By: Shaina Grover
Nowadays, we take a lot of devices for granted; we also tend to overlook just how easy it is for us to complete many of our everyday tasks. Many of the things we do almost every day, such as driving to school, contacting a friend, or taking a picture, would have been impossible were it not for the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution, which took place during the 1700s and 1800s. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most notable technological advancements from this period of time.
So, one of the most significant inventions from the Industrial Revolution was the steam engine, which paved the way for easier transportation of goods, travel, and manufacturing. Now, although there were several versions prior to the steam engine designed by James Watt during the Industrial Revolution, Watt’s design was vastly superior to its predecessors. Watt came up with the idea for his design while repairing a steam engine, when he realized that a large amount of the thermal energy within the steam engine was being lost while it was in use. By adding a separate perpetually-cooled chamber for condensation outside the cylinder, he was able to make it so that the cylinder didn’t lose as much thermal energy. This change in design was able to make the steam engine work twice as fast as the previous design.
Now, originally, the primary function of the steam engine was not for transportation and travel, but to remove excess water from mines. Steam engines were able to do this through the use of a steam piston, which is a device that moves back and forth due to the hot steam created by boiling water. This movement was used in mines in order to pull a piston down via a pulley system; as the piston rose and fell, a plunger that had been placed in the water pump did as well, effectively draining excess water from mines.
It was not long before the steam engine was adapted to use for travelling on trains, as people soon began to realize that the movement of the piston could be used to rotate the wheels of a vehicle. However, there were still some issues with steam engines; there not only had to be a constant supply of coal to ensure that the water in the steam engine was constantly boiling, but the train conductor would also have to manually control the movement of the piston through the usage of a lever. Despite these difficulties, the steam engine was still used for many decades for transportation and travel.
Another invention of the Industrial Revolution that had an immense impact was Eli Whitney’s cotton gin. Its purpose was to separate cotton seeds from the actual cotton, removing the need for slaves to do the manual labour that was typically required. Now, while one may assume that this led to a decline in slavery, it actually did the exact opposite. This was due to the fact that because of it, cotton production had, essentially, become 50 times faster, as one person could now remove the seeds from 50 pounds of cotton in one day. This, in turn, made it much easier for plantation owners to profit from the cotton industry, prompting people to buy more land and slaves.
Now, despite its monumental impact, the device itself is actually relatively simple. It is composed of a wooden box, which contains a wire screen attached to wire hooks; these hooks are used to pull the cotton into the machine. Once the cotton has been pulled into the machine, a grid of spikes located within the wooden cylinder separates the seeds from the cotton pods. After this, the cleaned cotton fibers go through the wire teeth of the spikes and are dropped into a container for clean cotton; the cotton seeds are dropped into a second container.
Obviously, both of these inventions have come a long way since the Industrial Revolution. Despite this, it’s important that we still acknowledge the massive impact they had. They not only certainly changed the lifestyles of millions of Americans, but also were the precursors for many of the devices we have today.
Public domain: File:Cotton gin EWM 2007.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
What Did You Learn?
1. Why did some Americans move North during the Industrial Revolution?
The Industrial Revolution mainly took place in the North half of the United States, as the South was mainly based on agriculture. Because of this, most of the new factories and opportunities created by the Industrial Revolution were up in the North. Many people living in the South wanted to be a part of this new life and, as a result, moved North.
2. How did the Industrial Revolution impact the environment?
Many of the inventions of the Industrial Revolution utilized coal. As you may already know, burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the increase in population and new technology depleted the supply of natural resources at an exponential rate. Smoke, fumes, and other toxic gases being released caused a lot of air and water pollution.