Link to Tim Richardsons main page
GNED 117
As taught by 
Prof. Tim Richardson
Toronto, Canada
Detailed Course Outline
Section Four last updated 2002 April 11th



The Alchemists
Before the 1700's, when people experimented with mixing chemicals, they did this for purposes which we would consider frivolous.

view this PowerPoint presentation on the chemists for an overview
from the College of Charleston, South Carolina, USA

on a web site from the University of Pennsylvania
He wrote the "Traité elémentaire de chimie" in 1789, which is considered by many the
first textbook on modern chemistry. Here for the first time the modern notion of elements is laid out systematically;  Lavoisier worked out reactions in chemical equations.
a simple half page bio on Lavoisier
Beginning in the early 1700's new approaches led to a greater understanding of chemistry. While there were a number of important chemists and scientists that discovered principles and applications, for our course, we will deal with 3 of the most well known, LAVOISIER, DALTON and MENDELEYEV. Prior to Lavoisier, chemists observed that metals placed in air, under heated conditions, changed form and also shape. For example, when you heat lead, you can melt it and it becomes a liquid. In 1775 Lavoisier discovered Oxygen by conducting and experiment with mercury in a sealed jar. He used a focused light to shine through the glass walls of the jar, heat the mercury to the point where he burned it. he also noticed that the air in the jar was reduced in size and the remaining air was not enough to keep a candle burning. In addition, he observed that if the mercury calx was slowly heated, it would form mercury again, but the volume of air in the jar would increase. This new air would keep the candle flame burning. From this, he proposed that there was something in the air, which he called oxygen, which allowed the candle to burn. As a result of his work on this, and other experiments we had a new field of science created called chemistry. Based on these new studies, people started to investigate what substances were made of. 

pictures of the early chemical apparatus used by Lavoisier can be viewed at

(1766-1844) developed the first useful atomic theory of matter around 1803.
- "all matter consists of tiny particles"
- "atoms are indestructable and unchangeable"
- "all atoms of the same element have the same weight"
see the excellent summary of Dalton's work at
from Frostburg State University:

very helpful PowerPoint presentation, on-line about Dalton and his theories

In the early 1800's, John Dalton (1766 - 1844) proposed it was not the weight of a substance that mattered, but the number of units of substance that was important. Referring to a concept used by the Greeks, Dalton proposed that each element consisted of atoms and that atoms of different elements had different weights. 
web site with many links at

Dimitri Mendeleyev (1834 - 1907) was a Russian chemist who was the first to obeserve that some elements react with others in a certain way. From this, he was able to propose a table of known elements arranged in a form to indicate the similarity of chemical properties. The table, first published in 1869, was the first periodic table. Of significance was the fact that there were blanks in the table. Mendeleyev did not know these elements, but he was able to predict their properties.



The contributions of China to metallurgy
Coal has been known since the fourth century A.D. in China, where in later centuries it came into widespread use. Coal is essential to manufacturing steel since fires of wood do not reach a high enough temperature to turn iron ore into molten metal.

Powerpoint Presentation on the History of Metallurgy
from Dr. Richard Thomas at the

Dr. Thomas presentation, on-line is very good and coveres the whole historical range from primitive man making copper, gold and silver to steel making today 

Georg Bauer 1494-1555
AGRICOLA, Georgius, Latinized name of Georg Bauer (1494-1555), German scientist, generally regarded  as the founder of the science of mineralogy. He made the study of
 mineralogy and geology his lifework. His greatest work, De Re Metallica (1556), which appeared after his death, served as a textbook and guide for mining engineers for almost two centuries.

