Initially inspired by the development of batteries, it covers technology in general and includes some interesting little known, or long forgotten, facts as well as a few myths about the development of technology, the science behind it, the context in which it occurred and the deeds of the many personalities, eccentrics and charlatans involved.
The electronics, computers and communications industries, power engineering and much of the chemical industry of today were founded on discoveries made possible by the battery.
Pioneers It is often overlooked that throughout the nineteenth century, most of the electrical experimenters, inventors and engineers who made these advances possible had to make their own batteries before they could start their investigations. the World was starting to emerge from the Stone Age. C., Mesopotamians (from modern day Iraq), who had already been active for hundreds of years in primitive metallurgy extracting metals such as copper from their ores, led the way into the Bronze Age when artisans in the cities of Ur and Babylon discovered the properties of bronze and began to use it in place of copper in the production of tools, weapons and armour.
They did not have the benefit of cheap, off the shelf, mass produced batteries. Bronze is a relatively hard alloy of copper and tin, better suited for the purpose than the much softer copper enabling improved durability of the weapons and the ability to hold a cutting edge.
For many years the telegraph, and later the telephone, industries were the only consumers of batteries in modest volumes and it wasn't until the twentieth century that new applications created the demand that made the battery a commodity item. The use of bronze for tools and weapons gradually spread to the rest of the World until it was eventually superceded by the much harder iron.
In recent years batteries have changed out of all recognition. Today the cells are components in battery systems, incorporating electronics and software, power management and control systems, monitoring and protection circuits, communications interfaces and thermal management. Mesopotamia, incorporating Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria, known in the West as the Cradle of Civilisation was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (The name means "land between the rivers") in the so called Fertile Crescent stretching from the current Gulf of Iran up to modern day Turkey. the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia developed the World's first written language.
(See Map of Mesopotamia) Unfortunately this accolade ignores the contributions of the Chinese people and the Harappans of the Indus Valley, (Modern day Pakistan) who were equally "civilised" during this period practicing metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin) and urban planning, with civic buildings, baked brick houses, and water supply and drainage systems. Called Cuneiform Writing from the Latin "cuneus", meaning "wedge", it was developed as a vehicle for commercial accounting transactions and record keeping.The writing was in the form of a series of wedge-shaped signs pressed into soft clay by means of a reed stylus to create simple pictures, or pictograms, each representing an object. the script progressively evolved to encompass more abstract concepts as well as phonetic functions (representing sounds, just like the modern Western alphabet) enabling the recording of messages and ideas.The clay subsequently hardened in the Sun or was baked to form permanent tablets. For the first time news and ideas could be carried to distant places without having to rely on a messenger's memory and integrity.Hieroglyphic script evolved slightly later in Egypt. found in a temple at Erech in Mesopotamia show a chariot with solid wooden wheels.Though the script appeared on vases and stone carvings, many important Egyptian historical scripts and records were written in ink, made from carbon black (soot) or red ochre mixed with gelatin and gum, applied with a reed pen onto papyrus. Evidence from Ur indicates that the simpler potter's wheel probably predates the use of the axled wheel for transport because of the difficulty in designing a reliable mechanism for mounting the rotating wheel on a fixed hub or a rotating axle on the fixed load carrying platform.Produced from the freshwater papyrus reed, the papyrus scrolls were fragile and susceptible to decay from both moisture and excessive dryness and many of them have thus been lost, whereas the older, more durable clay cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia have survived. Sumerian mathematics and science used a base 60 sexagesimal numeral system.