The history of technology is the history of the invention of tools and techniques and is one of the categories of the history of humanity. Technology can refer to methods ranging from as simple as stone tools to the complex genetic engineering and information technology that has emerged since the 1980s. The term technology comes from the Greek word techne, meaning art and craft, and the word logos, meaning word and speech. It was first used to describe applied arts, but it is now used to described advancements and changes which affect the environment around us.
New knowledge has enabled people to create new things, and conversely, many scientific endeavors are made possible by technologies which assist humans in traveling to places they could not previously reach, and by scientific instruments by which we study nature in more detail than our natural senses allow.
Since much of technology is applied science, technical history is connected to the history of science. Since technology uses resources, technical history is tightly connected to economic history. From those resources, technology produces other resources, including technological artifacts used in everyday life.
Many sociologists and anthropologists have created social theories dealing with social and cultural evolution. Some, like Lewis H. Morgan, Leslie White, and Gerhard Lenski have declared technological progress to be the primary factor driving the development of human civilization. Morgan's concept of three major stages of social evolution (savagery, barbarism, and civilization) can be divided by technological milestones, such as fire. White argued the measure by which to judge the evolution of culture was energy.
For White, "the primary function of culture" is to "harness and control energy." White differentiates between five stages of human development: In the first, people use the energy of their own muscles. In the second, they use the energy of domesticated animals. In the third, they use the energy of plants (agricultural revolution). In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas. In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy. White introduced a formula P=E*T, where E is a measure of energy consumed, and T is the measure of the efficiency of technical factors using the energy. In his own words, "culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased". Nikolai Kardashev extrapolated his theory, creating the Kardashev scale, which categorizes the energy use of advanced civilizations.
Lenski's approach focuses on information. The more information and knowledge (especially allowing the shaping of natural environment) a given society has, the more advanced it is. He identifies four stages of human development, based on advances in the history of communication. In the first stage, information is passed by genes. In the second, when humans gain sentience, they can learn and pass information through experience. In the third, the humans start using signs and develop logic. In the fourth, they can create symbols, develop language and writing. Advancements in communications technology translate into advancements in the economic system and political system, distribution of wealth, social inequality and other spheres of social life. He also differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication, and economy:
In economics, productivity is a measure of technological progress. Productivity increases when fewer inputs (classically labor and capital but some measures include energy and materials) are used in the production of a unit of output. Another indicator of technological progress is the development of new products and services, which is necessary to offset unemployment that would otherwise result as labor inputs are reduced. In developed countries productivity growth has been slowing since the late 1970s; however, productivity growth was higher in some economic sectors, such as manufacturing. For example, employment in manufacturing in the United States declined from over 30% in the 1940s to just over 10% 70 years later. Similar changes occurred in other developed countries. This stage is referred to as post-industrial.
In the late 1970s sociologists and anthropologists like Alvin Toffler (author of Future Shock), Daniel Bell and John Naisbitt have approached the theories of post-industrial societies, arguing that the current era of industrial society is coming to an end, and services and information are becoming more important than industry and goods. Some extreme visions of the post-industrial society, especially in fiction, are strikingly similar to the visions of near and post-Singularity societies.
The following is a summary of the history of technology by time period and geography:
During most of the Paleolithic – the bulk of the Stone Age – all humans had a lifestyle which involved limited tools and few permanent settlements. The first major technologies were tied to survival, hunting, and food preparation. Stone tools and weapons, fire, and clothing were technological developments of major importance during this period.
Human ancestors have been using stone and other tools since long before the emergence of Homo sapiens approximately 200,000 years ago. The earliest methods of stone tool making, known as the Oldowan "industry", date back to at least 2.3 million years ago, with the earliest direct evidence of tool usage found in Ethiopia within the Great Rift Valley, dating back to 2.5 million years ago. This era of stone tool use is called the Paleolithic, or "Old stone age", and spans all of human history up to the development of agriculture approximately 12,000 years ago.
To make a stone tool, a "core" of hard stone with specific flaking properties (such as flint) was struck with a hammerstone. This flaking produced sharp edges which could be used as tools, primarily in the form of choppers or scrapers. These tools greatly aided the early humans in their hunter-gatherer lifestyle to perform a variety of tasks including butchering carcasses (and breaking bones to get at the marrow); chopping wood; cracking open nuts; skinning an animal for its hide, and even forming other tools out of softer materials such as bone and wood.
The earliest stone tools were irrelevant, being little more than a fractured rock. In the Acheulian era, beginning approximately 1.65 million years ago, methods of working these stone into specific shapes, such as hand axes emerged. This early Stone Age is described as the Lower Paleolithic.
The Middle Paleolithic, approximately 300,000 years ago, saw the introduction of the prepared-core technique, where multiple blades could be rapidly formed from a single core stone. The Upper Paleolithic, beginning approximately 40,000 years ago, saw the introduction of pressure flaking, where a wood, bone, or antler punch could be used to shape a stone very finely.
The end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago is taken as the end point of the Upper Paleolithic and the beginning of the Epipaleolithic / Mesolithic. The Mesolithic technology included the use of microliths as composite stone tools, along with wood, bone, and antler tools.
The later Stone Age, during which the rudiments of agricultural technology were developed, is called the Neolithic period. During this period, polished stone tools were made from a variety of hard rocks such as flint, jade, jadeite, and greenstone, largely by working exposures as quarries, but later the valuable rocks were pursued by tunneling underground, the first steps in mining technology. The polished axes were used for forest clearance and the establishment of crop farming and were so effective as to remain in use when bronze and iron appeared. These stone axes were used alongside a continued use of stone tools such as a range of projectiles, knives, and scrapers, as well as tools, made organic materials such as wood, bone, and antler.