Prof. Cyril Stanely Smith 
in Kranzberg and Pursell's Technology in Western Civilization Volume One

Metallurgy and Extractive Metallurgy

Although people made objects and tools of metal for thousands of years, it wasn't until the 16th century that metallurgists began writing the technical details of their craft. (In part this was a consequence of the printing press which allowed books to be widely distributed previously, all knowledge of metal arts was passed on by craftsmen by word-of-mouth to apprentices)

Mining - the first step in the Metallurgical process
- most ancient mining started from a rock outcropping which allowed the metal to be seen exposed on the surface of the ground
- early efforts at mining involved heating rock and cracking it with cool water, and using wooden or bone implements to dig out the small pieces

Mine Surveying - when people developed large tunnels in the ground, there developed a need to map out the drifts and shafts. Knotted cords and simple compasses where used.

Mining Machinery - earliest machinery was used for hauling the ore out to the ground level (carts and sleds), then when steam power was developed, steam engines were first put to use pumping water out of the coal mines in England so the shafts could be dug deeper to access more of the ore body. In mines with vertical shafts, steam engines were used for hoisting the ore from great depths when animal power was not enough for the heavy weights.

Crushing the ore - after the ore has been brought to the surface, it needs to be crushed so that you can separate the mineral from the waste. Early crushing was done by primitive man with wooden and bone implements, and other rocks. 

Smelting Process - one of the ways to separate the true mineral from the waste rock, after it had been crushed, was to heat the mass in furnaces. The mineral (gold, silver, copper etc.) could then be bled off from the waste slag and the molten material gathered in various forms. Using chemicals to act as reducing agents did not take place until the 18th century.
An interesting page with a short note about Bronze, used in Greek and Roman statues.
"Bronze was the preferred material of the sculptors who devised the daring new styles in
free-standing sculpture in the fifth century, although marble was also popular. Creating bronze statues, which were cast in molds made from clay models, required a particularly well-equipped workshop with furnaces, tools, and foundry workers skilled in metallurgy. Because sculptors and artists labored with their hands, aristocrats regarded them as workmen of low social status, and only the most famous ones, like Pheidias, could move in high society. Properly prepared bronze had the tensile strength to allow outstretched poses of arms and legs, which could not be done in marble without supports."
Professor Thomas Martin, Tufts University

Mining and Metallurgy are technologies that are very very old, and, furthermore, allow for other technologies to exist since so much of our modern world is made in whole, or part from metal objects. Many people are interested in the history of mining and there are a number of Mining History sites on the Internet.




The History of Electricity
very brief intro by Haugland, Twedt and Merk
"Electricity didn't begin when Benjamin Franklin flew his kite during a rainstorm, or when light bulbs were installed in houses all around the world...electricity has always been around ... electricity exists in nature. Lightning is simply a flow of electrons between the ground and the clouds. The first discoveries of electricity
were made back in ancient Greece. Greek philosophers discovered that when amber is rubbed against cloth, lightweight objects will stick to it. This is the basis of static electricity. "
The words electron, electricity, electronic, and others all originate from the Greek word  "elektron". However, in Greek, elektron means "amber". The reason for this is because amber played a large part in the first conception of electricity.

Michael Faraday 1791 - 1867
Faraday's greatest contribution to science was in the field of electricity. 
His experiments yielded some of the  most significant principles and inventions in scientific history. 
In 1821 he began experimenting with electromagnetism and by demonstrating the conversion of electrical energy into motive force, invented the electric motor. In 1831 Faraday discovered the induction of electric currents and made the first dynamo (in the form of a copper disk rotated between the poles of a permanent  magnet), the precursor of modern dynamos and generators. From his discovery of electromagnetic induction (1831) stemmed a vast development of electrical machinery for industry. In 1837 he demonstrated that electrostatic force consists of a field of curved lines of force, and conceived a specific inductive capacity.
In addition to other contributions he did research on electrolysis, formulating Faraday's law.

Faraday's experiments
His first discovery showed how electrical and magnetic forces could be converted into mechanical motion  by positioning a current - carrying wire between the north and south poles of a horseshoe magnet. The  interaction of forces made the wire rotate so  creating a simple electric motor. He demonstrated that if a current flowed in a wire close to a magnet  which was not fixed down, the magnet would move.  Also if a magnet were fixed in position, but close to  a movable wire with a current flowing in it, then the  wire would move.

