July 15, 1899
An Industrialized Nation
The Great Inventors of the 18th and 19th Century
There were many great inventors of the Industrial Revolution. None of their inventions would change the course of history more than the inventions from James Watt, Eli Whitney, Henry Bessemer, Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur. Their inventions mark the turning point in the markets and the life and health of people in the entire world.
James Watt invented the Watt Steam Engine. His engine was the corner stone to the Industrial Revolution. James Watt became interested in engines at the University of Glasgow. He made significant improvements to the Newcomen Steam Engine. Watt noticed that the engine wasted a great deal of energy. His new engine was used in factories to power machines and mines. The Watt Steam Engine led to more inventions like steamships and steam locomotives.
Eli Whitney invented a mechanical device that removes cotton seeds from the cotton, a process that had been previously extremely labor intensive. The Cotton Gin was revolutionary in design because it used a brush-like component instrumental in separating the seeds and cotton. A single Cotton Gin could generate up to 55 pounds of cleaned cotton daily. The Cotton Gin was the source of economic development in the southern states in America, roughly 2/3 of the worlds market. As a result this created a strong demand in Britain for textile machines and improved machine designs that replaced wooden parts with metal ones. This led to the invention of many machine tools.
Henry Bessemer invented the Bessemer Process. This process lowered the cost of steel production. The key principal to the process is the removal of impurities from the iron thus creating new steel. This steel increased hardness while reducing the effects of metal fatigue. There have been many cast iron bridge collapses. The demand for the steel was so great that Bessemer was unable to keep up. Competition finally became effective and Bessemer received millions in royalties.
Edward Anthony Jenner created the first vaccine for smallpox. Edward Jenner noticed that the initial source of the infection was from a disease called “The Grease”, in horses. It was transferred to cattle by farm workers and it transformed into cowpox. It manifested in humans as smallpox. Henry Bessemer has been called, “the father if immunology” and his work is said to have, “saved more lives than the work of any other man”.
Then there is Louis Pasteur. He was another great microbiologist who has reduced the mortality from puerperal fever and invented vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His medical discoveries provide direct support for the Germ Theory of Disease. He made remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of disease. His discoveries have saved countless lives.
Although I have never met these great men, I have certainly benefited from their inventions. I have worn cotton shirts from which the cotton was separated with the cotton gin. I have had the smallpox vaccine and have read articles about the spread of disease. I have also used machines powered by the Watt Steam engine and walked over the bridges that have Bessemer steel. The world has been forever changed.
William Gause, 1899
A Changed World
Those inventions have forever changed the way people do things. These changes were both positive and negative. Although Britain has emerged as a powerful nation, I wonder about the price other nations and the people have paid. There have been far reaching consequences for the rest of the world.
With the invention of the steam engine and the construction of factories people began to move to the cities to work in the factories. The workers were paid low wages. Many families had to live together because they could not afford city life. As a result woman and children went to work (75% of the early workers were woman and children). Since there was no government regulations imposed on factory policies. Owners were able to pursue a path which was most profitable regardless of the safety and well being of others. The children were often beaten, forced to work long hours and placed in dangerous situations. They never saw their parents and there was a breakdown of the family unit. As a result of the poor treatment of workers, they began to have riots and there was also some destruction of the machines and the mills. For the first time people became interested in politics, demanding better working conditions and less corruption in government. They formed labor unions. The unions spoke for all the workers in a particular trade. The unions engaged in collective bargaining, negotiation between workers and their employers. Government eventually had to intervene in order to put an end to child labor and other unacceptable practices. People no longer would settle for the treatment they once accepted. In the cities were industries built factories, pollution filled the air. To keep up with demand, Nations began to seek after the resources for their industries back home. They also needed new markets to sell products to because of new competition from other major powers. With the invention of the cotton gin, cotton plantations were able to produce more cotton. At the time 2/3 of the world’s cotton came from the southern states of America. Slave trade rose considerably with the increased cotton production and would eventually lead to civil war in America. With the advancements in weapons and railroads Colonial Nations began the conquest of Africa and Asia. Europeans wanted to divide these areas without the input of the native people. Their conquests were fast and brutal. They oppressed, abused and killed millions of people in those areas.
The other inventions did not have the impact as the other two. They saved lives rather than creating moral and social issues. The Bessemer process created stronger steel for the bridges and railways. People were able to move across their counties and it allowed for products and goods to reach people faster. Large buildings were erected in the great cities and the economies flourished. People’s lives began to change as their wages increased. The invention of the vaccines helped to save lives. People began to understand how diseases were spread and there was much advancement in medicine.
We have yet to see the full impact of our desire to invent and to want more in life. Britain has not suffered the consequences our conquests of other nations. Will the future continue to hold no bounds.