Stone Age cultures developed music and engaged in organized warfare. Stone Age humans developed ocean-worthy outrigger canoe technology, leading to migration across the Malay archipelago, across the Indian Ocean to Madagascar and also across the Pacific Ocean, which required knowledge of the ocean currents, weather patterns, sailing, and celestial navigation.
Although Paleolithic cultures left no written records, the shift from nomadic life to settlement and agriculture can be inferred from a range of archaeological evidence. Such evidence includes ancient tools, cave paintings, and other prehistoric art, such as the Venus of Willendorf. Human remains also provide direct evidence, both through the examination of bones, and the study of mummies. Scientists and historians have been able to form significant inferences about the lifestyle and culture of various prehistoric peoples, and especially their technology.
Metallic copper occurs on the surface of weathered copper ore deposits and copper was used before copper smelting was known. Copper smelting is believed to have originated when the technology of pottery kilns allowed sufficiently high temperatures. The concentration of various elements such as arsenic increase with depth in copper ore deposits and smelting of these ores yields arsenical bronze, which can be sufficiently work hardened to be suitable for making tools. Bronze is an alloy of copper with tin; the latter being found in relatively few deposits globally caused a long time to elapse before true tin bronze to became widespread. (See: Tin sources and trade in ancient times) Bronze was a major advance over stone as a material for making tools, both because of its mechanical properties like strength and ductility and because it could be cast in molds to make intricately shaped objects.
Bronze significantly advanced shipbuilding technology with better tools and bronze nails. Bronze nails replaced the old method of attaching boards of the hull with cord woven through drilled holes. Better ships enabled long distance trade and the advance of civilization.
This technological trend apparently began in the Fertile Crescent and spread outward over time. These developments were not, and still are not, universal. The three-age system does not accurately describe the technology history of groups outside of Eurasia, and does not apply at all in the case of some isolated populations, such as the Spinifex People, the Sentinelese, and various Amazonian tribes, which still make use of Stone Age technology, and have not developed agricultural or metal technology.
Before iron smelting was developed the only iron was obtained from meteorites and is usually identified by having nickel content. Meteoric iron was rare and valuable, but was sometimes used to make tools and other implements, such as fish hooks.
The Iron age involved the adoption of iron smelting technology. It generally replaced bronze and made it possible to produce tools which were stronger, lighter and cheaper to make than bronze equivalents. The raw materials to make iron, such as ore and limestone, are far more abundant than copper and especially tin ores. Consequently, iron was produced in many areas.
It was not possible to mass manufacture steel or pure iron because of the high temperatures required. Furnaces could reach melting temperature but the crucibles and molds needed for melting and casting had not been developed. Steel could be produced by forging bloomery iron to reduce the carbon content in a somewhat controllable way, but steel produced by this method was not homogeneous.
In many Eurasian cultures, the Iron Age was the last major step before the development of written language, though again this was not universally the case.
In Europe, large hill forts were built either as a refuge in time of war or sometimes as permanent settlements. In some cases, existing forts from the Bronze Age were expanded and enlarged. The pace of land clearance using the more effective iron axes increased, providing more farmland to support the growing population.
The Egyptians invented and used many simple machines, such as the ramp to aid construction processes. Egyptian society made significant advances during dynastic periods in areas such as astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. They also made writing medium similar to paper from papyrus. Egyptian stone masons used yet unknown methods to cut stone for building monuments. The Egyptians also built ships. Astronomy was used by Egyptian leaders to govern people.
The Indus Valley Civilization, situated in a resource-rich area, is notable for its early application of city planning and sanitation technologies. Indus Valley construction and architecture, called 'Vaastu Shastra', suggests a thorough understanding of materials engineering, hydrology, and sanitation.
The peoples of Mesopotamia (Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians) have been credited with the invention of the wheel, but this is no longer certain. They lived in cities from c. 4000 BC, and developed a sophisticated architecture in mud-brick and stone, including the use of the true arch. The walls of Babylon were so massive they were quoted as a Wonder of the World. They developed extensive water systems; canals for transport and irrigation in the alluvial south, and catchment systems stretching for tens of kilometers in the hilly north. Their palaces had sophisticated drainage systems.
Writing was invented in Mesopotamia, using the cuneiform script. Many records on clay tablets and stone inscriptions have survived. These civilizations were early adopters of bronze technologies which they used for tools, weapons and monumental statuary. By 1200 BC they could cast objects 5 m long in a single piece. The Assyrian King Sennacherib (704–681 BC) claims to have invented automatic sluices and to have been the first to use water screws, of up to 30 tons weight, which were cast using two-part clay molds rather than by the 'lost wax' process. The Jerwan Aqueduct (c. 688 BC) is made with stone arches and lined with waterproof concrete.
The Chinese made many first-known discoveries and developments. Major technological contributions from China include early seismological detectors, matches, paper, Helicopter rotor, Raised-relief map, the double-action piston pump, cast iron, water powered blast furnace bellows, the iron plough, the multi-tube seed drill, the wheelbarrow, the parachute, the compass, the rudder, the crossbow, the South Pointing Chariot and gunpowder. China also developed deep well drilling, which they used to extract brine for making salt. Some of these wells, which were as deep as 900 meters, produced natural gas which was used for evaporating brine.
Other Chinese discoveries and inventions from the Medieval period include block printing, movable type printing, phosphorescent paint, endless power chain drive and the clock escapement mechanism. The solid-fuel rocket was invented in China about 1150, nearly 200 years after the invention of gunpowder (which acted as the rocket's fuel). Decades before the West's age of exploration, the Chinese emperors of the Ming Dynasty also sent large fleets on maritime voyages, some reaching Africa.
