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A Brief History of Technology

A Brief History of Technology Article Author : Becky
Date : 12th Sep 2005
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A look into how modern computers came about

The thing that distinguishes intelligent life is its ability to solve problems. Since the first use of stone tools in Africa during the Palaeolithic Era, humans have been coming up with new and increasingly inventive ways in which to improve their standards of living. When we think of technology nowadays, we tend to think of computers, science and other such advancements. However, it is very interesting to see how these advancements were brought about in the first place. The past four-hundred years have yielded huge developments in the fields of science (or natural philosophy as it was then known), communications and transportation which together have helped create the world that we are now accustomed to.

The Scientific Revolution

The late 16th century and 17th century saw huge changes in the treatment and attitude towards natural philosophy (science). Before this revolution, natural philosophers merely observed nature: following the revolution they conducted experiments. This may sound like a minor change, but at the time it was a big step forward. Interfering with nature was thought to be ‘unnatural' and many shunned such ideas. There are no exact dates for the period of scientific revolution, but it largely took place during the 17 th century.

The most famous and influential natural philosophers of the time were Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton: During the late 16 th century, Galileo made successful improvements to the telescope, and developed the first law of motion. His work was revolutionary at the time, as it broke away from the more traditional views of Aristotle. Kepler developed his theories at around the same time as Galileo, and it is for his three laws on planetary motion that he is most famous. His laws were correct, despite the fact that Kepler himself did not understand why they were correct. In fact, it was Newton who proved mathematically that Kepler's laws of planetary motion held through his own laws of motion (the law of inertia, the fundamental law of dynamics and the law of reciprocal actions). Like Kepler, Newton is also associated with heliocentricism (the theory that the sun lies at the centre of the universe/solar system).

So what did these new theories do? They started to change they way in which people perceived the world. In previous centuries, it was commonly thought that the earth was the centre of the universe with the sun and stars revolving around it. This was consistent with religious theory, and therefore these new concepts caused conflict between natural philosophers and the church - the Catholic Church being the primary opponent. The new methods of using experiments to make discoveries paved the way for numerous inventions, such as the vacuum pump (von Guericke), the pendulum clock (Huygens) and the steam engine (Savery).

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