Alchemists, Prussians and Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign: How New Shades of Blue were Discovered in the 18th Century

The 18th century saw an increase in scientific knowledge and practical research. Many findings found their way into everyday life, craft and commerce. New technics allowed, e.g., to create new colours. Find out here what Napoleon’s Campaign in Egypt, the Prussians and an apothecary had to do with the various blue pigments created in the long 18th century.

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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

Object of Interest: The Columbian Printing Press

The American engineer George Clymer invented the Columbian printing press in 1813. It was one of the first iron printing presses, and it was in part inspired by the Stanhope press.

The Columbian printing press cost $400, more than twice the price of a conventional wooden press – and too much for the American market. So Clymer moved to London in 1817. Here, he made a success of his press-manufacturing business. 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 5: The First Modern Hotel

In the series “The Origin of Now” I so far have mainly presented scientific developments. But the series also presents ideas and concepts developed during the Romantic Age that can still be found in our everyday life. Thus this post explores the origin of a concept that we take for granted today: The modern hotel. Continue reading

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 2

GesamtOur modern world was born in the 18th century. Numerous inventions, ideas and concepts developed during the Romantic Age can still be found in our everyday life. In the previous part of this series I had presented roller skates, the steel pen and the financial instrument ‘pfandbrief’ as brainchildren of the 18th century. Today, we discover how a chef and a baronet shaped our world. Continue reading