The Industrial Revolution

In Chapter 13 of McClellan and Dorn’s “Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction” an overview of the modern Industrial Revolution is presented. The industrial revolution was characterized by the development of several major industries and technologies: coal, the steam engine, iron production, textiles, and more. The development of the coal industry was driven by the lack of wood throughout Europe. The increased mining of coal led to the creation of the steam engine, which was first created by Thomas Newcomen and then made more efficient by James Watt. These steam engines were used to pump water out of mines, power steamboats, and mechanize the textile industry. A high-pressure steam engine, invented by Richard Trevithick, was used to power locomotives. Rail travel was made possible by the increased availability of iron, which was driven by the growth of the coal industry.

A major theme of this chapter is that the growth of these industries each contributed to the industrial revolution jointly and individually. In many cases, one industry contributed to the development of another industry and that industry contributed to another technology, etc. Another major theme of this chapter is that scientific theory was rarely used in the development of new technologies; most innovations were done by trial and error. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of technology because it is logical and easy to read.

Word count: 232

Name: Connor Mackert



Textiles and Steam Engines

Pages 73 to 101 in Cardwell’s book “Turning Points in Western Technology” provide a detailed description of how the steam engine was invented and maximized for efficiency and how textiles production was mechanized for the industrial revolution. Cardwell first talks about early attempts to mechanize spinning. This mechanization process was introduced with inventions such as the fly shuttle, which increased the speed of production and increased the width of fabric that could be woven. John Wyatt and Lewis Paul attempted to mechanized the spinning portion of textile production by creating a machine that used rollers to feed the thread. However, this invention was never successful and had to be improved by Richard Arkwright to be made practical.

Cardwell also goes into great detail about the development of the steam engine. The newcomen engine was already available, but it was not efficient and economical. John Smeaton originally worked on improving the efficiency of water wheels for textile production, but he also made the newcomen engine more efficient. He used experimental techniques to help double the efficiency of the newcomen engine. He also paved the way for the development of the most efficient engine: the steam engine invented by James Watt. This section of the book goes into MUCH more detail than this summary, and I encourage the reader to read the section in full.

Word Count: 207 Name: Connor Mackert


Roman Hydraulic Technology (Smith)

Roman Hydraulic Technology

Norman Smith’s “Roman Hydraulic Technology provides a detailed description of the Roman aqueduct system as well as other water-moving technologies. The Romans used a civil engineering approach as well as information from conquered peoples to come up with solutions to the water supply issues. The main issue was irrigation: the Romans needed to haul in large quantities of water from great distances, and the problem grew as the empire expanded. The solution they cam up with is a complex aqueduct system that was unrivaled for 1500 years after the fall of the roman empire.

The system relied on a gradient in order for gravity to give the water a velocity. In order to keep the gradient from the water source to the city, bridges with arches for built in valleys. However, if the valley was too deep, the Roman built inverted siphons, which transported the water down the valley, and the momentum carried the water back up the other side of the valley into the receiving tank. Along tunnels, shafts called putei are used for regular repair and cleaning of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as one can expect, the quality of the water when it reached the city was subpar to say the least; however, not much was used for drinking (most was used for irrigation). In addition to the aqueduct system, water wheels were used to transport water to elevated heights. The Roman’s approach to transporting large quantities of water was adopted again by the British about a century ago to help fix the water problem in Victorian-era urban areas. In my opinion, this technology was one of the most important technologies to ever come about because without it the Roman empire would have not survived.

Word count: 288 Name: Connor Mackert