The modern man lives a comfortable life. This lifestyle would not be possible without the genius of his ancestors. We tend to overlook the importance of these inventions. We are surrounded by technology that we forget to appreciate them. Our ancestors may have lived in the dark. But they might have some vague ideas about absorption in biology. After all, they discovered how our cells work even with crude equipment. Now, experts can use tools for permeability testing.
That may be the case. But we have to tip our hats off them for discovering basic scientific principles which help build our modern world. Come and join us on a trip through time. This little tour would show us what the world would have looked like if it were not for man’s ingenuity.
Paper Bill and Check
Can you imagine a world where you would need to drag a cow to buy a dress? Our ancestors certainly did. They had to exchange one item for another. This transaction was called a barter.
Thankfully, coins replaced this inefficient system. Although economists and historians debate whether the barter system happened, our ancestors still have to exchange items. Some of them argued that the gift economy existed instead of the barter system. Whether the ancient world practiced the barter system or the gift economy, the trading of goods was observed.
The heavy coins also caused some encumbrance. We have to thank the Chinese for the introduction of the paper currency. One has to acknowledge the importance of this milestone because it paved the way for the emergence of other financial instruments. Roughly around the same time, the Jews developed the modern check. This development made it easy for traders to ply their wares outside of their country of origin.
Our ancestors lived in darkness. Although they eventually discovered fire, they cannot bring it everywhere. Other than that, it was dangerous. In the Middle Ages, peasants designated a place of their small hut for fire. Their hearth kept them warm and gave them light. But it also meant that smoke permanently filled their house. They also have candles to light their homes. But candles that did not put out smoke were expensive. Thus, the common man had to make do with the hearth.
Life became bearable upon the arrival of the kerosene lamp. They were safer than their predecessors, the oil lamp. Other than that, it was also easy to use. Then the light bulb came into being. British scientists created the arc lamp. Other innovators tried to improve it. But it was Thomas Edison who created the light bulb that had a longer lifespan.
Education would be limited if it were not for Johannes Gutenberg. His creation, the printing press, made books available for the common man. Before his invention, books were reserved for the rich because they were expensive to create.
The ancient Egyptians created paper with the use of the papyrus and controlled the papyrus trade. Other ancient civilizations created the parchment to circumvent the Egyptians’ monopoly on the papyrus. This eventually led to the conception of the codex, which was cheaper than the papyrus scrolls.
Centuries later, Christians heavily relied on the Codex to record their text. When Christianity became the state religion, the codex also dominated. On the other side of the world, the Chinese started using block printing. But this technology will arrive in Europe after several centuries.
Secular books monopolized Medieval Europe. They were labor-intensive because monks had to manually copy each of them. This time-consuming process made the books expensive.
Another Chinese innovation made the book cheaper. Creating paper from rags and other fibers lowered their prices. But this invention only arrived in Europe in 1300.
Johannes Gutenberg changed everything. Each machine had moveable letters that made bookmaking even cheaper. In the early parts of his career, he produced 180 copies of the Bible. This led to the mass production of tomes, which we still enjoy today.
We often fail to appreciate the importance of this household appliance. But this invention also transformed humanity. Before the discovery of electricity, the ancient Iranians use a domed-shaped structure to store food and ice. They call this the yakhchals.
Centuries after the ancient Iranians invention, humans created icehouses and iceboxes. They were filled with snow during winter. Our ancestors also employ natural methods to keep food from spoiling and to cool their drinks. In the 18th century, a Scottish scientist created the first artificial refrigerating machine. His invention was enhanced by other great minds.
Science will never stagnate. It will continue to progress. But we should not forget the underlying principles that made modern technology possible.
From the papyrus reed that started an Egyptian monopoly on paper to the ancient trading system, man’s thirst for comfort and knowledge has never been quenched. It will remain so.