The “Success” of Medieval Technology

White, “Medieval Uses of Air”

The article starts off by making a comparison and also looks at the contrast between science and technology. Science can be defined as the effort to study nature, and technology is the attempt to harness nature for human purposes. It was understood that there were four physical forces: earth, wind, fire, and air; of the four, air fascinated ancient scientists the most. There were four aspects that were heavily affected by the science and harness of air power: the invention of windmills, the improvement of sails, and the invention of blast furnaces.

The invention of windmills was crucial as a source of mechanical power. Until its invention, watermills were the main source of automated mechanical and cranks were the source of manual mechanical energy. The first concept of a windmill was invented by Christ, Hero of Alexandria, but it was deemed impractical and essentially useless. Eventually the design for modern windmills was invented independently in 1185 AD independently in the North Sea region of Europe. The benefits to using windmills were that they\did not need to be placed in such specific locations as watermills and could be placed all throughout Europe, although many were built alongside watermills. By turning the blades of the mill to be horizontal, this would eventually lead to discovering the same concepts or air as helicopters.

Sails have been used by sailors since the Neolithic Era. Small ships were equipped with triangular sails which allowed them to turn at fairly sharp angles. Big ships, however, did not use triangular sails. In the sixteenth century, this problem was solved with the invention of keels. Keels are the fin-like parts of the ship that are on that bottom which allowed them to reduce sideways drift included in tacking.

Cast iron was one of the most important discoveries in metallurgy, but it would not have been discovered if it was not for the harness of air power. A blast furnace is a furnace that uses air as a part of the blast. This was developed based on the concept of organs having bellows pump air into the forge. Blast furnaces are able to smelt superior ores.

sails blast furnace windmill suction pump


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