Much of the electrical terminology we use today comes from the names of the scientists who made some of the first great breakthroughs in their area. These scientists include: James Watt, Allessandro Volta, Andre Marie Ampere, Georg Simon Ohm, and James Joule 
James Watt Also known for his work with steam engines.
Alessandro Volta
1745 - 1827
Inventor of the first electric battery. He placed together several pairs of silver and zinc discs separated by paper soaked in salt water and an electrical current was produced. In 1775 he invented the electrophorus, a device that, once electrically charged by having been rubbed, could transfer charge to other objects. The unit of electric potential, the volt, is named in his honor.
Andre Marie Ampere
1775 - 1836
French physicist and mathematician was  the first to establish the importance of the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Produced a definition of the unit of measurement of current flow, now known as the ampere. 
Georg Simon Ohm
He explained the relationship between  resistance, current and voltage. Ohm's famous law states that the flow of current is directly proportional to voltage and inversely proportional to resistance.
James Joule
He shared in discovering the law of the conservation of energy.The law states that energy used up in one form reappears in another and is never lost.The International unit of energy, the joule, is named in his honor. 
for further reading, view
Volta -
Ampere -
Ohm -
Joule -

Electrical motors
Joseph Henry 1797-1878
Considered by some to be the foremost American scientist of the 19th century.
Henry appears to have discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction independently of British scientist Michael Faraday, but because Faraday published his results before Henry, he is credited with the discovery.
click to see larger

background on Bells invention and his personality




Communications Technology Timeline from Niel Brandt of Georgia State University
The concept of sending messages over a long distance has long been used since civilization began.
How it all began
Sound signals via drums in Africa and Polynesia
Smoke signals by North Americans
Flag signals by Greeks and Romans
Carrier Pidgeons used in Egypt and Middle East 
Fire Signals by North Americans and Europeans

Detailed information, other than by a messenger, was not achieved until Claude Chappe in 1792 invented the semaphore in France and a network of stations to pass on the signals. From 1759 to 1855, this network of stations grew from 15 to 556 stations; at its height, it connected 30 French cities to Paris and employed more than 3,000 people.

Naval use of signals also included various flags on ships to warn of weather dangers and navigation instructions

Communications Technology Timeline
from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication
1793 Claude Chappe establishes the first long-distance semaphore telegraph line
1831  Joseph Henry proposes and builds an electric telegraph
1835  Samuel Morse develops the Morse code - the code
1843  Samuel Morse builds the first long distance electric telegraph line
1861 Philip Riess invented the microphone
1876  Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson exhibit an electric telephone
1877 Thomas Edison patents the phonograph
1889 Almon Strowger patents the direct dial telephone
1901 Guglielmo Marconi transmits radio signals from Cornwall to Newfoundland
1925 John Baird transmits the first television signal
-.--   ---   ..-
--.   .    -

-...    ---   -.    ..-    ...
--    .-     .-.     -.-    ...

another communications history timeline
a third communications history timeline

"One of the recurring truisms throughout history is that the need for superior weapons is often the strongest impetus to developing technology"

 Professor Hugh Elton, who teaches in the Dept. History, Florida International University, has an excellent web page titled
Warfare in the Ancient World - this massive site has links to many Greek and Roman military sites

Neolithic Warfare in a 7 page essay by Arther Ferrill, Mississippi State University

Early Tools and Weapons:
the bow's design
the composite bow
Tension Artillery in the Greek World    ../0400tensionart.html

Excellent summary of Roman Army Legions and their fundamental strategies

Check Daniel Green's massive site on Roman military technology and strategy at
Siege warfare
Artillery and catapults
more catapults  ../0600roman.html







