Inventions and Inventors
1. If we wrote down the names of all the things people have invented since the beginning of the world, we would have a very long list. We would find that most of these items are improvements on previous inventions. We would also see that many of them have limited use for a particular field purpose.
2. Occasionally, however, there are inventions which change the way we live. Controlled fire and the wheel are two such inventions which allowed our ancestors to live a better life in safety. Agricultural tools invented about 10,000 years ago helped people learn to grow enough food to feed large populations. They actually led to the development of cities.
3. We don't know about the inventors of fire and the wheel, but we can read about the people who invented other things which are important to our everyday lives. In one way or another, all of our lives are affected by their inventions.
4. For more than 3,000 years, ships were powered by sails. Then in 1793, an American named Robert Fulton became interested in an idea which would mean the end of sailing ships. Many People knew how to built steamships, but the only ones they could build were small and impractical. No one truly believed that ships run by steam power would replace the beautiful and colorful sailing ships. They were wrong.
5. Fulton worked in France and England for a number of years, perfecting his ideas. Then in 1806, he returned to the United States and began to build the Clermont. It was an experiment to see if anyone could build a ship and operate it successfully as a business. Making money was the true test, since shipbuilders would not invest their money unless they knew that they could make a profit.
6. The Clermont was 130 feet long, 16 1/2 feet wide and 4 feet deep. On August 11, 1807, the first commercial steamship traveled up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany. It made the round trip of 300 miles in 62 hours. That seems slow to us today, but 200 years ago it was a remarkable speed.
7. Thousands of people watched the event, and most realized immediately how important it was. Within a few years, there were steamships in most parts of the world. Only four years later, the first steamship crossed the Atlantic Ocean. From that time to the present, sails have been used only for pleasure and sporting boats.
8. Travel and transportation were changed when the steamship was invented, and they were changed even more when the locomotive was invented by George Stephenson in 1814.
9. Stephenson had seen something like a locomotive at a mine near his home in Killings worth, England. He like the idea and decided that he could build a better one. He changed the tracks from wood to steel and made the locomotive much larger. He had some help from a mine owner, and by July 25, 1814, he was ready.
10. The Blucher went only 4 miles per hour, but it pulled a load of 30 tons of coal up hill. It was only the beginning. Within eleven years, there were railroads all over England pulling large amounts of supplies and cargo in short spaces of time. On September 27, 1825, the first full passenger railroad went into operation. It had thirty cars and 300 passengers, and it traveled 15 miles per hour.
11. Stephenson's railroad was efficient and profitable, and a new method of transporting freight and people was here to stay.
12. The basis for our modern system of communication began when Samuel Mores invented the telegraph, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and Guglielmo Marconi invented the telegraph without wires. All of these eventually led to the later inventions radio and the television and of electronics after them.
13. Morse was born in Massachusetts shortly after the Revolutionary War. He "invented" the telegraph while he was still a college student at Yale, but it was thirty-four more years until the first telegraph system began operating between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington D.C. .
14. As with most inventions, Morse borrowed from the ideas of many others in making his telegraph. In 1827, Harrison Grey Dyer used a form of the telegraph on long Island, New York, but he gave up the idea. The problem facing most inventors was finding a good source of electricity to make the telegraph work.
15. Morse found that source of power, and he also invented a system for using the telegraph, the Morse code. He was responsible for our first system of communication based on electricity. Morse's system linked most major cities in the United States and Europe, and it is still used today.
16. Thirty years after Morse's invention, a man came along who wanted to improve the telegraph. Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, were working on something they called the multiple telegraph. By accident, they allowed two points of their experiment to become stuck together. When they tried to remove the two pieces, they heard a human voice come out of one end of a wire in the other room. It was Watson's voice!
17. They tried it again and realized that they had discovered how to send human sounds over a wire. It took another year to make it work perfectly, but by 1876 Bell was able to show the world his telephone.
18. The first actual telephone call also had something to do with an accident. Bell and Watson had everything set for their first test of the invention. Bell had his phone in one room and Watson had his in another. Bell had decided that the first words over his phone should be from Shakespeare. He started to read a line from the play Hamlet. "To be or not to be; that is the question." Instead, Bell spilled some acid on his coat. He was afraid it would burn his skin, so he called over the telephone, "Mr. Watson, come here; I want you!" it would not be the last time that someone made an emergency phone call!
19. Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna, Italy, the year the telephone was invented. He came from a poor family, but he had a good mind and he studied all of the great inventions of the day. He was particularly interested in the idea of a wireless telegraph.
20. Marconi studied books by many inventors, including Heinrich Hertz, who discovered what we now call radio waves, and Michael Faraday, the inventor of the dynamo for producing electrical energy. He experimented for years in his own laboratory, and while he was still a young man, he invented wireless telegraphy.
21. First Marconi sent the Morse code letter S a distance of 300 feet. Then he sent the sounds of bells a little farther. In 1897, he sent a signal a distance of nine miles in England. He sent a message across the England Channel to France two years later, and in the same year he sent the first message from a ship to the shore.
22. Marconi was very successful with his invention. With all the money he made, he improved the system, and in 1901, he was able to send a signal across the Atlantic Ocean. Again, it was the letter S, and it traveled 1,800 miles from England to New-foundland, Canada. Marconi continued to improve his system. In 1905, when he was only thirty-one years old, he sent a signal from England to the United States—a distance of 3,000 miles. Marconi's invention was the beginning of a new age.