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Throughout history, human beings have fought to survive. It was because of this fight for survival - the need to eat, the need for shelter, the need for clothing - that tools were invented for hunting and skinning animals and fire was discovered.

As human beings became less concerned with survival, they were able to shift their thoughts to how to make their lives more comfortable. Human beings transitioned from being hunters and gathers to being farmers and shepherds. New tools (hoes and rakes) were invented and new discoveries (cultivation and fertilization) made.

And so, the pattern began. As life got easier for man, man had more time for other pursuits. We see this pattern repeat itself throughout history; and it continues to repeat itself today. It is man's constant pursuit of a better life and a better understanding of life that lead to new inventions and new discoveries.

In this lesson you will be introduced to an example of how man's quest for knowledge caused human beings to create inventions or make discoveries, and how man's desire for even MORE knowledge inspired human beings to improve upon these inventions and continue to make subsequent discoveries.

Once you have read through the example provided, you will go on a quest to find other examples of how man's search for an improved life, or expanded knowledge, led human beings to make other discoveries or create other inventions.

And, finally, at the end of this lesson, you will select one of the examples you located that you found most exciting and trace changes in the technology, or subsequent discoveries in the field, that changed the way human beings lived or changed their view of reality.

An Example: Underwater Exploration

Exploration of the undersea world in search of food and treasure can be traced back to ancient times. Mother-of-pearl jewelry (dated back to 4500 B.C.), which must have been gathered by divers holding their breath, was discovered in the course of conducting an archeological dig at a Mesopotamian site. Of course, free diving (by holding one's breath), did not allow the diver to venture too deep. Since these early times many underwater exploration devices have been invented to allow human beings to go deeper into the depths of the oceans. And, as our process above states, with each new underwater exploration invention, human beings were able to learn more and more about the undersea world.

Diving Bells
Sir Edmund Halley of the British Royal Society, built the diving bell picture to the left in 1691. This device was made of lead-coated wood and had a glass top which permitted light to enter the bell. Used air was exhausted via a vent and a barrel of fresh air was provided to replenish the diver's air supply. As you can see, the diver could not move very far from the bell because the bell contained the air supply. Therefore, the diver's ability to explore was limited.

Early Submarines
The submarine was invented in 1624 by Cornelius van Drebbel, a Dutch inventor and engineer employed by the British Navy. Basically, van Drebbel's submarine was just a leather-covered rowboat which utilized water-tight seals around the oars. The first American submarine, the Turtle (left), was created by David Bushnell in 1776, and was powered by a pedal-operated screw. Engineers gradually came up with better ways to power their underwater craft. The first type of power, other than man-power, was steam. The Hunley, a Confederate boat used during the Civil War, was such a steam-powered submarine.
Modern Submarines
John Holland, was the first to conceive of employing the electric and the internal combustion engine to power a submarine. In 1900, Holland sold the U.S. Navy its first submarine, the USS Holland, which was powered by a 45-horsepower internal combustion engine. The diesel engine replaced the gasoline engine in 1912, when it was first installed aboard USS Skipjack (SS 24) and Sturgeon (SS 25). The oil-burning engine required no complicated ignition, or sparking systems. It produced fewer noxious fumes and was more economical. The diesel engine and the electric battery remained the power source for submarines until nuclear power was introduced. Today's nuclear-powered subs (see photo on left) can go deeper and stay down longer than any of their predecessors.
Deep Submergence Vessels (DSV)
Deep submergence vessels have really openned up the underwater world to scientists and explorers. The DSV Alvin (on your left), commissioned in 1965 and still a working vessel today has been instrumental in deep ocean exploration and research. A few of Alvin's missions have involved exploration of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to study seafloor spreading and plate tectonics and dives to the East Pacific Rise which revealed hot water vents or "black smokers" spewing forth super-heated water at 350 degC (650 degF).

Your Quest For Knowledge

Now that you've seen an example of how a technological evolution has enhanced man's picture of reality, it's your turn to go out onto the Interent and search for other examples of how technological advances can shape the way human beings view their world.

Use the links below to begin your search. As you visit each of the sites, jot down the topics of most interest to you. And, be sure to note which link connected you to your favorites!




Now, that you have found several topics that you find particularly interesting, use any or all of the search engines below to gather more information about these personally significant inventions and discoveries. As you gather more information on each topic, try to trace the technological evolution of each one. Some of your topics will show marked progression. Others will progress for a time, and then their evolution will end. Ask yourself the following questions when you isolate a topic that does show continued evolution:

  1. When was "it" first invented or discovered?
  2. What was the first major technological advancement or next major discovery associated with "it"?
  3. How has "it" evolved over time?
  4. Where is "it" at now in "it's" evolution?


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