Friday, April 17, 2009

Discovery Channel - Ancient Chinese Inventions

A documentary which challenges the assumption that there is something essentially Western about science and technology.

The World is forever in debt to China for its innovations. Ancient China was extreme advanced, and many of it’s discoveries are still in use today. This is what Robert Temple, the author of ‘The Genius of China - 3000 years of science, discovery, and invention’. The book is based on 11 main parts of Chinese innovation. Within these 11 categories, there are 3 main parts that contain the most significant inventions. Robert Temple concentrates the bulk of his examples in these three categories, agriculture, domestic and industrial technology, and engineering. Temple’s examples were not limited to these fields of innovation. The Chinese excelled in many other areas, including mathematics, warfare, and transportation, to name a few. Although Temple wrote about eleven fields of invention, I feel that these three sections contain the greatest examples of Chinese innovation, and the debt that the modern world owes China. The first main area is the field of engineering. Within this chapter, the development of iron and steel is the greatest achievement. The development of iron and steel led to other advances. By at least the 4th century the Chinese have developed blast furnaces to obtain cast iron from iron ore. This was 1200 years before the first blast furnace showed up in Europe. The reasons that the author gave to explain the reasons why the Chinese developed this technology are simple. The Chinese had access to large amounts of clay, the key ingredient in making blast furnaces. The Chinese also figured out that by adding a substance they called ”Black Earth,” they could lower the melting point of iron.


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