The 21st century man owes his life to inventors of past centuries
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - November 29, 2018 - 12:00am

Using the Montessori six-foot tall Cosmic Science chart of the Totem Pole of Civilizations, we see nine men standing on top of one another. Over the Primitive Man at the bottom stands the River Settlers who discovered fire. Above him are the ancient civilized men (representing the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, China, India, etc.), who formulated the laws of governance. Next is the Medieval Man, who became aware of life’s spiritual mores while studying alchemy, and healing. Then, the Renaissance Man who mastered arts, crafts, painting and sculpture. Above him is the Explorer-Colonizer who created the empires of England, Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, Italy, etc. while chartering the maps of the “New World,” and finally the Modern Man who discovered tools for facilitating life’s conveniences.  Towering over all is the Astronaut trying to reach life in the outer space. Yes, we owe all these men in the past for what we are today.

Amazing evolution of construction materials

Improvements in steel and concrete helped restructure the world. The SKYSCRAPER construction was innovated by William Le Baron Jenney, whose attention was caught by the Southeast Asian homes made of reed matting strung on a framework of tree trunks or the “nipa” house. He envisioned ‘an internal steel frame on which the fabric would be strung like flesh upon a skeleton.’ Steel frames were inserted into concrete slabs. The result was the 1913 ten-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago – ancestor of all high-rise structures. With the hydraulic lifts, the Otis ELEVATOR helped construct a 20-story building. The motorized CONCRETE MIXER was invented and was even mounted on trucks. This helped construct the giant Grand Coulee Dam of Washington DC in 1927, using 19 metric tons of concrete for its 550 ft. wall.

French engineer Eugene Freyssinet perfected the German version of “pre-stressed” concrete. It used 70% less steel and 40% less concrete. By 1924, American inventor William Mason discovered the first PLYWOOD, when a leaky steam valve cooked and compressed sawmill waste into tough weather resistant sheet marketed within the year as Masonite. Fusing together traditional architectures with the new technology the 55-story Woolworth Building was erected in New York prodding corporations by 1920 to vie with each other to construct even higher buildings on Manhattan Island.

However, the Wall Street stock market crashed and construction ceased. A beacon of hope was the brainchild of architect William Lamb’s handsome 102-story Empire State Building complete in 1931. It was the last of the world’s big-boned steel frame giants. 

From the horseless carriage to the dream motor car

Setting the pace for the industrial development of the 20th century was the assembling of the modern car. Many of its components were invented sometime in the 19th century, long before its development and adoption. It was only in the 20th century that they were fully developed.

With more cylinders, the smoother and more powerful is the motorized vehicle. And so was born the MULTI-CYLINDERED CAR ENGINE. The 1900 De Dion Bouton had a single cylinder, Daimler’s Mercedes of 1901 had four, the 1903 Dutch Spyker had six cylinders and the French V-8 had eight. For fuel injection, a system of vaporizing and spraying fuel into the cylinders without a carburetor was developed in Britain. Spark plugs and cooling fan were developed, while the ‘distributor’ that was a device for applying electric current to the spark plugs, was invented in 1908 by Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering. CAR BATTERIES followed.

When he was 40, HENRY FORD envisioned cars for the masses. His supreme creation, the “Model T” was born in 1908. Using the principle of the ASSEMBLY LINE inspired by the overhead trolley that Chicago packers used in dressing beef, he was able to produce 15 million cars by 1927. He stated: “The average worker wants a job in which he does not have to think.” It sold for as little as $290, and was rugged enough to negotiate the road. It was so simple that rural folk could fix it.

Road safety

The gradual replacement of the horse carriage was soon found to be a mixed blessing for something had to be done to improve the road surface. The problem was solved in Britain by spreading them with coal tar. With white showing well against a black surface, the WHITE ROAD MARKINGS in 1911 started in the USA, becoming the “center line safety strip.” Another British contribution to road safety was the CAT’S EYE. In 1934, road contractor Percy Shaw was driving home in heavy fog one night, and he was saved from going out of the road by a cat whose eyes reflected by his head lights.

By the 1930s, the Germans were already speeding over a growing network of ‘AUTOBAHNS’ or super highways, first designed by Karl Fritsch and appropriately doubled as racetracks. The American version was the “parkway,” which encircled urban areas with entrance and exit roads instead of intersections. The first was the Bronx Parkway, which opened in New York in 1925. The British network was slow to adapt so that the London Birmingham MI opened in 1959, 40 years after it had been proposed.

One of the factors driving these changes was the development of increasingly heavy transporters. The development of the DIESEL engine in 1930 by British Cedric Bernard Dicksee was followed in 1934 by the advent of eight WHEELER TRUCK.

The difficult attempt of the Philippines to catch up with the new millennium development

Never have we Filipinos faced the height of gridlock in our lives as we try to wade through the Metro Manila traffic, or the increasing floods everywhere. The same situations that hamper all life’s activities are occurring in other major cities. Is there hope for thousands of Filipino babies born every minute, to help unravel and find the key to untangle these problems? YES. Quality parenting and quality education should be able to help them discover the rich throve of knowledge and practices that caring scientists, explorers and inventors in the past have bequeathed to all of us today. Their great sacrifices must not be in vain. Let’s pray that the Genie of Science will reveal Aladdin’s treasures hidden in every Filipino child.

(For feedback email to precious.soliven@yahoo.com)

PRECIOSA S. SOLIVEN
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