Greek and Hellenistic engineers were responsible for many inventions and improvements to existing technology. The Hellenistic period, in particular, saw a sharp increase in technological advancement, fostered by a climate of openness to new ideas, the blossoming of a mechanistic philosophy, and the establishment of the Library of Alexandria and its close association with the adjacent museion. In contrast to the typically anonymous inventors of earlier ages, ingenious minds such as Archimedes, Philo of Byzantium, Heron, Ctesibius, and Archytas remain known by name to posterity.
Ancient Greek innovations were particularly pronounced in mechanical technology, including the ground-breaking invention of the watermill which constituted the first human-devised motive force not to rely on muscle power (besides the sail). Apart from their pioneering use of waterpower, Greek inventors were also the first to experiment with wind power (see Heron's windwheel) and even created the earliest steam engine (the aeolipile), opening up entirely new possibilities in harnessing natural forces whose full potential would not be exploited until the Industrial Revolution. The newly devised right-angled gear and screw would become particularly important to the operation of mechanical devices. That is when the age of mechanical devices started.
Ancient agriculture, as in any period prior to the modern age the primary mode of production and subsistence, and its irrigation methods, were considerably advanced by the invention and widespread application of a number of previously unknown water-lifting devices, such as the vertical water-wheel, the compartmented wheel, the water turbine, Archimedes' screw, the bucket-chain and pot-garland, the force pump, the suction pump, the double-action piston pump and quite possibly the chain pump.
In music, the water organ, invented by Ctesibius and subsequently improved, constituted the earliest instance of a keyboard instrument. In time-keeping, the introduction of the inflow clepsydra and its mechanization by the dial and pointer, the application of a feedback system and the escapement mechanism far superseded the earlier outflow clepsydra.
Greek engineers were also the first to devise automata such as vending machines, suspended ink pots, automatic washstands, and doors, primarily as toys, which however featured many new useful mechanisms such as the cam and gimbals.
In other fields, ancient Greek inventions include the catapult and the gastraphetes crossbow in warfare, hollow bronze-casting in metallurgy, the dioptra for surveying, in infrastructure the lighthouse, central heating, the tunnel excavated from both ends by scientific calculations, the ship trackway, and plumbing. In horizontal, vertical and transport, great progress resulted from the invention of the crane, the winch and the odometer.
The Romans developed an intensive and sophisticated agriculture, expanded upon existing iron working technology, created laws providing for individual ownership, advanced stone masonry technology, advanced road-building (exceeded only in the 19th century), military engineering, civil engineering, spinning and weaving and several different machines like the Gallic reaper that helped to increase productivity in many sectors of the Roman economy. Roman engineers were the first to build monumental arches, amphitheatres, aqueducts, public baths, true arch bridges, harbours, reservoirs and dams, vaults and domes on a very large scale across their Empire. Notable Roman inventions include the book (Codex), glass blowing and concrete. Because Rome was located on a volcanic peninsula, with sand which contained suitable crystalline grains, the concrete which the Romans formulated was especially durable. Some of their buildings have lasted 2000 years, to the present day.
The engineering skills of the Inca and Maya were great, even by today's standards. An example of this exceptional engineering is the use of pieces weighing upwards of one ton in their stonework placed together so that not even a blade can fit into the cracks. Inca villages used irrigation canals and drainage systems, making agriculture very efficient. While some claim that the Incas were the first inventors of hydroponics, their agricultural technology was still soil based, if advanced.
Though the Maya civilization did not incorporate metallurgy or wheel technology in their architectural constructions, they developed complex writing and astronomical systems, and created beautiful sculptural works in stone and flint. Like the Inca, the Maya also had command of fairly advanced agricultural and construction technology. The Maya are also responsible for creating the first pressurized water system in Mesoamerica, located in the Maya site of Palenque.
The main contribution of the Aztec rule was a system of communications between the conquered cities and the ubiquity of the ingenious agricultural technology of chinampas. In Mesoamerica, without draft animals for transport (nor, as a result, wheeled vehicles), the roads were designed for travel on foot, just as in the Inca and Mayan civilizations. The Aztec, subsequently to the Maya, inherited many of the technologies and intellectual advancements of their predecessors: the Olmec (see Native American inventions and innovations).
One of the most significant development of the Medieval era was the development of economies where water and wind power were more significant than animal and human muscle power.:38 Most water and wind power was used for milling grain. Water power was also used for blowing air in blast furnace, pulping rags for paper making and for felting wool. The Domesday Book recorded 5,624 water mills in Great Britain in 1086, being about one per thirty families.
As earlier empires had done, the Muslim caliphates united in trade large areas that had previously traded little. The conquered sometimes paid lower taxes than in their earlier independence, and ideas spread even more easily than goods. Peace was more frequent than it had been. These conditions fostered improvements in agriculture and other technology as well as in sciences which largely adapted from earlier Greek, Roman and Persian empires, with improvements.
While medieval technology has been long depicted as a step backwards in the evolution of Western technology, sometimes willfully so by modern authors intent on denouncing the church as antagonistic to scientific progress (see e.g. Myth of the Flat Earth), a generation of medievalists around the American historian of science Lynn White stressed from the 1940s onwards the innovative character of many medieval techniques. Genuine medieval contributions include for example mechanical clocks, spectacles and vertical windmills. Medieval ingenuity was also displayed in the invention of seemingly inconspicuous items like the watermark or the functional button. In navigation, the foundation to the subsequent age of exploration was laid by the introduction of pintle-and-gudgeon rudders, lateen sails, the dry compass, the horseshoe and the astrolabe.
Significant advances were also made in military technology with the development of plate armour, steel crossbows and cannon. The Middle Ages are perhaps best known for their architectural heritage: While the invention of the rib vault and pointed arch gave rise to the high rising Gothic style, the ubiquitous medieval fortifications gave the era the almost proverbial title of the 'age of castles'.
