Who invented the modern school system

Who invented these very special things: The secret world changers

Focus: change

Steam engine, light bulb, penicillin: everyone knows the great developments and inventions that made history and changed the world. But did you know them? Let yourself be introduced to a new world!

By Stefan Schlögl - March 23, 2020

High Middle Ages: the butter churn

The Swedish agricultural historian Janken Myrdal is an expert on butter making in the Middle Ages. And he says: Making butter is one of the most important game changers in technology history. From around 1100, the production of the coveted food was one of the early ways of refining products - namely milk.

The butter churn


It required great skill and strict hygiene to manufacture. This know-how that was in it made it a valuable commodity as it was durable and could be transported over long distances - which, incidentally, promptly led to it being heavily taxed.




12th century: pagination

The media revolution that Johannes Gutenberg triggered with the invention of movable printer's type from 1450 is well known. In the 12th century, however, a system was put in place without which books would simply not be usable: page numbering.


The page numbering, shown here symbolically


Only this inconspicuous development made information easy and findable for everyone, without it there would be no directories or registers. And without this, in turn, there is no orientation in the digital world.




1846: anesthesia

Everyone knows anesthesia, at least from relevant hospital series and documentary soaps. Usually runs alongside until the dashing surgeon picks up a scalpel.


The anesthesia


In fact, there would be no modern surgery without anesthesia, and even relatively mundane dental treatments without anesthesia would rank as private torture. Officially, from 1846, pain was over; before that, from around 1800, nitrous oxide was used. Not so funny.




From the middle of the 19th century: corrugated iron

Its cheap. It is easy. And it is (relatively) stable: corrugated iron. Patented in 1829 and mass-produced from the 1850s, the hot-dip galvanized all-rounder began its triumphal march from England.

The corrugated iron


When the USA or Australia were settled, the instant material was the first choice; aircraft and car manufacturers, the military and allotment gardeners also used it. No matter whether in war or disaster areas or in the slums of the megacities. Corrugated iron has shaped the image of modernity. Both positive and negative.



1904: the caterpillar

They are known as bulldozers, caterpillars or bulldozers. What they all have in common: If something is to be built, leveled or torn down, nobody can get past these devices. The first - unsurprisingly - were developed in the USA, agricultural steam engines that could defy loose ground.


The caterpillar


But it wasn't until 1904 that Benjamin Holt, later co-founder of Caterpillar, made the vehicles practicable thanks to gasoline engines. Since then there has been a bulldozer at the beginning of every building in the world. And also at the end of it - just as his image is quite ambivalent in general. See, for example, their use in deforestation or as military equipment.




1927: shock freezing

The Scottish physician William Cullen is considered to be the inventor of the first modern artificial freezing method. That was around 1760. But from the end of the 1920s the American Clarence Birdseye developed a technology that not only changed our eating habits, but was also intended to establish a food industry: shock freezing.


The shock freezing. In the picture frozen vegetables


To freeze food to below −18 degrees within a few minutes, to preserve it so gently over a longer period of time, Birdseye had learned from the Inuit.

In 1927 he applied for a patent for his plate freezer, and supermarkets were offering frozen food for the first time as early as 1930. Life without french fries, a block of spinach or a chocolate ice cream box in the freezer - unthinkable today.




1959: the bubble wrap

Alfred Fieling and Marc Cavannes from Hawthorne, New Jersey, were actually working on a washable plastic wallpaper. But by chance they discovered that their development also resulted in a robust and lightweight packaging material.


The bubble wrap


Pumped a few small air bubbles into the two-layer polyethylene: the bubble wrap was ready. Patented in 1959, it was supposed to enable the safe shipping of goods and thus globalized trade in the first place. The rise of the computer industry or the online mail order business would be unthinkable without the bubble wrap.

At the same time, a somewhat quirky fan base has formed: The pressing of air bubbles is now considered a kind of cultural technique - which also applies to the hoarding of private air cushion film stocks.



More on this:

Digital change: the walls down!
In a word: change in school
Education policy: what student councils and directors want
"Tradition and progress always have to be balanced anew"
Change: right in the middle instead of just being there



An article from Was Jetzt magazine, issue 4.