Iron, Steam and Rails

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Intro: Over the past few centuries, some of the biggest technological advancements have been made in societies throughout the world. In the past century alone we have seen advancements made in medicine that can save, extend and enhance the lives of vast numbers of people; and we have seen advancements in digital technologies that have increased the performance, reliability and availability of many of the electronic technologies that we now take for granted. However, to truly understand and appreciate the technological advancements that have been made over recent years, we must look back at some of the discoveries and improvements to technology that literally shaped and defined not only our country, but modern society as a whole. While the technological advancements of the past 100 years have undoubtedly proven crucial to our modern lives, without the monumental discoveries of the 18th and 19th century, we may not have had the opportunities to generate those advancements. In particular, the progress and development of iron and eventually steel, steam power and it’s multitude of uses, and the railway systems has truly defined the technological advancements of recent centuries. Body: Prior to the 18th century, the methods in place for producing iron were relatively rudimentary and ultimately inefficient. Early 18th century European smelters used charcoal fired iron furnaces. The furnaces were also small and only yielded an “average output of a mere three hundred tons a year” (Technology and American Society, p. 85). By contrast, the United States produced almost 55,000,000 metric tons of iron ore in 2004 (www.indexmundi.com). Obviously, a few changes have taken place over the years to accommodate for such immense growth in production. However, comparing modern production rates to those of early iron producers in the 18th is not realistic, but it does offer some insight as to the advancements over the past few centuries. In order to understand what has led to these


Cited: * "United States Iron Ore Production." Index Mundi. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. <www.indexmundi.com/minerals/?country=us&product=iron ore&graph=production>. * Cross, Gary, and Rick Szostak. Technology and American Society (2nd Edition). 2 ed. Alexandria, VA: Prentice Hall, 2004. Print. * Zantium. "History of Technology :: Steam engines -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2010. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1350805/history-of-technology/10449/Steam-engines?anchor=ref367967>. * Schuyler, Tami. Scientists, Mathematicians, and Inventors: An Encyclopedia of People Who Changed the World (Lives and Legacies Series). Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1998. Print. * Stover, John F.. American Railroads (The Chicago History of American Civilization). 2 Sub ed. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1997. Print.

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