Innovations of the Industrial Revolution
As one of the greatest times of production and change in the quality of life for all classes and members of society, the Industrial Revolution marked a turning point for humankind. Together, the industrial revolutions in both America and Britain not only altered the lifestyles of many, but also offered solutions to many questions that had plagued society for numerous years. Changes that occurred in the fields of medicine and chemistry still play a role in our everyday lives. These advancements not only affected 19th century industry, but also began paving the way for modern technology.
With the expansion of technology available to the textile industry emerged a growing want among those who produced the textiles for new colors. When this problem arose, textile producers called upon the chemistry industry to help lessen the need for textile producers to rely upon natural methods of bleaching such as sun, rain, sour milk, and urine (Britannica). While these methods had been practiced for centuries, the industry saw a definite want for a new and more efficient method of bleaching. From this point forth, chemistry’s role in the Industrial Revolution not only led to innovations in bleaching, but also led to great changes in the practice of chemistry, as we know it. In the mid-1700’s, a chemist named John Roebuck solved the problems of the textile industry with his invention of a new method for mass producing a chemical by-product known as sulfuric acid in lead chambers (Encarta 97). This discovery paved the way for sulfuric acid’s use in bleaching, and eventually led to the production of chlorine bleach, a common household product today.
As the Industrial Revolution moved forward into the 19th century, was a shift in the focus of chemistry occurred. No longer interested in only being a field of study that would solely benefit the textile industry, chemistry moved away from heavy chemical processes to what today is known as organic chemistry. This shift produced both good and bad discoveries. According to Kevin Kitano and Anthony Morejon (authors of an Internet web site dedicated to the industrial revolution), during the 1800s over 70,000 chemical compounds were broken down, and the first plastics were developed. Along with those advancements, however, there also were two discoveries that would prove more harmful than helpful in the long run. While working on the different qualities of cellulose materials during mid 19th century, chemists discovered and developed very powerful explosives such as nitrocellulose, nitroglycerine and most famously, dynamite. Then, in 1898, a then-unknown female chemist discovered radioactivity. Marie Curie discovered one of the most important power sources of all time, but she also opened the door for others to harness that power in the form of the nuclear bomb.
Jenner’s discovery led to important research by Louis Pasteur...