Technology and Science Communication

History of Technology & History of Science Communication

Developed within a course module at Rhine Waal University (Germany). Lecturer: Prof. Alexander Gerber

1400-01-01 23:27:15

The Invention of Gunpowder

Gunpowder or black powder is a granular mixture of nitrate(NO3), charcoal (mostly C) and sulphur (S). It was invented by Chinese Taoists who wanted to create a potion of immortality in the mid -9th century. It was used in rockets and bombs long before it was used for guns and found its way to Europe over India and the Middle East. One of the first European encounters with gunpowder was in the mid-13th century, 4 centuries after its invention.

1400-01-01 23:27:15


Around 5000 BCE, the first boats were made from whole tree trunks, which were hollowed out by placing burning logs on them. As the wood rotted away soon, the exact date of their invention is unknown.

1400-01-01 23:27:15


(220 BCE) This device was and is still used to depict the moving night sky and predict the position of certain stars and planets. While some used it to make astrological predictions, the Vikings utilized it as a navigation device.

1400-01-10 23:04:23

The Wheel

First evidences of the wheel were discovered in around 5,000 B.C. Primarily only wooden discs with an axis existed which were used for handcrafting ceramics. Forerunner of means of transport were sliding carriages. Later the slice was adjusted to the carriages and the first barrow was developed. Further developments lead among others to the gear wheel but also to the wheel as a medium of torture.

1400-02-01 00:00:00

The crane

for lifting heavy objects was invented in the late 6th century BC in ancient Greece.

1401-01-01 00:00:00

First Print Invention in China

Movable clay type was invented in 1041 in China

1401-01-01 00:00:00

The Clock

For thousands of years, devices have been used to measure and keep track of time. The current sexagesimal system of time measurement dates to approximately 2000 BC, in Sumer. The Ancient Egyptians divided the day into two 12-hour periods, and used large obelisks to track the movement of the Sun. They also developed water clocks. Other ancient time keeping devices were candle clock, time-stick, the hour-glass and the sundial. The first mechanical clocks, employing the verge escapement mechanism with a foliot or balance wheel timekeeper, were invented in Europe at around the start of the 14th century, and became the standard timekeeping device until the pendulum clock was invented in 1656. The latest invention in time-keeping device history is "Atomic Clocks". Atomic clocks are the most accurate timekeeping devices known to date. Accurate to within a few seconds over many thousands of years, they are used to calibrate other clocks and timekeeping instruments. The first accurate atomic clockwas built by Louis Essen in 1955 at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK.

1435-01-01 00:00:00

Linear perspective

Leon Battista Alberti, an Italian architect and mathematician, was thinking about how to illustrate objects the way he saw them. He played with "linear perspective" to make his paintings appear three-dimensional.

1436-01-01 00:00:00

The Copper Sphere

In Florence, the best architects came together and built the city’s famous cathedral at about 1440. One of the biggest challenges was to lift the huge copper sphere to put it on the very top. Leonardo da Vinci – at that time only little known – together with Filippo Brunelleschi succeeded in building a crane, big and stable enough to fulfill the project. The cathedral became the largest masonry dome in the world and the crane a standard model for later projects.

1450-01-01 00:00:00

Court Culture

Court patronage in the Renaissance era: technological focus on warfare, city building, courtly entertainments, and dynastic displays. Figurehead of this epoch: Leonardo da Vinci, the 'prophet of automation', however not the solitary genius imagined

1450-01-01 00:00:00

Movable Type (J. Gutenberg)

Invented in Mainz, Germany

1450-01-01 00:00:00

Court Culture

For architects during the 15th and 16th century, being employed by a courtly patron meant a well-paid job but not a lifetime employment. Technologists at that time were dependent on courts because they needed them as sponsors. They also faced the problem that technology projects were not about improving the industry but about city-building and protecting them during war times - especially with gunpowder weapons – as well as court entertainment.

1486-11-25 00:00:00

The first known copyright granted.

