200 years ago, a computer was a professional making a living by computing figures for charts and tables.
Men were predominant in this job, but a small number of women joined them and made remarkable achievements. Read more about three extraordinary careers in this post.
James Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Findlater, had two passions – one was for landscape architecture, the other was for men. Circumstances to enjoy these passions were far from ideal: practising same-sex love in Britain in the 18th century was considered a crime punishable by death. Thus, James decided to leave Britain for good in 1791. As a consequence, he had to give his estates in the care of a trusty, and with it all possibilities of putting his architectural talents into action – or so it seemed.
James spent the 1790s travelling on the Continent. His unsteady life took an unexpected turn when he met a certain Johann Fischer in the year 1800.
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.
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.
Karl Theodor – probably inspired by his consultant, the smart Count Rumford – came up with a cunning plan: Continue reading
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
Since the mid-18th century, England had been the centre of the optics industry, due to the work of instrument-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
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.
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
About 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
This 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