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Important Role of Inventors Shape Society, Economics and Culture

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Ben Franklin once said, “Either writes something worth reading or does something worth writing”. This quote shines through history as we, as a society, celebrate those of great accomplishments, whether it be generous kings, lawful dictators, or even genius inventors. Invention and, more specifically, inventors play a very important role in modern-day society. Inventors throughout history have not only laid the basis for countless innovations from today’s time but also helped shape society itself as a whole. With the invention of new transportation came the revolutionization of international trade and commerce. With the invention of electricity came the creation of modern-day homes, businesses, and jobs. Even as far back as the wheel, we thank them for countless new ideas and innovations, but those innovations are not the end of it.

The previously stated inventions also play an important role in economics and culture. In almost any creation we look into, we can find different ways that those things shaped the world. Back to the point, it’s important that we recognize the people, the masterminds behind these complex developments. Knowing who they are and understanding how they made their mark in today’s history books and biographies if only to follow in just a fraction of their great footsteps. Getting to know Earth’s great minds to respect and acknowledge their changes to the way the world works.

First, we will see James Watt, and his modernized steam engine, creating a more efficient and versatile machine. Next, there is Eli Whitney and his contribution to the way cotton was processed. Thirdly, we have Louis Pasteur, who developed new ways of preserving food through fermentation. Then, there is Henry Bessemer, who reformed metalwork and steel. And finally, Thomas Edison is known for his success in the telegraphy trade, and the discovery of the incandescent light bulb.

These great minds made even greater impacts. We acknowledge them for their change to society. We know them for their powerful manipulation of the economy. And we know them for their development of culture itself.

James Watt was born on January 19, 1736, in Greenock, Scotland. He learned his trade young by tinkering and experimenting in his father’s workshop. He became interested in mechanical design and engineering, and became a mathematical instrument maker, setting up shop in 1757 at the University of Glasgow. It wasn’t until around a decade later, when trying to repair a model Newcomen steam engine, that he discovered his interest in steam mechanics. Watt was inspired by the model’s waste of steam and came up with a solution nearly a year later. After theorizing and experimenting with his solution, he was able to fix the steam engine’s issue.

Soon after, Watt met a British physicist named John Roebuck, who urged Watt to make his own engine. Partnering with Roebuck, Watt made a small test engine that worked exactly as planned and patented his idea. At the age of 40, Watt installed his first two engines. Later, he installed engines for pumping copper and tin. Although afterward, Watt was implored to recreate his steam engine, but for rotary motion. After four years of perfecting his engine, and his invention of the pressure gauge, Watt had a well-refined version of his rotary steam engine.

Not long after the publication of Watt’s rotary engine, it was installed in steam locomotives throughout Europe. His invention brought about many improvements. The engine allowed the trains to move faster and increase their fuel efficiency. This bettered the economy by speeding up trade and lowering the cost of shipment. Steam power also made its way into most industrial manufacturers, by replacing water, wind, horse, and manpower.

Eli Whitney was born in 1765 in Westboro, Massachusetts. Whitney attended Yale College, where he learned many new concepts and experimented in science and technology. Failing to receive a position as a professor, he was left stranded in Georgia without a source of income. There, he met Phineas Miller, the manager of Mulberry Grove Plantation. At the time, they grew green-seeded cotton. Green-seeded cotton is different from black-seeded cotton because the green seeds were physically attached to the cotton, while the black seeds were loose inside.

Whitney figured that a machine that could detach the green seeds from the cotton would be a gold mine. This is how he would make a name for himself. He set to work, theorizing and analyzing different processes to separate the seeds. His final model had four parts, a container that feeds the cotton into the machine, a spinning cylinder studded with many small wire hooks, an opening for which the seeds to filter out of the machine (which would fetch a profit on their own), and another cylinder spinning in the opposite direction, which brushed out the cotton with its own momentum.

In 1794, Whitney patented his machine, and he, along with Miller, went to work manufacturing and servicing cotton gins. Although, with the prices they set on their product, farmers refused to pay, and were easily able to replicate the machine themselves, causing the pair to go out of business by 1797. However, after crushing defeats trying to defend their patent, the state agreed to pay them fifty-thousand dollars, half of what the team had asked for the patent rights. When the patent expired in 1807, the court refused to renew it. In the end, Whitney succeeded in making green-seeded cotton a profitable cash crop throughout the South. Although it may seem that the cotton gin would reduce slave labor, it actually drove planters into requiring more land and slave labor in order to increase their profits.