Papermaking, a 2nd-century Chinese technology, was carried to the Middle East when a group of Chinese papermakers were captured in the 8th century. Papermaking technology was spread to Europe by the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. A paper mill was established in Sicily in the 12th century. In Europe the fiber to make pulp for making paper was obtained from linen and cotton rags. Lynn Townsend White Jr. credited the spinning wheel with increasing the supply of rags, which led to cheap paper, which was a factor in the development of printing.
Before the development of modern engineering, mathematics was used by artisans and craftsmen, such as millwrights, clock makers, instrument makers and surveyors. Aside from these professions, universities were not believed to have had much practical significance to technology.:32
A standard reference for the state of mechanical arts during the Renaissance is given in the mining engineering treatise De re metallica (1556), which also contains sections on geology, mining and chemistry. De re metallica was the standard chemistry reference for the next 180 years. Among the water powered mechanical devices in use were ore stamping mills, forge hammers, blast bellows, and suction pumps.
The invention of the movable cast metal type printing press, whose pressing mechanism was adapted from an olive screw press, (c. 1441) lead to a tremendous increase in the number of books and the number of titles published. Movable ceramic type had been used in China for a few centuries and woodblock printing dated back even further.
The era is marked by such profound technical advancements like linear perceptivity, double shell domes or Bastion fortresses. Note books of the Renaissance artist-engineers such as Taccola and Leonardo da Vinci give a deep insight into the mechanical technology then known and applied. Architects and engineers were inspired by the structures of Ancient Rome, and men like Brunelleschi created the large dome of Florence Cathedral as a result. He was awarded one of the first patents ever issued in order to protect an ingenious crane he designed to raise the large masonry stones to the top of the structure. Military technology developed rapidly with the widespread use of the cross-bow and ever more powerful artillery, as the city-states of Italy were usually in conflict with one another. Powerful families like the Medici were strong patrons of the arts and sciences. Renaissance science spawned the Scientific Revolution; science and technology began a cycle of mutual advancement.
An improved sailing ship, the (nau or carrack), enabled the Age of Exploration with the European colonization of the Americas, epitomized by Francis Bacon's New Atlantis. Pioneers like Vasco da Gama, Cabral, Magellan and Christopher Columbus explored the world in search of new trade routes for their goods and contacts with Africa, India and China to shorten the journey compared with traditional routes overland. They produced new maps and charts which enabled following mariners to explore further with greater confidence. Navigation was generally difficult, however, owing to the problem of longitude and the absence of accurate chronometers. European powers rediscovered the idea of the civil code, lost since the time of the Ancient Greeks.
Mines were becoming increasingly deep and were expensive to drain with horse powered bucket and chain pumps and wooden piston pumps. Some mines used as many as 500 horses. Horse-powered pumps were replaced by the Savery steam pump (1698) and the Newcomen steam engine (1712).
The revolution was driven by cheap energy in the form of coal, produced in ever-increasing amounts from the abundant resources of Britain. The British Industrial Revolution is characterized by developments in the areas of textile machinery, mining, metallurgy and transport the steam engine and the invention of machine tools.
Before invention of machinery to spin yarn and weave cloth, spinning was done using the spinning wheel and weaving was done on a hand and foot operated loom. It took from three to five spinners to supply one weaver. The invention of the flying shuttle in 1733 doubled the output of a weaver, creating a shortage of spinners. The spinning frame for wool was invented in 1738. The spinning jenny, invented in 1764, was a machine that used multiple spinning wheels; however, it produced low quality thread. The water frame patented by Richard Arkwright in 1767, produced a better quality thread than the spinning jenny. The spinning mule, patented in 1779 by Samuel Crompton, produced a high quality thread. The power loom was invented by Edmund Cartwright in 1787.
In the mid 1750s the steam engine was applied to the water power-constrained iron, copper and lead industries for powering blast bellows. These industries were located near the mines, some of which were using steam engines for mine pumping. Steam engines were too powerful for leather bellows, so cast iron blowing cylinders were developed in 1768. Steam powered blast furnaces achieved higher temperatures, allowing the use of more lime in iron blast furnace feed. (Lime rich slag was not free-flowing at the previously used temperatures.) With a sufficient lime ratio, sulfur from coal or coke fuel reacts with the slag so that the sulfur does not contaminate the iron. Coal and coke were cheaper and more abundant fuel. As a result, iron production rose significantly during the last decades of the 18th century. Coal converted to coke fueled higher temperature blast furnaces and produced cast iron in much larger amounts than before, allowing the creation of a range of structures such as The Iron Bridge. Cheap coal meant that industry was no longer constrained by water resources driving the mills, although it continued as a valuable source of power.
The steam engine helped drain the mines, so more coal reserves could be accessed, and the output of coal increased. The development of the high-pressure steam engine made locomotives possible, and a transport revolution followed. The steam engine which had existed since the early 18th century, was practically applied to both steamboat and railway transportation. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first purpose built railway line, opened in 1830, the Rocket locomotive of Robert Stephenson being one of its first working locomotives used.
Manufacture of ships' pulley blocks by all-metal machines at the Portsmouth Block Mills in 1803 instigated the age of sustained mass production. Machine tools used by engineers to manufacture parts began in the first decade of the century, notably by Richard Roberts and Joseph Whitworth. The development of interchangeable parts through what is now called the American system of manufacturing began in the firearms industry at the U.S Federal arsenals in the early 19th century, and became widely used by the end of the century.
The 19th century saw astonishing developments in transportation, construction, manufacturing and communication technologies originating in Europe. After a recession at the end of the 1830s and a general slowdown in major inventions, the Second Industrial Revolution was a period of rapid innovation and industrialization that began in the 1860s or around 1870 and lasted until World War I. It included rapid development of chemical, electrical, petroleum, and steel technologies connected with highly structured technology research.
