The Industrial Revolution is not just one point in time, it is a series of events spread over several hundred years building on the development of the textile industry, the mechanisation of agriculture, the processes of power production and communication and the ever quicker means of transporting goods and people from place to place. This list is by no means complete but aims simply to point up some of the major innovations that have brought us to the current era where innovation and technological advances are daily occurrences.
1589 – a patent was granted to Thomas Proctor and William Peterson for making iron and steel and melting lead with “earth-coal, sea-coal, turf, and peat”.
1692 – The Languedoc Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Bay of Biscay. 240 miles long, with 100 locks, 3 major aqueducts, 1 tunnel, and a summit reservoir it becomes the largest canal project between Roman times and the nineteenth century.
1708 – Jethro Tull’s mechanical seed sower permits large-scale planting in well defined, parallel rows, for easier cultivation.
1709 – Abraham Darby I, (left) uses coke to smelt iron ore, replacing wood and charcoal as fuel.
1712 – Thomas Newcomen builds the first commercially viable steam engine capable of keeping deep coal mines clear of water. It represented the first significant power source since wind and water.
1733 – John Kay invents the flying shuttle.
1758 – The first threshing machine comes into commercial use.
1761 – James Brindley opens the Bridgewater Canal, permitting barges to carry coal from Worsley to Manchester.
1772 – The Bridgewater Canal is extended to the Mersey, thus connecting with Liverpool and its success kicks off the period of intensive canal construction that became known as ‘canal mania’
1775 – James Watt’s first steam engine proves to be much more efficient than the elderly Newcomen.
1777 – The Grand Trunk Canal establishes a major cross country route connecting the Mersey to the Trent and the industrial Midlands to the ports of Bristol, Liverpool, and Hull.
1779 – The first steam powered mills come into being using Samuel Crompton’s ‘mule’ a combination of both Hargreaves’ (warp) and Arkwright’s (weft) machines creating a fully automated weaving process.
1786 – Arkwright puts a Watt engine in the Albion cotton mill, Blackfriars Bridge, London.
1789 – Thames-Severn Canal links the Thames to the Bristol Channel.
1792 – William Murdock (James Watt’s assistant) lights his home with coal gas.
1793 – Eli Whitney develops his cotton gin (a device to clean raw cotton).
1793 to 1803 – Thomas Telford builds his two great iron aqueducts, over the Dee and the Cierog valleys.
1801 – Robert Trevithick demonstrates a steam locomotive.
1803 to 1822 – Caledonian Ship Canal cuts clear across Scotland via the Great Glen.
1807 – Robert Fulton’s Clermont first successful steamboat.
1811 to 1815 – Luddite riots: labourers attack factories and break up the machines they fear will replace them.
1821 – Faraday demonstrates electro-magnetic rotation, the principle of the electric motor.
1825 – Marc Brunel invents a tunnelling shield, making subaqueous tunnelling possible.
1826 to 1842 – Marc Brunel and son build the first subaqueous tunnel under the Thames.
1827 – Berkeley Ship Canal connects Sharpness on the Severn to Gloucester.
1830 – The Liverpool and Manchester Railway begins the first regular commercial rail service.
1831 – Faraday discovers electro-magnetic current, making possible generators and electric engines.
1834 – Charles Babbage develops his analytic engine, the forerunner of the computer and Fox Talbot produces photographs.
1837 – Morse develops the telegraph and Morse Code and the Great Western becomes the worlds first ocean-going steamship.
1838 – Daguerre perfects the Daguerrotype.
1839 – Fox Talbot introduces photographic paper.
1843 – IKB floats S.S. Great Britain, the worlds first screw-propelled steamship.
1844 Commercial use of Morse’s telegraph (Baltimore to Washington).
1846 – Pneumatic tyre patented and first telegraph cable laid under the Channel.
1849 – Monier develops reinforced concrete.
1850 – Petrol (gasoline) refining first used.
1851 – Singer invents first practical sewing machine.
1853 – Elisha Otis invents the elevator safety brake making skyscrapers possible
1854 – Bessemer invents steel converter.
1855 – Regius Chair of Technology founded at Edinburgh.
1856 – W.H. Perkin produces aniline dyes, permitting brightly colored cottons.
1857 – Pasteur experiments with fermentation.
1858 – First Trans-Atlantic Cable completed and Cathode rays discovered.
1859 – Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species and Etienne Lenoir demonstrates the first successful petrol engine.
1863 – Siemens-Martin open hearth process (along with the Bessemer converter) makes steel available in bulk. Steel begins to replace iron in building: steel framing and reinforced concrete make possible “curtain-wall” architecture–i.e., the skyscraper.
1867 – Alfred Nobel produces dynamite, the first high explosive which can be safely handled.
1873 – Christopher Sholes invents the Remington typewriter and James Clerk Maxwell states the laws of electro-magnetic radiation
1876 – Alexander Bell invents the telephone.
1877 – Edison invents the phonograph.
1878 – Microphone invented.
1879 – Edison invents the incandescent lamp.
1883 – First skyscraper of ten stories built in Chicago and The Brooklyn Bridge opens. Built by the Roeblings (father and son), it is a triumph of engineering.
1884 – Maxim invents the machine gun, making possible mass slaughter and beginning the mechanization of warfare.
1885 – Benz develops first vehicle to run on an internal-combustion engine.
1888 – Hertz produces radio waves.
1889 – Eiffel builds his Tower.
1892 – Rudolf Diesel invents his namesake.
1895 – Lumière brothers develop Cinematograph while Roentgen discovers X-rays.
1896 – Marconi patents wireless telegraph.
1897 – Joseph Thomson discovers particles smaller than atoms.
1899 – Aspirin invented.
1900 – First Zeppelin built.
1901 – Marconi transmits the first trans-Atlantic radio message from Cape Cod.
1903 – Wright brothers make first powered flight.