The Reichenbach Case – Industrial Espionage at Boulton & Watt

In the late 18th century, Bavaria was an economically backward state, heavily relying on agriculture. Bavaria’s Elector, Karl Theodor (1777-1799), though usually more interested in arts and philosophy than in state affairs, was aware of the problems arising from a weak industrial economy – especially with the French revolutionary army roaming Europe. Karl Theodor looked to England, a prosperous nation, and the number 1 in technical innovation.

Plotting

Karl Theodor – probably inspired by his consultant, the smart Count Rumford – came up with a cunning plan: Continue reading

The Poor Man’s Son Who Usurped the British Market of Optical Lenses

Since the mid-18th century, England had been the centre of the optics industry, due to the work of instument-maker John Dolland (1706-1761). Dolland manufactured small ‘achromatic’ telescopes with high-quality lenses made of flint glass (instead of the inferior crown glass). His products were in high demand from astronomers all over Europe. This began to change, when a poor man’s son who had had a lot of bad luck in his youth, met the Bavarian Prince Elector. Continue reading

Cultivated Roses – a New Craze Begins

In this post:

  • A lady’s rose
  • the East India connection
  • Amateurs – a class of its own
  • The Chinese key to heaven

The rose is the national flower of England. It is, however, not the rose we know today that became the symbol of the country. The English rose – rosa gallica officinalis –was, roughly said, a wild rose. It was very popular in British gardens of the 18th century, as its fruits could be used as tea, marmalade, or as medicine (thus the alternative name apothecary’s rose).

It was only from the mid-18th century that natural philosophers and gardeners began to experiment with new varieties of roses that had been introduced from other countries. By the end of the 18th century, cultivated roses had spread throughout Europe, and with it a new enthusiasm for this beautiful flower.
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The Origin of Now, Part 4

detail-neuAbout 250 years ago, science spread into the world and everyday life. People asked how scientific progress and inventions could make life better and easier. They set out to develop and pursue new ideas. Some of these are still around today. In the fourth part of my series, we discover how the invention of a Scottish mechanical engineer changed the office world forever.

The Letter Copying Press and Mr Watt’s Secrets Recipes for Ink and Liquor

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The Origin of Now (Part 3)

Governable parachuteThis series is dedicated to inventions, ideas and concepts developed during the Romantic Age that shaped our modern world. With the second scientific revolution, a series of breakthroughs in science led to the idea that scientific progress could make life better and easier. Inventive individuals set out to pursue new ideas (also see part 1 and part 2 of this series). One of them was Sir George Cayley (1773-1857). Follow me back to the 1790ies to find out how his dream of flying laid the foundation of today’s aviation.

The Man Who Understood Why Airplanes Fly

Sir George Cayley sketched his first flying machine aged 19, in 1792. Continue reading

The Origin of Now: Part I

Chemical slide rule devised by W. H. Wollaston, 1814

Chemical slide rule devised by W. H. Wollaston, 1814

Flying, electricity and computers are part of our everyday lives. When their basic principles were explored during the first half of the 18th century, nobody cared about their practical use. The idea that practical use could be made of a balloon ascent, electricity or the binary code was absurd. Science was mainly aimed at understanding the creation and God. Thus, science was practiced in the “ivory towers” of the elite, written down in Latin and kept in libraries of the chosen few.

However, with a series of breakthroughs in astronomy, chemistry and the study of electricity during the Romantic Age, science became popular. It began to spread into the world, as public lectures and subject in schools. People began to ask how scientific progress and inventions could make life better and easier. Inventive persons set out to develop and pursue new ideas. Soon, new machines were introduced to nearly every industry. Some of them were the origin of the world we know today.

In the new series “The origin of Now” Regency Explorer is going to explore the developments, inventions, and concepts of the Romantic Age that laid the foundations of our modern world. I will explore not only scientific and industrial developments, but also innovations in sports, military, the world of finance etc. Find the first set of examples here.

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The Girl, the Kite and the Eccentric Inventor

In this post:
Inventions and science in the Romantic Age
Help, my father is an inventor!
Martha Pocock as a character of a novel – and plot bunnies involving the Pocock family

Martha Pocock was not what we associate with a typical girl of the Romantic Age. She was neither an epitome of propriety nor a simpering Miss. Martha had guts and she was hands-on. She was the first woman to be lifted into the air under a kite. Martha owed her experiences in flying under a kite to her father. George Pocock (1774–1843) was an inventor and a schoolmaster. He became famous for inventing the first kite-drawn carriage. Sounds like a joke? It’s not.

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Fashion Meets Scientific Progress: The “Spy Fan”

Fans are so much more than fashionable accessories: They are useful for flirting, can cool heated cheeks or hide an unladylike emotion. In the wake of the Napoleonic War, their usefulness was boosted beyond the known limit when fans were made for spying, i.e. discretely observing the surrounding or other persons. I found some examples of these extraordinary devices when I visited the exhibition “Waterloo: Life & Times” of the Fan Museum in Greenwich, UK.

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