Telegraphy developed into a practical technology in the 19th century to help run the railways safely. Along with the development of telegraphy was the patenting of the first telephone. March 1876 marks the date that Alexander Graham Bell officially patented his version of an "electric telegraph". Although Bell is noted with the creation of the telephone, it is still debated about who actually developed the first working model.
Building on improvements in vacuum pumps and materials research, incandescent light bulbs became practical for general use in the late 1870s. This invention had a profound effect on the workplace because factories could now have second and third shift workers.
Shoe production was mechanized during the mid 19th century. Mass production of sewing machines and agricultural machinery such as reapers occurred in the mid to late 19th century. Bicycles were mass-produced beginning in the 1880s.
Steam-powered factories became widespread, although the conversion from water power to steam occurred in England earlier than in the U.S. Ironclad warships were found in battle starting in the 1860s, and played a role in the opening of Japan and China to trade with the West.
Mass production brought automobiles and other high-tech goods to masses of consumers. Military research and development sped advances including electronic computing and jet engines. Radio and telephony improved greatly and spread to larger populations of users, though near-universal access would not be possible until mobile phones became affordable to developing world residents in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Energy and engine technology improvements included nuclear power, developed after the Manhattan project which heralded the new Atomic Age. Rocket development led to long range missiles and the first space age that lasted from the 1950s with the launch of Sputnik to the mid-1980s.
Electrification spread rapidly in the 20th century. At the beginning of the century electric power was for the most part only available to wealthy people in a few major cities such as New York, London, Paris, and Newcastle upon Tyne, but by the time the World Wide Web was invented in 1990 an estimated 62 percent of homes worldwide had electric power, including about a third of households in the rural developing world.
Birth control also became widespread during the 20th century. Electron microscopes were very powerful by the late 1970s and genetic theory and knowledge were expanding, leading to developments in genetic engineering.
The first "test tube baby" Louise Brown was born in 1978, which led to the first successful gestational surrogacy pregnancy in 1985 and the first pregnancy by ICSI in 1991, which is the implanting of a single sperm into an egg. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis was first performed in late 1989 and led to successful births in July 1990. These procedures have become relatively common.
The massive data analysis resources necessary for running transatlantic research programs such as the Human Genome Project and the Large Electron-Positron Collider led to a necessity for distributed communications, causing Internet protocols to be more widely adopted by researchers and also creating a justification for Tim Berners-Lee to create the World Wide Web.
Vaccination spread rapidly to the developing world from the 1980s onward due to many successful humanitarian initiatives, greatly reducing childhood mortality in many poor countries with limited medical resources.
In the early 21st century research is ongoing into quantum computers, gene therapy (introduced 1990), 3D printing (introduced 1981), nanotechnology (introduced 1985), bioengineering/biotechnology, nuclear technology, advanced materials (e.g., graphene), the scramjet and drones (along with railguns and high-energy laser beams for military uses), superconductivity, the memristor, and green technologies such as alternative fuels (e.g., fuel cells, self-driving electric and plug-in hybrid cars), augmented reality devices and wearable electronics, artificial intelligence, and more efficient and powerful LEDs, solar cells, integrated circuits, wireless power devices, engines, and batteries.
Perhaps the greatest research tool built in the 21st century is the Large Hadron Collider, the largest single machine ever built. The understanding of particle physics is expected to expand with better instruments including larger particle accelerators such as the LHC and better neutrino detectors. Dark matter is sought via underground detectors and observatories like LIGO have started to detect gravitational waves.
New spaceflight technology and spacecraft are also being developed, like the Orion and Dragon. New, more capable space telescopes, such as the James Webb Telescope, to be launched to orbit in early 2021, and the Colossus Telescope are being designed. The International Space Station was completed in the 2000s, and NASA and ESA plan a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) is an electro-magnetic thruster for spacecraft propulsion and is expected to be tested in 2015.
Breakthrough Initiatives, together with famed physicist Stephen Hawking, plan to send the first ever spacecraft to visit another star, which will consist of numerous super-light chips driven by Electric propulsion in the 2030s, and receive images of the Proxima Centauri system, along with, possibly, the potentially habitable planet Proxima Centauri b, by midcentury.
In futures studies and the history of technology, accelerating change is a perceived increase in the rate of technological change throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future and may or may not be accompanied by equally profound social and cultural change.Aeolipile
An aeolipile (or aeolipyle, or eolipile), also known as a Hero's engine, is a simple bladeless radial steam turbine which spins when the central water container is heated. Torque is produced by steam jets exiting the turbine, much like a tip jet or rocket engine. In the 1st century CE, Hero of Alexandria described the device in Roman Egypt, and many sources give him the credit for its invention.The aeolipile Hero described is considered to be the first recorded steam engine or reaction steam turbine. The name – derived from the Greek word Αἴολος and Latin word pila – translates to "the ball of Aeolus", Aeolus being the Greek god of the air and wind.
Pre-dating Heron's writings, a device called an aeolipile was described in the 1st century BCE by Vitruvius in his treatise De architectura; however, it is unclear if it is the same device or a predecessor, as he does not mention rotating parts.Drill
A drill is a tool primarily used for making round holes or driving fasteners. It is fitted with a bit, either a drill or driver, depending on application, secured by a chuck. Some powered drills also include a hammer function.
Drills vary widely in speed, power, and size. They are characteristically corded electrically driven devices, with hand operated types dramatically decreasing in popularity and cordless battery powered ones proliferating.
Drills are commonly used in woodworking, metalworking, machine tool fabrication, construction and utility projects. Specially designed versions are made for medicine, Space, and miniature applications.History of agricultural science
The history of agricultural science is a sub-field of the history of agriculture which looks at the scientific advancement of techniques and understanding of agriculture. Early study of organic production in botanical gardens was continued in with agricultural experiment stations in several countries.