After his failure in the cotton industry, Eli moved his talents toward a more violent one. When the U.S. government was threatened with war by France, The demand for muskets skyrocketed. Although, private contractors failed to make enough in the span of time they were given. With Whitney’s mechanical prowess, planned to supply the government with 10,000 muskets in two years. He designed special tools that precisely made each piece, making every musket perfectly identical.

There, he had the idea of interchangeable parts. For decades, whenever something broke or malfunctioned, it was no longer usable, but with interchangeable parts, broken items could easily be fixed. In 1817, Whitney married Henrietta Edwards, and she bore him four children. Only three of which survived. Eli Whitney Jr. continued his father’s business when he opened Whitney Arms Company in 1880. Eli Whitney died much earlier, in 1825.

With the invention of interchangeable parts came the true spread of industrialization. Manufacturers could produce goods with parts that would fit into other goods. This also allowed producers to manufacture goods quickly and at a lower cost. This also made everyday repairs into simple problems, rather than costly ones.

Louis Pasteur was born December 17, 1822, in Dole, France. He, a chemist and microbiologist, was one of the first medical microbiologists. In his early life, Pasteur was an average student. However, he was gifted when it came to art and drawing. His art can be found in the Pasteur Institute in Paris. In 1840, he earned his bachelor of arts degree, and his bachelor of science in 1842, at the Royal College of Besancon.

A year later, Pasteur was admitted into a teacher’s college in Paris. There, he became the teaching assistant of Jean Dumas, a French chemist well-known for his work on organic analysis and synthesis. Pasteur soon, in 1845, acquired a master’s degree in science and an advanced degree in physical sciences, and later earned a doctorate in said sciences in 1847. In 1848, he accepted a position as a chemistry professor at the University of Strasbourg. Nearly a year later, he married his wife, Marie Laurent, who bore him five children.

Louis Pasteur spearheaded the study of molecular asymmetry, discovering that microorganisms are the soul cause of fermentation and the growth of the disease. This led to his creation of the pasteurization process, the process by which package or non-packaged foods and perishables are treated with mild heat in order to destroy pathogens and extend their shelf life. This gave way to new industries in France, such as beer, wine, and silk.

Louis’ study of fermentation began at the University of Lille, where he was asked to help solve a problem with alcohol production at a nearby distillery. Thus began his extensive study in alcohol fermentation. He left Lille in 1857, and that same year, he presented his experiments proving that living organisms were involved in the decomposition of food and that each process was linked to a certain organism. Here birthed Pasteur’s germ theory of fermentation.

With these newfound ideas and further research from Pasteur over the years, gave rise to many new advances. Certain foods and beverages could be stored and exported without the worry of spoiling. People could go out, buy said items, and make the trek home with time to spare. Today, the sale of unpasteurized milk across state lines is illegal, as it posed a threat to public health.

Sir Henry Bessemer was born on January 19, 1813, in Charlton, England. Raised under the influence of his father, an engineer and typefounder showed skills in mechanics and invention early in life. After honing his skills(being mostly self-taught), he moved to manufacturing fake golden paints using brass powder. His secret process brought him great wealth, due to its demand for decoration such as golden inlay on plates and fine china.

Bessemer designed many inventions in his lifetime, in particular, the advanced machine used to crush sugar cane in record time. Although, he became devoted to metalwork early in life. At the time, only two iron-based construction materials were available: cast iron and wrought iron. While experimenting with stronger forms of cast iron, Bessemer discovered that excess oxygen in the furnace Removed the carbon from his iron pieces, leaving behind pure iron.

With this information, he found that blowing air into the furnace not only purified the iron, but it super-heated it, making it pour with ease. Thus became the Bessemer Process, the production of slag-free(Waste material that separates from metal during the smelting process), workable iron ingots. With the industrialization of the process in mind, Bessemer invented the tilting converter, in which the pig iron(or oblong chunks of the unrefined iron) could be poured into the top, and air could be blown in from the bottom. Eventually, Bessemer announced his idea, bringing in many inventions minds to his door. They gave him many new ideas, and ways to improve his invention.

