Iron and the increased demand for wood - Deepstash





Stuff of Progress: Iron

Iron and the increased demand for wood

Scaling up of iron production in Great Britain, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, led to a dramatic increase in the demand for wood. The creation of steel takes its toll on forests, with the requirement of charcoal, a residue of wood, to smelt iron and carbon.

Charcoal production, leading to demand for wood, has since then led to widespread deforestation with thousands of square kilometers of forests cut annually.


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Stuff of Progress: Iron

Stuff of Progress: Iron


Key Ideas

Iron: the fourth most abundant element on earth

Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and is found as an ore called Magnetite. Iron is crucial for creating steel, which is required for countries which are undergoing industrialization.

While we humans mine a lot of sophisticated metals like Aluminum and Titanium, Iron forms the skeleton of modern infrastructure.

The early history of iron exploitation

Iron has been collected, mined and processed into its metallic form since 1200 BCE. Large scale production only started in 1750, at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Steel, an alloy of Iron and Carbon is known for its purity and strength, and was patented by British inventor Sir Henry Bessemer in 1857. Steel helped humanity make stronger and larger tools, paving the way for industrialized progress.

Iron in the Modern Age

  • As the tools to produce steel got refined, they were made more energy efficient and produced higher-quality steel.
  • The production of finished iron in 2018 is 1.8 million metric tonnes, as compared to 800,000 metric tonnes in the 18th century. China accounts for one of the leading producers of steel.
  • The modern civilization is highly dependent on iron exploration and we continue to find newer ways to manufacture the metal with a minimum carbon footprint.



The discovery and use of Uranium
The discovery and use of Uranium

Uranium was first used as a coloring agent in the manufacture of pottery. As early as 79 CE, naturally-occurring uranium oxide was ground up into a yellow powder and applied as a pottery glaze.

Uranium and electrical energy
  • Uranium is energy-dense. In 2018, uranium powered nuclear reactors produced 2,700 terawatt-hours of ultra low-carbon electricity. One terawatt-hour of energy is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 27,000 European citizens.
  • Electricity production from nuclear energy is one of the cleanest forms of energy production, even when nuclear waste is taken into account. Nuclear waste storage is currently resulting in little mortality and illness, as the waste is contained within the grounds of the nuclear power plants themselves.
Chemical disinfection is vital
Chemical disinfection is vital

Chemical disinfection has helped to improve life expectancy and considerably changed our collective standard of living.

It is inexpensive and always available, and is used ...

Early chemical disinfection

Basic chemical disinfection was employed since at least 3,000 BC, using alcohol, elemental copper and Sulfur, salt, sodium carbonate, and mild organic acids.

Sulfur fumigation was used widely throughout Europe through the Middle Ages, especially during outbreaks of plague. But disinfectants such as compounds of Sulfur, mercury, and copper were only moderately effective and highly toxic, resulting in health problems.

Effective deployment

The first notable effective deployment of disinfectants came in 1675 when a Dutch scientist noticed through the glass of his microscope that strong vinegar killed microorganisms.

In 1887, a British surgeon researched the effects of carbolic acid as a disinfectant in the operating theater. The results drastically reduced infection rates among patients.

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Johannes Gutenberg
Johannes Gutenberg

He was a 15th-century German goldsmith and inventor and is known for creating the first metal movable-type printing press.

Gutenberg's inventions included a process for mass...

The printing revolution

Johannes Gutenberg's ideas started a printing revolution, as they accelerated the spread of information.

The printing press was used to fuel the later part of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution, making possible the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Johannes Gutenberg's life
  • He was born into a wealthy patrician merchant family between 1394 and 1404 in the city of Mainz. He grew up learning the trade of goldsmithing.
  • In 1411, the Gutenbergs were exiled after an uprising against the patrician class.
  • He ended up living in Strasbourg, where he was a goldsmith and a member of the Strasbourg militia.
  • He created metal hand mirrors that pilgrims bought and used when visiting holy sites.
  • In 1440, Gutenberg supposedly declared he had perfected the art of printing.
  • In 1448, Gutenberg moved back to Mainz, and with a loan from his brother-in-law, he built an operating printing press in 1450.
  • With a working press, Gutenberg got a wealthy moneylender, Johann Fust, to lend him more capital to fund further refinement of the printing process.

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