The republic of Venice granted the first copyright for a book in 1486. It was the history of the city itself and also considered as a special case , the 'Rerum venetarum ab urbe condita opus' by Marcus Antonius Coccius Sabellicus"

1489-04-02 00:00:00

Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings

Leonardo da Vinci's detailed drawings of the human anatomy not only contributed to art but as well to science. To this present day, his drawings are still studied by medical students and doctors alike due to their accuracy. Nowadays, da Vinci's drawings are still better than some drawings or pictures found in modern-day anatomy books.

1490-11-25 00:00:00

The world's oldest surviving globe

In 1490 After Martin Behaim returned to Nuremburg, leading members of the city council financed the construction of a terrestrial globe. Under the direction of Behaim, a team of artisans and craftsmen constructed the oldest existing globe. Georg Glockendon was the artist who created the actual map drawings following Behaim's specifications.The globe hold the name Erdapfel.

1517-10-31 00:00:00

95 Theses by Martin Luther

...tacked onto the church door at Wittenberg, a day regarded the starting date of the Protestant Reformation.

1543-05-01 20:55:06

On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres

Just before his death in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543), an astronomer and a renaissance mathematician, presented his idea of the universe in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), which changed the world’s previous perspective and belief that the earth is the center of the universe. He asserted the heliocentric model with the sun at the center, which argues that the planets, including the earth, revolves around the sun, and the moon revolves around the earth. The publication is a key event in the history of science as well as a significant influence on the scientific revolution.

1564-02-15 00:00:00

Galileo Galilei

Galileo was not only a first-rate scientist but also a prolific popular author and imaginative scientist-courtier. Because of his open support of the sun-centred cosmology, Galileo was placed under house arrest, where he worked on the uncontroversial topic of classical mechanics. Yet even this treatise had to be smuggled out of Italy by a Dutch printer, Louis Elsevier, and printed in Leiden in 1638. >> Misa, Thomas (2011), p. 31f

1564-11-01 00:00:00


In 1564, an Italian doctor Gabrielle Fallopius suggested that linen sheath condoms could be used for protection against syphilis, a deadly epidemic at that time in history. Today condoms are barrier devices, which are used during sexual intercourse to control birth rate, prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

1571-12-27 01:42:35

Astronimia Nova

German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Johannes Kepler’s (December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630) “Astronomia Nova” (1609) based on the results of his ten-year-long investigation, is recognized as one of the most important works of the Scientific Revolution. Kepler first mentioned about the elliptical movements of the planets in this book. His ideas were initially formulated on the basis of Tycho Brahe’s observational data on Mars’ orbit, although, in “Astronomia nova” he rejected the Tychonic system. The first two laws of planetary motions were recorded in Astronomia Nova. The third law was discovered and recorded a decade after the publication in “Harmonices Mundi” (1619).

1582-10-31 11:23:18

Gregorian Calendar

Pope Gregory XIII was the first to introduce the calender we all use today; the Gregorian calendar or the modern calender. Pope Gregory XIII presented his new calender on october 1582. It's also known as the Christian or Western calendar.

1588-01-01 00:00:00

Theatres of Machines

Authors like Agostino Ramelli (1588) and Jacques Besson (1578) publish illustrated volumes on technology. These books recorded highly imaginative designs that no one had built. Eugene Ferguson concludes: "The seeds of the explosive expansion of technoolgy in the West lie in books such as these." >> Misa, Thomas (2011), p. 29-31

1588-01-01 00:00:00

Techniques of commerce

Golden Ages of the Dutch Dutch Era Tulipamania, Stock Market

1590-11-25 06:43:06


Thanks to microscope, human can observe things that we cannot perceive with our naked eye. With the technology of microscope, scientists can peep the genius of Mother Nature.

1595-01-01 00:00:00

Fluyt Ship

Significant factor in the 17th century rise of the Dutch seaborne empire. The fluyt or fluitschip was one of the first ocean-going ships built exclusively for commerce. To maximize cargo capacity while minimizing crew size, the main deck was relatively small, but the hull bulged out on the sides, creating a “fat-bottomed” or pear-shaped cross-section

1598-01-01 00:00:00

origin of zero and its importance

The word zero came via French zéro from Venetian zero, which (together with cypher) came via Italian zefiro from Arabic صفر, ṣafira = "it was empty", ṣifr = "zero", "nothing". The first known English use was in 1598.

