Many of the present day innovations have their roots in Native American traditionalism. American life is understood as a knowledge-based society. Unimagined native scientific discoveries and innovations in America have been unraveled or unfolded through the uses of human brains!
How such innovations happened in America and how could America develop into a modern state of arts, science, and technology? How could America become able to fascinate thousands of great minds to pull to America and become a soil of civilizations in the 21st century? What triggered American political leaders to allocate a large chunk of financial resources for research and development (R&D) and became the number one nation in the world in term of the total amount of money allocated in the national budget for R & D in America? Here I want to deal with such issues in order to gain a national lesson for Nepal from the American experience and respect for sciences and R & D.
All American Indians were found using various materials traditionally as such as wood, bark, shells, porcupine quills, feathers, bones, metals, hide and clay.
The Native American societies had great respect for various branches of sciences; they have used the term “scientific” as a synonymous to “true”. How the Native Americans were benefited by sciences for the betterment of their life was clearly demonstrated by science, crafts, and technology used in their life in the past.
American Indians of the US were excellent craftsmen and women. Beautiful pots have been found dating back to 1000 B.C. People of Southwest were so renounced for making pottery. Zuni people in the Southwest created beautiful pots with favorite decorations of birds and animals on them. The Ancient Anasazis were truly known as the basket and blanket makers. The Apaches coiled large and flat baskets from willow and plant fibre.
Paiute people made cone-basket putting on their back for collecting food. Tlingit and Nootka tribes of the Northwest coast were among those who wore cone-shaped basket hats. All American Indians were found using various materials traditionally as such as wood, bark, shells, porcupine quills, feathers, bones, metals, hide and clay.
Various traditional houses built on climate-friendly philosophy were based on the ancient engineering applications in America.
Drilling Walrus tusk by Inuit craftsman was another example of impressive drilling to etch a pattern on it. Pueblo people, especially Hopi women were the first American Indians to make “stripped blankets” from an upright loom made from the poles. Very interestingly, Tlingit woman could make a “talking blanket” within half a year out of cedar barks fibre and mountain goat wool with her fingers. According to Tlingit woman, if you knew how to listen, the Chitkat blanket could talk to you! These are few examples to depict the pictures of uses of science, craft and technology by the Native Americans as a stepping board on which the rapid development of modern science and technology took place.
Various traditional houses built on climate-friendly philosophy were based on the ancient engineering applications in America. They were built as the dome-shaped home by Inuit, terraced mud brick houses by Pueblo people, earth lodges by Mandan and Hidatsa people of upper Missouri, long plank houses by Haida people, and groups of the long houses by Iroquois people. At the same time, bones for dinner as spoon or fork as well as the baby carrier in the form of the wooden cradle-board strapped to the mother’s back were other fascinating uses of indigenous technology for making a better life for the American Indians.
Scientific researches in the agrarian sectors started since the time of the 1st president George Washington in 1789 and the 3rd president Thomas Jefferson in 1801 that were so keen to introduce new plants, rotating crops and improving their livestock. One of two spectacular phenomena was the opening of the west and the steady westward expansion from the East and south which created vast areas for farming. The 2nd factor was the invention of a number of mechanical devices which increased the production of farming.
Post civil war agrarian revolution resulted in a combination of startling inventions in agricultural implements, scientific researchers in plant genetics, techniques of crop production, etc.
That 1st important agrarian invention was Eli Whitney’s cotton gin in 1793, epoch-making invention of the chilled plow by John Deere in 1837, the invention of mechanical reaper by Cyrus McCormick in 1831 and Obed Hussey in 1833. The reaper-thresher was invented which could reap, thresh, clean and put the grain in sacks all in a single operation in 1880. The invention of mechanical devices like the crop reapers, crop planters, corn cutters, huskers, the manure spreader, etc has greatly increased the efficiency of agricultural productivity and has taken away the manual strains of the tillers. This is known as the “first agricultural revolution’ in American history.
The age of industrial revolution in America was another spectacular phenomenon as railroad networks, steam shipping routes, textile factories, telegraph and telephone lines, steel foundries, and mechanized harvesting machines upgraded across the whole land. America was rich in mineral resources as the basic requisites for industrial growth that included coal, iron, oil and eventually electricity.
Astonishing innovations in the industrial sector have changed the lives of American citizens.
The discovery of coal in Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho; iron in Great Lakes of north of Illinois and Chicago, Oil in Pennsylvania in 1845, copper deposits in Michigan, Montana and Arizona in 1880 and “Goldrush” in California in 1848 rapidly galvanized real life into the economic growth in America. By selling those raw-materials to the future industrial tycoons, they suddenly became very rich as copper-kings, gold-kings or iron mongers. Massive American industrialization in the 19th century was the result of the combination of both economic and socio-cultural factors as analyzed by Thomas C. Cochran.
Astonishing innovations in the industrial sector have changed the lives of American citizens. Robert Fulton’s epoch-making steam engine (1807), Samuel F.B. Morse’s telegraph (1836), Charles Goodyer’s vulcanized rubber (1839), Elias Howe’s sewing machine (1844), Christopher Latham Sholes and Carlos S. Glidden’s typewriter (1873), Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone (1876), Thomas Edison’s Phonograph (1877), Charles Brush’s dynamo (1878), Elwood Haynes’s Gasoline–powered automobile (1894), Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first airplane (1903), Henry Ford’s Model T. Ford (1908) propelled American nation into modernity.
Not only men, but many American women were also innovators. Sarah Martha’s telescopes in 1845, Martha Coston’s pyrotechnic flares (night signals) in 1859, Fannie Farmer’s Cookbooks into the kitchen in 1896, etc were the witnesses of the contributions given by American women in the field of innovation and economic development. Alone in America, about 676,000 patents were given to the inventors in between 1860 and 1900.
(To be continued)
Views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the stance of Khabarhub.