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.
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
Imagine it is 1793 and you are a member of the Board of Ordnance in London. Your country faces war with Revolutionary France. There is an army, of course, but the number of muskets in stock is deplorable. It is the task of the Board to equip both the army and the navy with small arms and ammunition. Are you up to the challenge? 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.