Fertilizer is a major contribution to agriculture history increasing the fertility of the soil and minimizing nutrient loss. Scientific study of fertilizer was advanced significantly in 1840 with the publication Die organische Chemie in ihrer Anwendung auf Agrikulturchemie und Physiologie (Organic Chemistry in Its Applications to Agriculture and Physiology) by Justus von Liebig. One of Liebig's advances in agricultural science was the discovery of nitrogen as an essential plant nutrient.History of perpetual motion machines
The history of perpetual motion machines dates at least back to the Middle Ages. For millennia, it was not clear whether perpetual motion devices were possible or not, but modern theories of thermodynamics have shown that they are impossible. Despite this, many attempts have been made to construct such machines, continuing into modern times. Modern designers and proponents sometimes use other terms, such as "overunity", to describe their inventions.History of science and technology
The history of science and technology (HST) is a field of history which examines how understanding of the natural world (science) and ability to manipulate it (technology) have changed over the centuries. This academic discipline also studies the cultural, economic, and political impacts of scientific innovation.
Histories of science were originally written by practicing and retired scientists, starting primarily with William Whewell, as a way to communicate the virtues of science to the public. In the early 1930s, after a famous paper given by the Soviet historian Boris Hessen, was focused into looking at the ways in which scientific practices were allied with the needs and motivations of their context. After World War II, extensive resources were put into teaching and researching the discipline, with the hopes that it would help the public better understand both Science and Technology as they came to play an exceedingly prominent role in the world. In the 1960s, especially in the wake of the work done by Thomas Kuhn, the discipline began to serve a very different function, and began to be used as a way to critically examine the scientific enterprise.
Modern engineering as it is understood today took form during the scientific revolution, though much of the mathematics and science was built on the work of the Greeks, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Chinese, Indians. See the main articles History of science and History of technology for these respective topicsHistory of the camera
The history of the camera begins even before the introduction of photography. Cameras evolved from the camera obscura through many generations of photographic technology — daguerreotypes, calotypes, dry plates, film — to the modern day with digital cameras and camera phones.Isis (journal)
Isis is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press. It covers the history of science, history of medicine, and the history of technology, as well as their cultural influences. It contains original research articles and extensive book reviews and review essays. Furthermore, sections devoted to one particular topic are published in each issue in open access. These sections consist of the Focus section, the Viewpoint section and the Second Look section.Jacquard loom
The Jacquard machine (French: [ʒakaʁ]) is a device fitted to a power loom that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with such complex patterns as brocade, damask and matelassé. It was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804. The loom was controlled by a "chain of cards"; a number of punched cards laced together into a continuous sequence. Multiple rows of holes were punched on each card, with one complete card corresponding to one row of the design. Several such paper cards, generally white in color, can be seen in the images below. Chains, like Bouchon's earlier use of paper tape, allowed sequences of any length to be constructed, not limited by the size of a card.
It is based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (1725), Jean Baptiste Falcon (1728), and Jacques Vaucanson (1740). A static display of a Jacquard loom is the centrepiece of the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs in Lyon. Live displays of a Jacquard loom are available at a few private museums around Lyon and also twice a day at La Maison des Canuts, as well as at other locations around the world.
Both the Jacquard process and the necessary loom attachment are named after their inventor. This mechanism is probably one of the most important weaving inventions as Jacquard shedding made possible the automatic production of unlimited varieties of pattern weaving. The term "Jacquard" is not specific or limited to any particular loom, but rather refers to the added control mechanism that automates the patterning. The process can also be used for patterned knitwear and machine-knitted textiles, such as jerseys.This use of replaceable punched cards to control a sequence of operations is considered an important step in the history of computing hardware.Medieval technology
Medieval technology is the technology used in medieval Europe under Christian rule. After the Renaissance of the 12th century, medieval Europe saw a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth. The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption of gunpowder, the invention of vertical windmills, spectacles, mechanical clocks, and greatly improved water mills, building techniques (Gothic architecture, medieval castles), and agriculture in general (three-field crop rotation).
The development of water mills from their ancient origins was impressive, and extended from agriculture to sawmills both for timber and stone. By the time of the Domesday Book, most large villages had turnable mills, around 6,500 in England alone. Water-power was also widely used in mining for raising ore from shafts, crushing ore, and even powering bellows.
European technical advancements from the 12th to 14th centuries were either built on long-established techniques in medieval Europe, originating from Roman and Byzantine antecedents, or adapted from cross-cultural exchanges through trading networks with the Islamic world, China, and India. Often, the revolutionary aspect lay not in the act of invention itself, but in its technological refinement and application to political and economic power. Though gunpowder along with other weapons had been started by Chinese, it was the Europeans who developed and perfected its military potential, precipitating European expansion and eventual imperialism in the Modern Era.
Also significant in this respect were advances in maritime technology. Advances in shipbuilding included the multi-masted ships with lateen sails, the sternpost-mounted rudder and the skeleton-first hull construction. Along with new navigational techniques such as the dry compass, the Jacob's staff and the astrolabe, these allowed economic and military control of the seas adjacent to Europe and enabled the global navigational achievements of the dawning Age of Exploration.
At the turn to the Renaissance, Gutenberg’s invention of mechanical printing made possible a dissemination of knowledge to a wider population, that would not only lead to a gradually more egalitarian society, but one more able to dominate other cultures, drawing from a vast reserve of knowledge and experience. The technical drawings of late-medieval artist-engineers Guido da Vigevano and Villard de Honnecourt can be viewed as forerunners of later Renaissance artist-engineers such as Taccola or da Vinci.Outline of technology
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to technology:
Technology – collection of tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures used by humans. Engineering is the discipline that seeks to study and design new technologies. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species' ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.Social construction of technology
Social construction of technology (also referred to as SCOT) is a theory within the field of science and technology studies. Advocates of SCOT—that is, social constructivists—argue that technology does not determine human action, but that rather, human action shapes technology. They also argue that the ways a technology is used cannot be understood without understanding how that technology is embedded in its social context. SCOT is a response to technological determinism and is sometimes known as technological constructivism.