One such idea was the use of phosphor-based ores. Bessemer’s converter, which had a clay/glaze mixture inlay called fireclay, did not remove phosphor and sulfur from the iron. Although, it wasn’t until 1877 that metallurgist Sidney Thomas developed a lining that did so. Bessemer had, unbeknownst to himself, been using iron-free of phosphor, but other metalworkers were not so lucky. Their iron worked well for the puddling process, the more common iron refinery process that extracts phosphor, but did not work for the Bessemer process.

Running low on said phosphor-free iron, Bessemer was forced to find a source of it in England, which led to him entering the steel market. Henry tried to keep his invention in the running, but it was soon overtaken by the open-hearth process, which blasted Bessmer’s converter out of the water. In his later years, Bessemer continued to build ideas and invent new machines, some of which became major successes, such as the solar furnace and diamond the polishing machine.

With his many contributions to the scientific world, Bessemer made a significant change to society. His ideas on the refining of ore and metal became a staple for modern-day construction materials. His way of refining iron and the reduction of slag made early construction materials cheaper, and less wasteful. His cheaper, wasteless materials also changed culture itself. With new, cheaper materials, people were able to build sturdier, more efficient buildings, and have them closer together.

Thomas Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. At an early age, he developed mastoiditis, which had a history in his family. The infection dissolves the hard, prominent bone in one’s ear, causing the hearing deficiency, deafness, and in worse cases, death. His deafness played a key role in Edison’s habits and career path. In 1854, Edison became a lighthouse keeper and apprentice carpenter in Michigan, where his family lived in Fort Gratiot. He attended school there, although he took part in it irregularly. His absence from formal schooling was common, due to the effects of America’s Civil War. The average American at the time attended school for a little less than two years.

In 1859, Edison dropped school and became a railway boy between Port Huron and Detroit, Michigan. With the expansion of telegraph communication on railways four years prior, Edison took the opportunity to learn telegraphy and became a beginner telegrapher. Over the years, he devoted his downtime to improving his equipment, hoping to find ways of simplifying the telegraphy process.

Eventually, he had made enough progress on his ideas, that he quit his job in pursuit of becoming a full-time inventor. He moved to New York City and paired up with Frank L. Pope. Pope was a well-known electrical expert, and Edison needed his help to semi-mass-produce the Edison Universal Stock Printer and other printing telegraph prototypes. From 1870 to 75, Edison worked with many partners and business transactions in the ever-competitive telegraph trade. As an independent provider, he was always open to the highest bidder and was able to get certain advantages by playing the right cards.

Edison was successful in this industry, but he wasn’t the winner in every game. He saw many failures, specifically whenever his markets for certain products failed. Although, Edison persevered, and spearheaded many important projects for society. Besides his early accomplishments, Edison is most well known for his creation of the incandescent lightbulb, one of the first effective electric lights that is sometimes referred to as the most important invention since the man-made flame, leaving Edison to be “the greatest inventor of his time”.

Having covered just a portion of the world’s most important thinkers, we dive into how their accomplishments changed the world. Science, technology, and new forms of energy impact the world in ways that people from the past could never imagine. Whether it be economics, social life, or cultural demographics.

James Watt’s invention of the steam engine, photocopier, and the measurement of horsepower had many impacts. When it comes to economics, the steam engine brought about more cost-efficient travel and faster transportation of goods. This brought about cheaper costs for people to travel and for goods to be shipped. Socially, it allowed people to travel from place to place faster and cheaper. Culturally, the steam engine allowed those from other places to spread ideas and religions to other countries.

The photocopier also made significant changes. It allowed people to copy multiple things for cheap and played an important role to the enhancement of the news system. The horsepower also brought about a new way to measure the power of a transportation machine, making it easier to measure its speed and efficiency.

Eli Whitney’s contributions of science include the cotton gin, milling, and interchangeable parts. The cotton gin and interchangeable parts had the most significant change out of the three. The cotton gin, socially, allowed for African slaves to have an easier time separating the seeds embedded in the cotton. Economically, the cotton gin made the cotton market boom, encouraging many farmers to grow more cotton. Culturally, the cotton gin, similar to how it affected the economy, caused farmers to need more land to grow cotton, and in return, needed more slave labor. Interchangeable parts also made a huge impact on manufacturing. Economically, interchangeable parts allowed people to just pay for parts, instead of replacing the entire product if it broke. This also affected society because it made factory jobs safer, and made broken machinery easier to manage.