The "Geometry of War" web page from Oxford University
gunnery  http://../summary.htm#gunnery
"The art of gunnery was complex and dangerous and the gunner's ability to fire reliably and accurately was frequently criticized. Although mathematicians could not remedy variations in powder or in the form of individual guns, they did seek to improve gunnery by devising instruments for the measurement of shot, the elevation of guns and mortars, and the calculation of the range of fire. Instruments for these operations include calipers, gauges, quadrants, sights, levels and specialized rules.... Although heavy guns were often fired for maximum destructive effect at point blank range (with the barrel horizontal), greater range could be achieved by elevating the gun." Once you start to elevate the gun, you create problems in detrmining how high to elevate for the cannonball to hit a target, which then requires mathematical calculations and measurements to be made.
range finding and surveying  http://.../summary.htm#range
"How was the gunner to determine the distance of his target? The traditional method of linear measurement in land surveying was simply to lay ropes or poles between the two stations concerned - hardly an option when the distant station was a hostile position. However, sixteenth-century geometers were seeking to introduce the technique of triangulation, and range-finding was part of their case for a new geometry of surveying. Distant stations could be located by sighting from either end of a measured baseline; their distances were found by measuring the angles formed with the baseline and by subsequent calculation, or by a more straightforward graphical method."
fortification  http://.../summary.htm#forts
"The high walls of the medieval fortress were good for repelling attack from beneath, but were vulnerable to heavy guns: they presented large targets without providing suitable platforms for defensive fire. Yet if walls were to be low and stout, so as to withstand artillery bombardment, how were they to be defended against direct infantry assault? The new style of fortification emerged as a response to this problem. The solution was to create squat, thick walls that were defended by sidelong or flanking fire aimed from projecting gun emplacements or bastions."

"Developments in the art of warfare in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries provided mathematicians with outlets for geometry. The ability to make a heavy gun in a single metal casting led to ordnance that was longer and capable of more accurate fire. Further, the addition of trunnions on which the barrel could turn in a vertical plane and the development of moveable carriages improved the setting of direction and elevation, and so encouraged the idea of predicting and calculating ranges.... To harness the capabilities of the new weaponry, gunners needed instruments to measure both the inclination of the barrel and the distance to the target, together with a means of relating these two measurements; the geometers offered a variety of solutions,
as well as designs for fortifications to withstand attack from the new artillery. The frequent wars in sixteenth-century Europe added urgency to their work and helped justify claims for the importance of their discipline. As in other areas of practice, such as cartography or surveying, the mathematicians were quick to recognize an opportunity and they responded with enthusiasm [meaning they eagerly helped bring about artillery solutions, which allowed more people to be killed by big guns ! ]

History of Technology in Canada
"The role of technology in Canada is definitely different than in Britain or the United States, which were the countries with the greatest influence on us. ... we didn't raise a huge army to conquer our enemies or the Native peoples; we relied on technology to conquer space and climate and geography and geology. We didn't specialize in steam engines and manufacturing equipment to make consumer products for large urban populations, we specialized in transportation, communication and resource extraction."
W. George Richardson
Professor Emeritus
History of Engineering, Queen's University

link to the CPRs history page
Transportation Technology Timeline from Niel Brandt

RAILROADS and a story which shows the long historical influence of ancient technologies
The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4   feet, 8.5 inches. That is an exceptionally odd number.

Now, why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the U.S. Railroads were built by English expatriates.  Why did the English build them that way? Because the first rail lines 
  were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways,  and that's the gauge they used. 

Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the  tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons,which used that wheel spacing. 

So why did the wagons have that particular odd spacing? Well, if they  tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some  of the old,long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So, who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions.  locomotives were once made in Canada

The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? The ruts in the roads, which everyone had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels, were first formed by Roman war chariots. Since 
  the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. 

  The U.S. standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots 
  were made just wide enough to accommodate the back end of two war horses. Thus we have the answer to the original question.

Now the twist to the story... When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two booster rockets attached to the side of the main fuel tank. These are Solid Rocket Boosters or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass!!! 

this story can be found at several places on the web, including the following

in all cases, the author is unknown

April   FINAL EXAM  - , worth 35 %