In this way the foundations of a new social system, the slave-owning system, were beginning to appear. Brutal exploitation of millions of slaves brought a rapid accumula­tion of wealth and further development of technics.

It was during that period that the term technics first appeared. This Greek word meant art, skill, because the most important thing in the technics of that time was the individual skill of an artisan or a slave.

But technical devices played ever increasing role in the slave-owning society, and among them were the lever, the wheel and sails.

Feudalism was the age of a wider use of the energy of water and wind. However these sources of energy depended on the weather and season of the year. The main materials were, as before, stone, wood, brass, bronze, iron.

Quite new was steel—an alloy of iron and carbon. Men also learned how to produce such important materials as paper and glass. They invented gun-powder and fire-arms.

As centuries passed the medieval towns, where various handicrafts were rapidly developing, grew. The merchants who had grown rich organized military and trade expedi­tions to distant lands. The classes of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie were springing up. The bourgeoisie was inte­rested in the development of production and perfection of technics but this was hardly possible without science and all-round experimental study of nature.

So the age of great geographical discoveries and technic­al inventions came. It was during this era that the first capitalist enterprises, the manufactories appeared. Manufac­tories with their high productivity of labour and merciless exploitation of the workers influenced the development of technics greatly. They created the necessary prerequisites for the victory of machine production.

But machines had to be driven and therefore it was ne­cessary to find a new source of energy independent of place (the energy of flowing water) and weather (the energy of wind).

This particular kind of energy was found. It was the energy of steam. Many inventors of the 17th and 18th cen­turies worked to try to control steam until the steam pump and the atmospheric-steam engine were constructed. Then came the first universal steam engine without which further progress was impossible.

During the Industrial Revolution (the period between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century) the development of technics was much more rapid than it was before. The most important result of the Industrial Revolution was the appearance of engineering industry.

Hundreds of factories and plants worked at full speed, and the developing machine production required a mecha­nical transport instead of horses and slowly going sailing ships.

It was not long that a new kind of transport based on the universal steam engine appeared.

Science and technology made a great step forward in the 19th century when men learned how to produce a high- grade steel, many metals and alloys. In the 19th century, for example, aluminium, the metal of aviation, was created. Many years of research brought the first internal-combustion engine.

All these achievements of the 19th century were of great significance; yet the most important of them was electricity which has made our technics what it is today.

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