Inventions of the Renaissance

clock.gif (1035 bytes)Clocks
The first mechanical clock was invented in the early 1300's. With this invention time began to be measured in hours (24 hours equaling a day).

Galileo, an Italian scientist, discovered the pendulum in 1581. The pendulum greatly improved the constant movement of the hands or bell of a clock. The average error with the pendulum varied only by seconds each day. Before this the error was from 10 to 15 minutes a  day.

During the 1600's the metallic gear, or toothed wheel, and the use of the screw in assembling the clocks were first used.

glasses.gif (184 bytes)Eyeglasses or Spectacles
Historians are not certain who invented the first spectacles. In the late thirteen century around 1287 paintings first appeared with people wearing or holding spectacles. From these paintings we know that spectacles were invented in Italy.

Around 1300 the Venetian Glassmaker's Guild made regulations on glasses. They made it illegal for glasses to be made with glass lenses in place of the more valuable rock crystal.

In 1352 eyeglasses were only worn by the well educated, very rich noblemen or well read Italian clergy. At this time a monk named Tommaso da Modena documented the church had painted a fresco with an older churchman wearing glasses while looking over an old manuscript.

In 1456 Gutenberg invented the printing press. This created a widespread of books. Once people owned books reading glasses began to be seen in the hands of the common people. These glasses were made with a variety of materials including wood, lead, copper, bone, leather, and even horn.

 In 1623 the Spanish invented the first graded lenses. This improved the trial and error method of trying on different lenses until one pair helped the wearer to see better.

tolietpaper.gif (1042 bytes)Flush Toilet
Sir John Harrington, godson to Queen Elizabeth, made the first flush toilet for himself and his godmother in 1596. He was teased by his friends and never made another one although he and Queen Elizabeth continued to use the one he did make.

Two hundred years later Alexander Cummings reinvented the flush toilet more commonly called the water closet. Cummings invented the strap. The strap was a sliding valve between the bowl and the trap.

Two years later in 1777 Samuel Prosser applied for and received a patent for a plunger closet. A year later Joseph Bramah invented a valve at the bottom of the bowl that worked on a hinge.

bomb.gif (944 bytes)Gunpowder
Gunpowder was invented around 850 A.D. The Chinese used gunpowder in the early 1230's to launch fireworks and in weapons.

Gunpowder was probably used for the first time in Europe during the Battle of Crécy in 1346. Historians do not know if this invention was carried from China to Europe or in The Europeans invented it independently.

The invention of gunpowder greatly changed the way men fought. The Medival knight could not defend himself against firearms and cannons. Knights were replaced by the foot soldier who carried firearms.

Between 1670 and 1729 William Congreve developed rockets to use during wars.

In the seventeenth century the gun was developed by the English and Dutch armies.

microscope.gif (1035 bytes)Lenses ( Microscope and Telescope) telescope.gif (1059 bytes)
The first useful microscope was developed in the Netherlands between 1590 and 1608. Three different eyeglass makers are given credit for this invention. The inventor was probably Hans Lippershey who developed the first real telescope, or Hans Janssen and his son Zacharias.

Galileo helped popularize the microscope in the early 17th century. After Robert Hooke published his book Micrographia in 1665 men began to take the microscope seriously.

Many people feared the microscope until the 19th century when improvements made to the lenses created a clear image. At this time many advances in medicine and hygiene could be made with the microscope.

In 1608 a Dutch eyeglass maker named Hans Lippershey made the first telescope. In 11668 Isaac Newton improved the telescope by adding mirrors instead of lenses.

Galileo Galileo was the first person to use the telescope to study the heavens. He made many discoveries including that the moon had huge valleys and craters. He also discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter. Galileo discovered the planets revolve around the sun and not around the earth. His discoveries were printed in a book called Starry Messenger in 1610.

book.gif (1087 bytes)Printing Press
The printing press was invented in 1436 by a German named Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg was a goldsmith. Before the printing press was invented, monks had to copy everything by hand. Hand written books took months or years to hand print. This made books very expensive.

Ink, movable type, paper, and the press had been invented. Gutenberg creatively combined these inventions to devise the printing press. Gutenberg used the printing press to put ink on hundreds of individual letters. These letters were engraved in slabs of brass. These letters were arranged in words, sentences, then paragraphs. After this stage as many copies as needed could be made quickly. When a different page was need the individual letters had to be completely rearranged.

The Bible was the first book to be mass produced. The Gutenberg Bible was also known as the 42 line Bible from the number of lines on each page.  It was published in 1456 in Mainz, Germany.

sub.gif (1079 bytes)Submarine
The first underwater warship was developed by Leonardo da Vinci. da Vinci kept his plans secret because he didn't want to make war any more terrifying than it already was.

In 1578 William Borne began drawing plans for a submarine. His submarine was never built. Borne's submarine worked by using extra tanks which could be filled so the submarine would submerge. The tanks would be emptied for the submarine to surface.

In 1620 Cornelis Drebbel, a Dutch inventor, built a leather covered rowboat with oars. The oars came out through watertight seals. Twelve people could ride in the submarine. Drebbel was an engineer who worked for the British navy. Drebbel was the first to discuss the problem of air replenishment while the submarine submerged. Drebbel's submarine could only go down about fifteen feet. It could stay underwater for a couple of hours.

wallpaper.gif (949 bytes)Wallpaper
In 1496 the first paper mill came into operation in England. English artist soon make wallpaper decorated with hand painted designs, stencils, and wood-block prints. For the next 200 years England was a large producer of wallpaper for Europe.

Before wallpaper was invented only the wealthy people could afforded to decorate the wall of their castles. They used woven tapestries. The tapestries kept the cold castle walls warmer. The designs woven into the tapestries told stories. The lower class hung cheaper painted cloth imitations for the walls of their homes.