SCOT draws on work done in the constructivist school of the sociology of scientific knowledge, and its subtopics include actor-network theory (a branch of the sociology of science and technology) and historical analysis of sociotechnical systems, such as the work of historian Thomas P. Hughes. Its empirical methods are an adaptation of the Empirical Programme of Relativism (EPOR), which outlines a method of analysis to demonstrate the ways in which scientific findings are socially constructed (see strong program). Leading adherents of SCOT include Wiebe Bijker and Trevor Pinch.
SCOT holds that those who seek to understand the reasons for acceptance or rejection of a technology should look to the social world. It is not enough, according to SCOT, to explain a technology's success by saying that it is "the best"—researchers must look at how the criteria of being "the best" is defined and what groups and stakeholders participate in defining it. In particular, they must ask who defines the technical criteria success is measured by, why technical criteria are defined this way, and who is included or excluded. Pinch and Bijker argue that technological determinism is a myth that results when one looks backwards and believes that the path taken to the present was the only possible path.
SCOT is not only a theory, but also a methodology: it formalizes the steps and principles to follow when one wants to analyze the causes of technological failures or successes.Society for the History of Technology
The Society for the History of Technology, or SHOT, is the primary professional society for historians of technology. SHOT was founded in 1958 in the United States, and it has since become an international society with members "from some thirty-five countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa." SHOT owes its existence largely to the efforts of Professor Melvin Kranzberg (1917-1995) and an active network of engineering educators. SHOT co-founders include John B. Rae, Carl W. Condit, Thomas P. Hughes, and Eugene S. Ferguson. SHOT's flagship publication is the journal Technology and Culture, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Kranzberg served as editor of Technology and Culture until 1981, and was succeeded as editor by Robert C. Post until 1995, and John M. Staudenmaier from 1996 until 2010. The current editor of Technology and Culture is Suzanne Moon at the University of Oklahoma. SHOT is an affiliate of the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Historical Association and publishes a book series with the Johns Hopkins University Press entitled "Historical Perspectives on Technology, Society, and Culture," under the co-editorship of Pamela O. Long and Asif Azam Siddiqi. Pamela O. Long is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" for 2014.The history of technology was traditionally linked to economic history and history of science, but its interactions are now equally strong with environmental history, gender history, business history, and labor history. SHOT annually awards two book prizes, the Edelstein Prize and the Sally Hacker Prize, as well as the Kranzberg Dissertation Fellowship and the Brooke Hindle Postdoctoral Fellowship. Its highest award is the Leonardo da Vinci Medal. Recipients of the medal include Kranzberg, Ferguson, Post, Staudenmaier, Bart Hacker, and Brooke Hindle. In 1968 Kranzberg was also instrumental in the founding of a sister society, the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC) in 1968. The two societies complement each other.
The Society for the History of Technology is dedicated to the historical study of technology and its relations with politics, economic, labor, business, the environment, public policy, science, and the arts. The society now numbers around 1500 members, and regularly holds annual meetings at non-North-American venues. SHOT also sponsors smaller conferences focused on specialized topics, often jointly with other scholarly societies and organizations.Technological and industrial history of the United States
The technological and industrial history of the United States describes the United States' emergence as one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world. The availability of land and literate labor, the absence of a landed aristocracy, the prestige of entrepreneurship, the diversity of climate and a large easily accessed upscale and literate free market all contributed to America's rapid industrialization. The availability of capital, development by the free market of navigable rivers, and coastal waterways, and the abundance of natural resources facilitated the cheap extraction of energy all contributed to America's rapid industrialization. Fast transport by the very large railroad built in the mid-19th century, and the Interstate Highway System built in the late 20th century, enlarged the markets and reducing shipping and production costs. The legal system facilitated business operations and guaranteed contracts. Cut off from Europe by the embargo and the British blockade in the War of 1812 (1807–15), entrepreneurs opened factories in the Northeast that set the stage for rapid industrialization modeled on British innovations.
From its emergence as an independent nation, the United States has encouraged science and innovation. As a result, the United States has been the birthplace of 161 of Britannica's 321 Greatest Inventions, including items such as the airplane, internet, microchip, laser, cellphone, refrigerator, email, microwave, personal computer, Liquid-crystal display and light-emitting diode technology, air conditioning, assembly line, supermarket, bar code, automated teller machine, and many more.The early technological and industrial development in the United States was facilitated by a unique confluence of geographical, social, and economic factors. The relative lack of workers kept the United States wages nearly always higher than corresponding British and European workers and provided an incentive to mechanize some tasks. The United States population had some semi-unique advantages in that they were former British subjects, had high English literacy skills, for that period (over 80% in New England), had strong British institutions, with some minor American modifications, of courts, laws, right to vote, protection of property rights and in many cases personal contacts among the British innovators of the Industrial Revolution. They had a good basic structure to build on. Another major advantage, which the British lacked, was no inherited aristocratic institutions. The eastern seaboard of the United States, with a great number of rivers and streams along the Atlantic seaboard, provided many potential sites for constructing textile mills necessary for early industrialization. The technology and information on how to build a textile industry were largely provided by Samuel Slater (1768–1835) who emigrated to New England in 1789. He had studied and worked in British textile mills for a number of years and immigrated to the United States, despite restrictions against it, to try his luck with U.S. manufacturers who were trying to set up a textile industry. He was offered a full partnership if he could succeed—he did. A vast supply of natural resources, the technological knowledge on how to build and power the necessary machines along with a labor supply of mobile workers, often unmarried females, all aided early industrialization. The broad knowledge carried by European migrants of two periods that advanced the societies there, namely the European Industrial Revolution and European Scientific revolution, helped facilitate understanding for the construction and invention of new manufacturing businesses and technologies. A limited government that would allow them to succeed or fail on their own merit helped.
