20th Century Technological Advance Term Paper

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20TH Century Technological Advances

Three Technological Advances of the 20th Century that Changed the World

The 20th century likely witnessed the introduction of more technological innovations than during any previous period in human history combined. Enormous strides in food preservation, healthcare, and telecommunications changed the world in fundamental ways, and these forces continue to shape the way people live in the 21st century. Of the countless innovations that emerged during the 20th century, three in particular rise to the top in terms of their relative impact on the human condition: the airplane, television and the atomic bomb. This paper examines the impact of these three technological advances and how they changed the world, followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

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Background and Overview. According to Tom Chalkey (1993), "No technological device springs directly from the fertile mind of an inventor into immediate widespread use. Instead, it passes through a number of stages, with successive stages representing greater degrees of practicality or use" (p. 13). The antecedents of the technological innovations of the 20th century, then, can be traced to the last two decades of the 19th century, which many scholars have termed the "Second Industrial Revolution," primarily because of the emergence of radically new technologies during this period. Three "new" areas of technology are usually identified as being the most important during this period: 1) chemicals, 2) electricity, and 3) the internal-combustion engine (Szostak, 1995). All three of these 19th innovations would play an important role in the development of other technological advances in the 20th century; for instance, chemistry facilitated the development of the atomic bomb, electricity enabled the widespread use of television, and improvements in the internal-combustion engine allowed the Wright brothers to design a craft that could carry humans aloft. These three innovations are described further below.

Term Paper on 20th Century Technological Advance Assignment

Wright Brothers and First Heavier-than-Air Craft. In their essay, "Affidavit in the Case of Orville and Wilbur Wright vs. Glenn H. Curtiss: The Legal Fight after First Flight," Kahlil G. Chism and Lee Ann Potter (2003) report that Orville Wright became the first man to achieve prolonged flight in a mechanically powered plane when he flew for 12 seconds over a distance of 120 feet on December 17, 1903. "As the brothers asserted in a 1909 affidavit, that feat "won for them the medals of the Congress of the United States, the State of Ohio, the City of Dayton, the Legion of Honor of the French Republic," as well as numerous other awards and accolades. "Their accomplishment, however, occurred in the midst of a storm of creative ideas and energy in aviation" (Chism & Potter, 2003, p. 352). Certainly when the Wright brothers finally managed to coax their reluctant "Flyer" (now honored in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC) into the air for a few seconds that fateful day in December, 1903 at Kill Devil Hill at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina they probably could not possibly imagine where their remarkable innovation would lead in less than a century.

In fact, children born in 21st century may not know it, but they now live in a world that has made it a priority to maintain a permanent presence in outer space. This first generation of "space children" are watching private entrepreneurs -- instead of international coalitions -- send manned flights into space, international jumbo jets routinely ferry man and machine across vast distances, and flying is regarded as a fact of life instead of the marvel of the ages it actually represents. Flying is the great equalizer for humanity, and means that people of even modest means can now fly to distant locales for business or pleasure; heavier-than-air flight means American consumers can enjoy fresh exotic fruits and vegetables from around the world, and the sky is indeed the limit today. According to Peter Plagens (2003), "In a democracy only 120 years old, it was two western guys with Yankee ingenuity who took a dream aristocratic Europeans had been fooling around with since the Enlightenment and suddenly turned it into reality" (p. 390). Clearly, although many others were working on the same goal, all of the benefits that have accrued to mankind in the last 100 years or so in this context can be directly traced to those "daring young… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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