1609-01-01 00:00:00

Modern Financial Systems

1609-01-01 06:43:06

The Telescope

The history of an instrument which changed humankind: The Telescope. In 1609 the Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei had the idea to look with the help of a telescope into the nightsky. He saw craters on the moon and the Milky Way galaxy without knowing what it was.

1623-02-01 00:00:00

Pascal's Calculator

The first mechanical calculator was invented by french mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) in the early 17th century. Pascal was driven to find a solution for arithmetic calculations due to his father’s workload as a tax supervisor. He designed the machine in 1642 and presented it to the public in 1645. Pascal’s calculator was able to perform complex multiplication and division through repetitive addition and subtraction. The machine has been developed over the years. The development led to the invention of microprocessor which today is the heart of all computers.

1630-01-01 00:00:00


1645-11-17 23:33:29

Windmill-powered textile machinery

The Dutch used windmill technology to efficiently produce high quality textiles, enabling them to become the leader of the textile market at the time for more than 150 years. Impressively, they were able to manage that without producing the goods themselves; they imported wool from other countries, mainly Spain and the Balkan States.

1661-11-24 12:23:58

Paper Money

In the 13th century, paper money became known in Europe through the accounts of travelers, such as Marco Polo and William of Rubric. Banknotes were first issued in Europe by Stockholms Banco in 1661, and were again also used alongside coins. But according to historians "Paper money" or banknotes were first used in China around 10th century. These banknotes were known as "jiaozi".

1687-06-05 22:38:16

Popular Science Books

Sir Isaac Newton's "Principia" has been published in Latin which is regarded as one of the first efforts to produce popular science books that are actually accessible for a broader public.

1698-01-01 00:00:00

Steam Engine

The first commercial steam-powered device was a water pump, developed in 1698 by Thomas Savery. It used a vacuum to raise water from below, then used steam pressure to raise it higher. Small engines were effective though larger models were problematic. They proved only to have a limited lift height and were prone to boiler explosions. It received some use in mines, pumping stations and for supplying water wheels used to power textile machinery.[9] An attractive feature of the Savery engine was its low cost. It continued to be manufactured until the late 18th century. One engine was still known to be operating in 1820.

1700-01-01 21:47:17

Alcohol meter

Alcohol meter is actually a hydrometer used for testing the volume of potential alcohol. It was widely spread during industrial revolution for increasing alcohol yield. It is now transformed to test drunk drivers.

1714-05-01 00:00:00


In 1714, the British engineer Henry Mill obtained a patent for a machine or method to put letters on paper that are equal to the quality of printing.

1731-01-01 00:00:00


A Sextant is an optical navigation instrument, used for celestial navigation at sea.

1740-01-01 00:00:00

Geographies of Industry

Enter story info here

1744-08-01 00:00:00

J. B. Lamarck

Lamarck was a French scientist who believed in the evolution of nature. Out of his studies on animals and plants he developed his theory on evolution, later on called 'Lamarckism', which he is famous for.

1753-01-01 11:31:47

First Electronic Musical Instrument

The first electrified musical instrument in history is invented by the Czech theologian Václav Prokop Diviš (1698 - 1765): Denis d'or ("golden Dionysus"). Sounds are generated through electro-magnetic excitation.

1755-12-07 00:00:00

Sewing machines

The popular sewing machines to date were invented by Elias Howe in september 10, 1846, for the purpose of making blankets and clothing during the first industrial revolution to reduce the amount of manual sewing works to clothing companies. Rather than using hands the machines made the sewing much easier and faster than before.

