Technological Advances and Criticisms

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Technological Advances and Criticisms

Thomas Savery …47

The Workers and Merchants of Leeds …54

The Luddites and Charlotte Brontë …63

Newpaper Accounts Regarding the Telegraph …75

J. D. B. Stillman …85

New machines driven by steam and water sparked the Industrial Revolution by substituting mechanical power for human and animal muscles. This was one of the biggest changes in society since human beings started raising crops for food instead of chasing wild game tens of thousands of years earlier.

Many machines were developed to solve specific problems. Pumping water from a coal mine was the problem Thomas Savery (c. 1650–1715) was addressing when he applied in 1798 for a patent on a device he called "the Miner's Friend"—the predecessor of the steam engine. Savery's device used steam to fill a chamber completely, pushing out the air and water; he then cooled the steam quickly, causing it to condense and leave a vacuum, which in turn sucked water from mines. Savery thought, however, that the power of steam could be used in many other ways; he was proven right about fifty years later when another inventor, James Watt (1736–1819), developed the first modern form of the steam engine.

New communications and transportation systems also played an important role in the expansion of the Industrial Revolution. They made it possible to ship raw materials and manufactured goods over long distances economically, and to conduct commerce across the North American continent almost instantaneously. The development of the telegraph by Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872) in the United States, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad described by J. D. B. Stillman (1819–1888) linking the East Coast with the Pacific, were seen at the time as exciting developments that could change life. And indeed they did.

On the other hand, technology was viewed as a threat by some people, especially those workers whose jobs were eliminated by the introduction of new machines. In some cases, such as the Luddites and workers of Leeds in England (and as portrayed in the Charlotte Brontë novel, Shirley), destroying the machines seemed like a way to return to the previous way of working. The Luddites failed and technological progress moved on.

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Technological Advances and Criticisms

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