Science during the 1870s

The American Civil War of the 1860s is deemed one of the most significant events in American history. It is considered the deadliest war Americans had faced, causing about 620,000 soldier deaths and an indeterminable amount of civilian casualties. It also paved the way for the abolition of slavery in America that had existed for many centuries. Eventually, the problems and issues of this war started to be resolved as history approached the 1870s, and Americans, despite the painful memories caused by the war, were slowly but conspicuously shaping up America into a better and more advanced nation. To prove this, inventions and inventors during this period had introduced the immeasurable capability of man to progress, improve and become better than before. The following inventions are created during the 1870s, and most can still be seen today: magic lantern projector (1870), cable car railway (1871), electric street car (1874), dynamo (1875), magazine firearm (1875), carpet sweeper (1876), loudspeaker (1876), stapler (1877), microphone (1877), and cash register (1879). These technologies had greatly influenced the technologies of today, but the most influential of them all are the telephone (1876) by Alexander Graham Bell   and the phonograph (1877) and the light bulb (1879) by Thomas Alva Edison.          


Alexander Graham Bell is best known for his ever-powerful invention of the telephone in 1876. It is so influential that it is still considered today as an indispensable part of people's everyday life, not only to the people in America but also to those around the world. Coming from a family eminent for their works in elocution and speech, Bell was called "the father of the deaf". Having a deaf mother and wife, Bell committed his life to teaching and helping the deaf to communicate with a technique called visible speech. Dedicated to his research about sounds and ways of transmitting musical notes and articulate speech, Bell eventually decided to concentrate on his experiments on sound. Together with other inventors such as Thomas Edison and Elisha Gray, he looked for ways on transmitting multiple telegraphs on each telegraph lines. He believed that his multi-reed apparatus made up of multiple metal reeds tuned to different frequencies would transmit the human voice by telegraph, but an accident happened and surprisingly, the telephone started to work. Thomas Watson, Bell's assistant, accidentally plucked one of the reeds of Bell's multi-reed device, and it made Bell realize a simple mistake in a complicated theory that he kept on pondering. He found out that only one reed was enough to demonstrate his theory about the potential to "talk with electricity". With the first successful telephone ever invented, Bell uttered the famous first words to his assistant Thomas Watson," Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you." Since then, innovations of the original telephone made it possible for people of today to communicate with people around the world.


Another significant personality of this time is Thomas Alva Edison. He is best known at this period for his inventions such as the light bulb and the phonograph. Many people see him as a science genius, but not everybody knows the rags-to-riches type of life he had gone through. Before becoming a professional scientist, Edison, despite his deafness at the age of 12, started to rise with his determination to become the best he could be, from a young, vulnerable child who worked on trains and sold candies and newspapers to the greatest inventor the world has ever known. Edison was able to invent 1,000 inventions before he died.





Thomas Edison's greatest challenge, and probably the greatest contribution he had for the world, is the invention of the incandescent light bulb. Edison, who believed and announced that he could make an inexpensive light bulb for six weeks, took about a year to develop it. This idea of a light bulb was not new to people of that time. Many had been trying to invent something out of the same idea, but none of them was as successful as Thomas Edison who was able to invent a light bulb that is long-lasting, practical, economical and breathtaking. He struggled to find the right kind of filament that would work to carry electricity, give off light, and last. He tested metals, papers, cork, lemon peel, and even a hair from a friend's beard, and eventually, he came up with a simple carbonized cotton thread. In October 21, 1879, he put it in a glass bulb, vacuumed out the air and turned on a current electricity that together made one of his assistant describe it as if it " glowed like the setting sun in the dusk of early autumn." Shortly, Edison was given the opportunity to install an electrical lighting system in New York that eventually lit electrical lights throughout much of the place.


Edison also introduced his invention of the phonograph, an instrument for recording and replaying sound, on November 21, 1877. It was his first invention in Menlo Park, New Jersey, which became the first modern research laboratory that he called "invention factory". While working on a telegraph transmitter, he realized that by attaching a needle to the telephone receiver, he could record a telephone message. Instead of discs, Edison used tinfoil cylinder by attaching two needles for recording and playback. In August 12, 1877, the first model of the phonograph was completed and it first played Mary had a little lamb as the first message ever recorded. Decades later, the phonograph eventually led to the tape and CD players that people listen to and continue to innovate.




The decade of 1870s is a time in history that people can look back to and be grateful of. It was a time of discoveries, advancements, and technologies that transformed America forever. The inventors and their inventions had started it all. Little did these people know that their lives would greatly influence human history until today. One could never measure and reach the intelligence people had in the past, but one thing we could be sure of, " Genius is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration"- Thomas Edison.




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