1763-05-01 00:00:00

James Watt's Steam Engine

Steam engines, which were used to pump water out of mines in England already existed before James Watt started working on his concept. The invention of a steam engine was made before, but no one knows exactly who invented it. So, the history of the steam engine often starts with James Watt. In 1763, James Watt was twenty-eight years old and worked as a mathematical-instrument maker at the University of Glasgow. A model of Thomas Newcomen's steam pumping engine was brought into his shop for repairs. This machine aroused his interest and he started analyzing it. James Watt set up the model and watched it in operation. He looked at the problem of this machine and found out, that the alternate heating and cooling of the cylinder of the steam pumping wasted power. So Watt searched for a solution and experimented with different options to minimize the wasted power, after this he concluded, that the cylinder had to be kept as hot as the steam which entered it. Yet in order to condense steam there had some cooling taking place. That was challenge the inventor faced.

1764-05-01 00:00:00

Spinning Jenny

The spinning jenny is a multi-spindle spinning frame. In 1764, James Hargreaves, a weaver, carpenter and inventor, invented the “Spinning Jenny“. The original Spinning Jenny used eight spindles instead of the one found on the spinning wheel. A single wheel on the Spinning Jenny controlled eight spindles. Later models had up to 120 spindles.

1764-05-01 00:00:00

Water Frame

The water frame is a water-powered spinning frame, which could produce stronger threads for yarns. Richard Arkwright developed this spinning frame and patented it in 1769. It was the first powered, automatic, and continuous textile machine. This invention allowed to produce in factory production instead of small home manufacturing. The water frame was also the first machine that could spin cotton threads.

1770-01-01 00:00:00

British Industrial Revolution

Between 1770 and 1850 the economy of England changed from mostly agricultural to industrial work. As a process, it was the result of technological progresses like "Watt's engine" and the "Spinning Jenny" coming together. The "motor" of this revolution is coal that was used in massive amounts as energy provider for nearly every machine. Consequently a rapid increase of population, factory jobs, infrastructure as well as hunger needs and poverty followed. The society had a hard time adjusting to the new economic system but England, particulary London, is regarded as pioneers of the European industrialization and international big-size trade.

1770-05-01 00:00:00

The term "Invention"

The epoche of the industrial revolution was the time of inventions. The term "Invention" describes a new scientific or technical idea, and the means of its embodiment or accomplishment. To be patentable, an invention must be novel, have utility, and be non-obvious. To be called an invention, an idea only needs to be proven as workable. But to be called an innovation, it must also be replicable at an economical cost, and must satisfy a specific need. That's why only a few inventions lead to innovations because not all of them are economically feasible.

1776-05-01 00:00:00

The term "industry"

The term “industry“ had earlier referred only to a human attribute in the sense of skill, perseverance ands diligence. Adam Smith, who wrote “Wealth of Nations“ in 1776, was the person who used the word industry in the way of meaning a collective word for manufacturing and productive institutions.

1776-11-01 00:00:00


The first military submarine was 'Turtle' in 1776, designed by the American David Bushnell. It had very little space inside, just enough for a single person. Later, in 1800, the French Navy built a human-powered submarine, called 'Nautilus'. Since then engineers all over the world have been working on improving the design of submarines. They tried to use different kinds of propulsion mechanism and energy sources to make submarines as efficient as they could.

1778-02-01 00:00:00

The Inhaler

Inhaling drugs has always been used for both medical treatments and entertainment. The first inhaler, invented by John Mudge in 1778, was used to consume opium vapor as a medicine. In 1955 the doctor George Maison developed the pressurised inhalers we know today for his daughter. She was suffering from asthma and the inhaler made it easier and more comfortable to take her medications.

1779-05-01 00:00:00

Spinning Mule

A spinning mule spun textile fibers into yarn by an intermittent process: in the draw stroke, the roving is pulled through and twisted, on the return it is wrapped onto the spindle. The spinning mule, invented by Samuel Crompton, revolutionized the industry worldwide. In 1779, Samuel Crompton invented the spinning mule which combined the “spinning jenny“ with the “water frame“. The advantage of Crompton’s spinning mule was that it gave much more control to the spinner during the weaving process, many different types of yarn could be produced.

Technology and Science Communication

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