The Victorian era was a revolutionary period in history bursting with new ideas, techniques and technology. Humanity has certainly come a long way since then, and though we’ve improved on the inventions of yesteryear, there’s no denying the impact they’ve had on our everyday lives. Without them, our modern society would be so far much different from what we know it to be. This list features five inventions from the Victorian era that we absolutely can’t do without.
1. Flushing Toilets
Toilets have been around for a much longer time than most people believe. For instance, the Indus Valley and Minoan civilizations, who both had underground sewer systems. But the first flushable toilet wasn’t created until 1858 during the Great Stink when London was engulfed in a foul sewage odor. The toilet combined Alexander Cumming’s s-bend waste disposal with the cistern toilet, giving rise to the loo that we enjoy today. He’s the reason why most of us don’t have to deal with outdoor toilets anymore.
So technically, cement wasn’t discovered during the Victorian Era as the ancient Romans used a similar material in the construction of several of their buildings. But the Portland cement, the main ingredient in our modern concrete today, was created in 1824 by Joseph Aspdin, an English bricklayer. He produced the building material by burning powdered limestone and clay in his kitchen stove which resulted in a powder that could be mixed with water. The Portland cement quickly caught on and was primarily used for heavy industry and road-building.
3. The X-Ray
The discovery of the X-ray was a huge leap for us in medicine. In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen stumbled upon the X-ray while working with cathode ray tubes in his laboratory. He realized that some of the rays could pass through certain materials, such as skin but not bones. Scientists hailed the new technology and started using it to find bullets in wounded soldiers. But the side effects of radiation were unknown at the time and patients were often exposed to extremely high levels, which often caused their hair to fall out and their skin to burn.
For all the foodies out there with a sweet tooth, can you imagine what it would be like if chocolate was never a thing? No more chocolate cakes, chocolate mousse or just plain old milk chocolate bars? Sounds awful, right? Chocolate was invented by the Mesoamericans, yes, but it was Coenraad Johannes van Houten, a Dutch chemist and chocolate maker, who invented the cocoa press in 1828 to create cocoa powder. However, chocolate maker Joseph Fry took it one step further when he created the first solid, edible chocolate bar in 1847, using cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar.
5. The Radio
Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were several scientists researching radio waves and transmitters including Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi, though the former is often credited with its discovery. Regardless of who discovered it, radio transmissions proved to be a valuable asset for us, particularly during World War I and subsequently World War II, which allowed both sides to relay crucial information which greatly influenced the outcomes of the war. Today, the radio continues to be a huge factor in our lives with well over 44,000 stations throughout the world and counting.
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