At our school we all have studied history which has changed from time to time. But we generally do not focus on one aspect that is the aspect of innovation. When we observe that in primitive times when humans were hunter gatherers the first innovation that they did was of fire. From fire they started to eat cooked food. And further as the time progressed man came in touch with iron which led to development of iron plough that improved the farm yield, contributed in weapon development and various tools for building. Similarly, as we proceed and come to modern history that includes the time from sixteenth century to nineteenth century approximately we will find how the new inventions helped in shaping of world History.
Some major inventions done by few individuals that can be termed as intellectual property in present context included: Steam engine, Printing Machine, Telegraph, Aeroplanes, Telephone and many others that played an innovative role in revolutionary changes.
Steam Engine discovery is credited to James Watt in eighteenth century. But before James Watt many versions of steam engine had been developed for example Thomas Savery in 1698 patented an engine developed by him. Steam engine played a crucial role in improving economic activity in Europe by decreasing time and labour for transportation of coal from mines. After that it was also used socially for facilitating the travel of people. Its further development led to its use in marine engines which enhanced the sea connectivity. In Indian scenario British laid down railway lines in India that helped in improvement of trade, communication and mobility. As now goods can easily be transported from sea ports to Indian markets as well as travel of army was eased by improved mobility. Therefore we can say that European power increased their stronghold on foreign colonies by this invention.
One major invention that facilitated in changing of maps and polity of nations is that of printing press. It was an invention of Johannes Gutenberg in France. Earlier people used to write and conserve manuscripts which could be afforded by only the elite section of the society. Further to spread any idea, scribes were employed who used to write books for selling which was very exhaustive and expensive process. This invention was revolutionary because it not only gave access of printed materials to general public but also helped in shaping their minds with respect to prevailing social order. It gave intellectuals the space to raise awareness among the general public. For example many ideas like Rosseau, Montesquieu and John Locke were spread among general public that shaped their minds and they rose in revolution in demand for liberty, equality and Fraternity. Similarly, Indian reform and Independence movements were also inspired by popular writings of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi that inspired the masses to participate in freedom struggle.
Electric Telegraph was invented by Scottish Samuel Morse which was a point to point communication system based on text messaging. This telegraph reduced the time for message to travel and saved the money spent on messengers as well as improved the efficiency of work as the requirements could now reach at faster pace. It also helped in expansion of imperialism by giving an advantage to European powers over native rulers who were unaware about the same.
Later on chemical manufacturing and invention of machines such as weaving machine led to Industrial revolution thereby revolutionising the production by producing goods in masses. This industrial revolution had a huge impact on world economy as the newly produced goods were exported to new markets in colonies and raw materials were imported from there. The invention of machines proved profitable. With respect to India peasants after the industrial revolution were forced to produce raw materials for goods to be produced in England which led to a trade deficit for India.
The most important inventions that we all might have studied about in our primary classes was that of aeroplane by William Wright and Oliver Wright famously called as Wright Brothers. The invention decreased the distance between nations and people and reduced the time to travel. Further it also opened the space for world to explore. It also led to development of aircrafts that could be used in conventional wars and USA was the first to import it.
Therefore by all the examples stated above we understand that “Needs are triggers of Invention”, and these inventions led to various changes that shaped the world history.
Tushar Srivastava, Student at Law School, IIT Kharagpur