5 Victorian inventions that shaped the world we live in today | by Alema Ljuca | March 2022


And without whom everyday life would be hard to imagine.

A poster advertising the famous comedy by the Lumière brothers “The Watered Sprinkler», 1896 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

JJThe Victorian era was a period of industrial, economic, scientific and educational boom. Some changes were positive, some negative, some permanent, some temporary, but one thing is certain: after the Victorian era, the world was not the same.

And even today, the impact of these changes is being felt. These are five Victorian inventions that shaped the world we live in today.

Animal locomotion“ — An animated sequence of a galloping racehorse by Eadweard Muybridge, 1879 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The invention of motion pictures took a few important steps, but it all started with a bet. In 1878, the English photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, took sequential photographs of a galloping horse. The photos were taken to settle a bet between businessman Leland Stanford and his friends. Thanks to the photographs, Stanford, who claimed that at one point all four of the horse’s hooves were in the air, won the bet.

Only a year later, the zoogyroscope, a projector of sequential photographs, was presented to the public by Muybridge and Stanford, now commercial partners.

Eadweard Muybridge’s 12 photographs of a galloping horse, 1878 (Source: Library of Congress/ Free Use)

The zoogyroscop was followed by the invention of chronophotography by Etienne-Jules Marey, where a camera took 12 photos per second of a moving object. And in 1890, Thomas Edison and William Dickson introduced the Kinetograph, a simple motion picture camera.

Today, it’s hard to imagine life without movies, commercials, home videos, social media, news and even YouTube – all of which wouldn’t be possible without the invention of moving pictures.

“Boracic Acid Milk” commercials. The drink has killed thousands of children. (Source: private soldier/ Public domain)

In the early Victorian era, milk was unpasteurized and contained bovine tuberculosis. Bovine tuberculosis caused severe damage to internal organs and the spine, leaving numerous malformations. Since unpasteurized milk spoiled quickly, boracic acid, a toxic substance that causes illness and diarrhea, was used to mask the bad taste and odor. For this reason, around 500,000 children died from milk during the Victorian era.

Then, in the 1860s, French scientist Louis Pasteur proved how the fermentation of beer and wine could be stopped by heating them to 57°C (135°F) – and the process of pasteurization was born. Today, temperature regulation for milk pasteurization is slightly higher, but without Louis Pasteur, even a cup of coffee that millions of people drink first thing in the morning could be deadly.

Women at work in a Lancashire rubber factory (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2021, approximately 66.7 million cars have been sold worldwide. This year, “The global aircraft fleet is expected to number 25,578 aircraft in service worldwide.” And there’s one thing that cars, planes, bicycles, motorcycles, buses and trucks have in common: rubber tires. Without them, the transport of people, goods and services would be virtually non-existent.

In 1844, American engineer Charles Goodyear patentedvulcanization.” During the vulcanization process, the rubber has been heated and the sulfur removed. As a result, the rubber would retain its elasticity but become water and winter resistant.

A year later, Robert William Thomson invented and patented the inflatable vulcanized rubber tire. Over the next few years, more affordable and practical versions of the rubber tire followed.

Photo of an early x-ray procedure, where the bones of the arm are examined using a fluoroscope screen. No safety measures were taken because the dangers of X-rays were not known at the time (circa 1910) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Our medicine today would be hard to imagine without the use of X-rays. Whether diagnosing tumors, breast cancer, fractures, pneumonia, kidney stones, heart problems, etc. ., x-ray results often save lives. But what many may not know is that X-rays were discovered by accident.

In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen, a professor of physics, was experimenting with cathode rays when he accidentally discovered how green light penetrated even through the thick black paper his cathode ray tube was covered with. He also discovered how those same green lights could cast shadows of solid objects. Roentgen called the rays “X” because he didn’t know what they were.

News of his discovery spread quickly, and by 1896 X-rays were widely used in Europe and the United States. In 1901, Wilhelm Roentgen received the first-ever Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery.

An actor playing Alexander Graham Bell, the founder of the telephone, talking about an early model of the device for a 1926 American Telephone & Telegraph Company promotional film (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“Mr. Watson, come here. I need you.”

These were the first words communicated by wire between Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, seated in adjoining rooms. Until 1875, the only way to transmit messages over a distance was to use a telegraph transmitter which sent the message over a wire.

But then Alexander Graham Bell, once a teacher for the deaf, figured out how to send a simple current and then human speech down that same wire. On March 7, 1876, Bell patented his invention — and the telephone was born.

Until today, the telephone is considered one of the most important inventions in the history of mankind. On August 2, 1922, when Alexander Graham Bell was buried, all American telephone services went silent for one minute in his honor.


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