Louis Pasteur’s impacts to chemistry were pasteurization, and vaccines for anthrax and rabies. Pasteurization had a large impact on society. Economically, it made a new market for safe milk and other dairy products. Socially, more people had dairy products in their homes. Culturally, it saved people from worrying about whether or not their household dairy products would make them ill, and saved people’s lives in general. Although, vaccines had an even greater impact on society than pasteurization. Socially, it made people feel safe when it came to certain diseases. Economically, it helped people with medical bills, which they would have to deal with if they caught said diseases. Culturally, we, as a society, are now used to being able to protect ourselves against otherwise deadly diseases that would wipe out thousands of people in the past.

Henry Bessemer’s inventions include the tilting converter, the Bessemer process, and slag-free iron ingots. The tilting converter had a large impact on society. Economically, it made for a more efficient and quick way to manufacture usable metal. The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrialization of the mass production of steel. This brought about easy access to building materials to strengthen buildings and bridges.

Slag-free iron was also very important at the time. Slag is the waste material left over when manufacturing iron ingots. Without slag, consumers were able to get more for their price. Slag-free iron is also more reliable and safe. Sometimes, the slag forms inside the metal pieces, making fragile pockets inside. Slag-free iron is made for safer building materials and products.

Thomas Edison’s developments were the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and film. I find that, even though he was not the first to discover it, Edison’s light bulb had the most significant impact. His light bulb created a market for electricity, thus boosting the economy. Culturally, his light bulb paved the way for all the electronics we know today. Although, his lightbulb also meant that sundown was not the end of the workday, which, with the workplace safety at the time, wasn’t a good thing for everybody. On the other hand, with the workplace safety laws, we have today, keeping the lights on is as beneficial as ever.

His invention of the film also played a very important part to society. Movies today have a huge market, racking up almost 70 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 alone. This kind of market helped the economy exponentially. Socially, movies have brought all sorts of different people together, whether it be fan bases or a fun night with family or friends. Culturally, movies are now a cliche staple when it comes to getting together with other people for entertainment. Movies are a well-known activity for everyone around the world, and there will always be new ideas for movies, thus making it’s influences on the world infinite. The phonograph, being Edison’s favorite, also made many impacts. The phonograph introduced new methods of listening to music. Economically, fewer people would attend orchestra concerts. Although, the phonograph created a market for records. Socially, fewer people would get together to listen to music life, preferring to stay at home and listen to what they wanted to hear. Culturally, the phonograph made way for all sorts of portable music methods, like c-d and cassette players in vehicles.

As you can see, history’s great minds, their ideas, and a little ambition brought about great changes to society. Historical inventions have had great impacts on the world in more ways than one could count. First, is James Watt’s impact on transportation and trade. Second, is Eli Whitney’s impact on the economic prowess of cotton and machinery. Next, is Louis Pasteur’s impact on food production and fermentative sciences. Then, Henry Bessemer’s impact on the steel industry and construction. Finally, Thomas Edison’s impact on electricity and the machines that run on it. These are the great minds that shaped how we live today. These are the people we certainly acknowledge today for their impact on the modern-day.

Thomas Edison once said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” This quote shows how important it is that these minds had the courage to act upon their imaginary ideals. They took the steps forward and produced their ideas into reality. Although, this quote does not only, for all its intents and purposes, pertain to the inventors that we have covered. This is directed toward anyone with an idea that they want to make real. Anyone can change the world, as long as they put their ideas out there and work on them.

These great innovations of science played an important role in, not only society but also economics and culture. It’s ever so important that we recognize the people who made these developments, and that they are given the respect they deserve. Writing their names in today’s history books and biographies is just the beginning. Remembering who they were, what they did, and what they sacrificed is what is important. Getting to know Earth’s great minds, and understanding their impact on how the world works.

However, these are not the only great minds of history. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and that idea has become immensely popular. Benjamin Franklin coined electricity, which, of course, plays a monumental role in the world today. Henry Ford was the first to mass-produce modern-day vehicles. The Wright Brothers made history experimenting with aircraft and the flight of man. All these inventors and their inventions could not be more important in the grand scheme of things.

These extraordinary personalities had much more noteworthy effects. We recognize them for their change to society. We know them for their incredible control of the economy. Furthermore, we know them for their advancement of culture itself. Anybody out there with a fresh idea, the means to make it, and the courage to share it can make an important difference in the society we call home.

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