Engineering timeline – what have we achieved in the last 100 years?

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This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Part 2 can be found here.

These days we take most of what we have for granted – we automatically switch on the TV when we get home after work, pick up a phone when someone is calling, book plane tickets and then even get annoyed that it takes 10 long hours to get to the other side of the world. But that has all become possible thanks to engineers who in their days made extraordinary developments.

Early 1900s – automobiles

© Ford Europe

© Ford Europe

Back in the 1900s Henry Ford introduced his famous model T that was the first car to be commercially sold to publics. General Motors was also created around the same time, marking the beginning of some successful developments in the automobile industry.

1910s – best time for chemistry

© akwan.architect

© akwan.architect

There were a lot of inventions in the chemical industry in the second decade of the 20th century. First air conditioners and electric refrigerators were released due to profound changes in the use of gases. George Claude harnessed neon in glass tubes, which led to neon lighting and a major step-through in advertising. A few other inventions included tea bags, cellophane and Bakelite plastic.

1920s – TV

© Rodrigo Basaure

© Rodrigo Basaure

The origins of TV go back as far as the 19th century but only in 1920s the first recognizable picture was transmitted through a ‘Televisor’ (by Scottish inventor John Logie Baird). However, the screen was flashing so fast that gave viewers a headache. Nonetheless, this was the first major break-through in the developments of television.

1930s – commercial airplanes and jet engine

© Daniel Mennerich

© Daniel Mennerich

Despite that the Wright brothers completed the first flight with a fully controlled plane back in 1903, it wasn’t until 1930s that a first commercial airplane was introduced. Boeing 247 propeller-plane could fit 10 people and is the first prototype of modern airplanes. Few years later in 1937 several people in Britain and Germany were working on a jet engine design, eventually leading to a first jet engine aircraft to take off in 1939.

1940s – nuclear weapon

© International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

© International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

The atomic bomb is probably not the greatest invention in terms of how much damage it can do but nonetheless it was one of the major developments in the chemicals industry. It was first tested at the end of WWII in 1945 in a Mexican dessert and then later used by the US Army against Japan. Thankfully, only a few countries possess nuclear weapons now.

1950s – the hovercraft

© Andrew Skudder

© Andrew Skudder

The ideas for hovercraft have been around since the 1700s but it was only developed in 1959 after almost a decade of designing and building. The project was led by a British engineer Christopher Cockerell who proved that a vessel could be lifted on an air cushion. The first hovercraft was put on water in 1959 and the whole trip lasted for about 2 hours.

 

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