26 April 2010

Victorian Innovation and Its Impact

The Victorian era saw an explosion in innovation and it is through the uncountable number of inventions that the Victorians influenced the world the most. The most notable Victorian invention is the electric light bulb, invented by Joseph Wilson Swan in 1880. Our modern mobile phones were preceded by the telephone in 1876 and the automatic telephone exchange in 1878. Texting is comparable to the electric telegraph, invented in 1837 by William Fothergill Cooke. Our Ipods might never have been conceived had it not been for the invention of the radio in 1900 and the gramophone in 1877. Even the computer has Victorian predecessors: the punched card tabulator invented by Herman Hollerith in 1884 and the facsimile machine, a device which transmitted images by electricity, invented in 1843 by Alexander Bain.

Modern transportation exists only through the innovation of Victorian inventors. The automobile, a device we would be lost without today, was invented by George Baldwin Selden in 1879. The diesel engine was first conceived by Rudolf Diesel in 1896 while the internal combustion engine was invented by Nicolaus August Otto in 1876. The steam locomotive was introduced in 1846 by Ross Winans and railways were further improved by the invention of the compressed air brake in 1869, the junction interlocking railway signal in 1856, and the Pullman sleeping car in 1865. The essence of modern transportation, the cable street car and the pneumatic railway, or subway, were invented in 1876. In 1878 the ‘Resurgam’ submarine was invented by George William Garrett. Even the bicycle, invented in 1866, was a Victorian invention, followed in 1888 by the innovative pneumatic tyre.

Writing, photography, and film, the greatest influences on modern culture of all time, were profoundly affected if not invented all together in the age of the Victorians. Photography was invented in 1839 and improved in 1888 with the invention of the roll-film camera. If cinema and Hollywood have directly influenced the world, then the Victorians indirectly influenced it with the invention of the motion picture camera in 1886. Without this invention we wouldn’t have decades of television and movies or even Youtube. Writing was altered with the invention of the fountain pen, a predecessor to the modern ballpoint, in 1883 and the typewriter in 1868. Printing was improved in 1884 with the invention of the Linotype.

Almost everything we own today is made, at least in part, from plastic or rubber. Vulcanised rubber was invented by Charles Goodyear in 1844. If it had not been for his improvements to the substance, rubber would have likely fallen out of use and we would not have it today at all. Celluloid, an early plastic originally invented to replace ivory in billiard balls, was invented in 1870 by John Wesley Hyatt Jr. and his brother, Isaiah Hyatt.

So many of our everyday items are rooted in the Victorian era that it would be almost impossible to go through one day without coming into contact with a Victorian invention. Where would we be today had it not been for our Victorian ancestors? The Victorians invented a variety of common items like sewing machines, safety pins, ice making machines, vending machines, the can opener, the dishwasher, crown tops for bottles, and fishing reels. They also invented medical substances like Aspirin and sulphuric ether, an anaesthetic. They even invented breakfast cereal, treadmills, and alarm clocks.

1 comment:

  1. Test your victorian attitudes, try this test...


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