After the close of the American Revolution in 1783, the new government continued the strong property rights established under British rule and established a rule of law necessary to protect those property rights. The idea of issuing patents was incorporated into Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizing Congress "to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." The invention of the Cotton Gin by American Eli Whitney made cotton potentially a cheap and readily available resource in the United States for use in the new textile industry.
One of the real impetuses for the United States entering the Industrial Revolution was the passage of the Embargo Act of 1807, the War of 1812 (1812–14) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15) which cut off supplies of new and cheaper Industrial revolution products from Britain. The lack of access to these goods all provided a strong incentive to learn how to develop the industries and to make their own goods instead of simply buying the goods produced by Britain.
Modern productivity researchers have shown that the period in which the greatest economic and technological progress occurred was between the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. During this period the nation was transformed from an agricultural economy to the foremost industrial power in the world, with more than a third of the global industrial output. This can be illustrated by the index of total industrial production, which increased from 4.29 in 1790 to 1,975.00 in 1913, an increase of 460 times (base year 1850 – 100).American colonies gained independence in 1783 just as profound changes in industrial production and coordination were beginning to shift production from artisans to factories. Growth of the nation's transportation infrastructure with internal improvements and a confluence of technological innovations before the Civil War facilitated an expansion in organization, coordination, and scale of industrial production. Around the turn of the 20th century, American industry had superseded its European counterparts economically and the nation began to assert its military power. Although the Great Depression challenged its technological momentum, America emerged from it and World War II as one of two global superpowers. In the second half of the 20th century, as the United States was drawn into competition with the Soviet Union for political, economic, and military primacy, the government invested heavily in scientific research and technological development which spawned advances in spaceflight, computing, and biotechnology.
Science, technology, and industry have not only profoundly shaped America's economic success, but have also contributed to its distinct political institutions, social structure, educational system, and cultural identity. American values of limited government, meritocracy, entrepreneurship, and self-sufficiency are drawn from its legacy of pioneering technical advances.Technological determinism
Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that assumes that a society's technology determines the development of its social structure and cultural values. Technological determinism tries to understand how technology has had an impact on human action and thought. Changes in technology are the primary source for changes in society. The term is believed to have originated from Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), an American sociologist and economist. The most radical technological determinist in the United States in the 20th century was most likely Clarence Ayres who was a follower of Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. William Ogburn was also known for his radical technological determinism.
The first major elaboration of a technological determinist view of socioeconomic development came from the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, who argued that changes in technology, and specifically productive technology, are the primary influence on human social relations and organizational structure, and that social relations and cultural practices ultimately revolve around the technological and economic base of a given society. Marx's position has become embedded in contemporary society, where the idea that fast-changing technologies alter human lives is all-pervasive.
Although many authors attribute a technologically determined view of human history to Marx's insights, not all Marxists are technological determinists, and some authors question the extent to which Marx himself was a determinist. Furthermore, there are multiple forms of technological determinism.Technological revolution
A technological revolution is a period in which one or more technologies is replaced by another technology in a short amount of time. It is an era of accelerated technological progress characterized by new innovations whose rapid application and diffusion cause an abrupt change in society.Technology and Culture
Technology and Culture is a quarterly academic journal founded in 1959. It is an official publication of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), whose members routinely refer to it as "T&C." Besides scholarly articles and critical essays, the journal publishes reviews of books and museum exhibitions. Occasionally, the journal publishes thematic issues; topics have included patents, gender and technology, and ecology. Technology and Culture has had three past editors-in-chief: Melvin Kranzberg (1959–1981), Robert C. Post (1982–1995), and John M. Staudenmaier (1996–2010). Since 2011 the journal has been edited at the University of Oklahoma by Prof. Suzanne Moon. Managing editors have included Joan Mentzer, Joseph M. Schultz, David M. Lucsko, and Peter Soppelsa.
In its inaugural issue, editor Melvin Kranzberg set out a threefold educational mission for the journal: "to promote the scholarly study of the history of technology, to show the relations between technology and other elements of culture, and to make these elements of knowledge available and comprehensible to the educated citizen." No journal then in existence had as its primary focus the history of technology and its relations with society and culture. To adequately address these topics in all their complexity, a truly interdisciplinary approach was needed. And this was to be the unique contribution of Technology and Culture.Timeline of Russian innovation
Timeline of Russian Innovation encompasses key events in the history of technology in Russia, starting from the Early East Slavs and up to the Russian Federation.
The entries in this timeline fall into the following categories:
Indigenous inventions, like airliners, AC transformers, radio receivers, television, artificial satellites, ICBMs
Products and objects that are uniquely Russian, like Saint Basil's Cathedral, Matryoshka dolls, Russian vodka
Products and objects with superlative characteristics, like the Tsar Bomba, the AK-47, and Typhoon class submarine
Scientific and medical discoveries, like the periodic law, vitamins and stem cellsThis timeline examines scientific and medical discoveries, products and technologies introduced by various peoples of Russia and its predecessor states, regardless of ethnicity, and also lists inventions by naturalized immigrant citizens. Certain innovations achieved by a national operation may also be included in this timeline, in cases where the Russian side played a major role in such projects.Wild West Tech
Wild West Tech is a program that aired on The History Channel in the United States from 2003 to 2005. The show was originally hosted by Keith Carradine (2003–04), but his half-brother, David Carradine, took over hosting duties for season 2 and subsequent seasons. The show illustrates a variety of technologies used in the Wild West, and features interviews with numerous Western historians, as well as re-creating versions of important events in Western history.
The series was created by Dolores Gavin (History Channel) and supervising producer Louis Tarantino.
History of technology
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