Industrial Power Brokers

The development of iron in the late 1600s to the early 1700s saw a series of changes, that resulted from the development of new types of fuels, and from the development of new types of iron. Initially, iron was smelted by using charcoal that was made from burning trees; however, this timber was needed for the production of homes, ships, and other industry. Abraham Darby solved this issue of limited fuel by being the first person to smelt iron using coal coke which allowed the wood to be used for other projects rather than for smelting. This development would lead to the development of cast iron and while the material was new, it was not suitable for conversion into a much stronger wrought iron. Abraham Darby’s sons, Abraham Darby II, and Abraham Darby III each contributed to society through iron development as well, with Darby the third building a bridge entirely out of 373 tons of iron and Darby the second producing iron for the new development of the steam engine.

The steam engine was marketed by Mathew Boulton, with the help of James Watts, who was the creator of the most advanced steam engine at the time. Boulton was a mastermind when it came to finding uses for the steam engine demonstrating the versatile nature of the machine. The machines could produce a wide range of items with the steam engines, everything from jewelry to coinage, and even toys. Boulton’s factories were lined with gas lamps, workers, and steam-powered machines leaving visitors awestruck.

From his achievements, Boulton developed a small circle of friends who would become known as the lunar society. These were very intelligent people that included names such as the master potter Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen, and the remarkable scientist, physician and philosopher Lrasmus Darwin. All of these members met at Boultons, “Soho House” which now serves as a museum.

In the end, the oldest steam engine that was used to recover canal water would be put on display in Birmingham’s Thinktank Museum. Darby’s famous furnace would later be recovered and rebuilt from the soil where it rested, becoming a symbol of the industrial revolution.

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Other interesting articles include:

A Ballistic Revolution For The Greeks

Nathaniel Dekin

Richard Hirsh

History of Technology

October 13, 2018

Siege warfare in the ancient world was very different for the attacking force who only had a small handful of basic and challenging tactics they could use. These ranged from using battering rams to digging tunnels and even building ramps out of earth to gain elevation over a fortress.1 Tactical mindsets quickly changed when a new era of siege weapons emerged in ancient Greece in the 4th century. These weapons were catapults, military machines that hurled projectiles, that quickly became a great force on the battlefield.2 There were many different types of catapults that emerged but by far the one that was the most interesting is the ballista.

The first catapult saw creation in a small town called Syracuse in Greece by the Greek elder Dionysius. The innovation underwent development during the two-year siege of Syracuse, in which Dionysius and several Greek engineers came together to create a weapon to end the long conflict.3 The result resembled a large crossbow called a Gastraphete which enabled the Greeks to end the siege of Syracuse, allowing them to take the city. Impressed with its design, the Greeks created a larger version of the weapon called the ballista.4

When the ballista became a formidable weapon, two types were created that each launched different munitions. The “Lithobolos,” which fired large stones and the “Katapeltēs oxybelēs,” which fired large bolts. Both of these weapons were capable of impressive accuracy with ranges of up to 300 meters.5 The ballista functioned by having two spoked cranks at the rear of the machine which pulled back the weapons large bow.6 The spokes enabled only two men were needed to operate the weapon. The ballista then fitted with a projectile, launched it by releasing the tension of the bow. When released, a bolt could severely weaken the walls of enemy forts and could also pierce armor with ease, making the weapon a terror for the opposing soldiers.5

The ballista had a significant impact on the military powers of the time such as Alexander The Great, who was the first person to use the weapon in battle. Alexander used the ballista to support troops on the ground, and sieges allowing the Greeks to capture civilizations with ease. Due to the effectiveness of this technology, warfare began to change resulting in civilizations adapting their battle strategies and creating weapons similar to the ballista, such as the Roman Scorpio ballista.6

However, the ballista did have a series of flaws. It was difficult to construct, meaning that there would be a limited number during wartime and the firing rate of the weapon was considerably slow. It is because of its strengths that the ballista was a significant weapon and an important part of siege warfare. Although, the weapon probably played a smaller role in the expansion of empires due to its limited numbers and flaws.


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5.Cartwright, Mark. “Roman Artillery.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. October 15, 2018. Accessed October 16, 2018.

3.M, Jackson. “The Catapult – Ancient Greece Civilization.” Ancient Greece Civilization. Accessed October 17, 2018.

1.”Ancient Siege Warfare.” Ancient Siege Warfare. June 01, 2017. Accessed October 17, 2018.

4.”Inventing the Medieval Ballista.” Ballista. Accessed October 17, 2018.

6.”Ballista – Development and Operational History, Performance Specifications and Picture Gallery.” Military Weapons. August 4, 2013. Accessed October 17, 2018.

7.”The Ballista.” Medieval Lifestyle. Accessed October 17, 2018.

2.”Catapult.” Accessed October 17, 2018.

8.Alexander, Leigh. “The Origin of Greek and Roman Artillery.” The Classical Journal 41, no. 5 (1946): 208-12.

9.Khera, Khushal, Anmol Bhatia, Sanjay Kumar, and Shailesh Mahawal. “Design & Manufacturing of a Simple Catapult.” October 31, 2014. Accessed October 17, 2018.