Innovation and the Arts:Examples from History
Materials Science: from glass to lucite…
…and from bronze to aluminum.
Computing: its birth in jacquard.
Natural glass – obisidian – used by cave dwellers to make tools; Phoenicians, then Egyptians, early glassblowers. Romans created clear glass about 100 BC, but it wasn’t until around 1450 that Venetian Angelo Barovier developed cristallo (crystalline glass), a clear colorless glass. In 1962, Dominick Labinor, glass scientist/artist and Harvey Littleton, ceramic/glass artist, asked themselves the same questions. The answer: a studio-sized kiln and new glass chemistry. While Littleton invented a small portable glass furnace, Labino invented a low-melting point fiberglass marble. In 1959, a British invention, the float glass process, was adopted by almost all American flat glass manufactures. Physicist John Tyndall were studying the transmission of light along jets of water to be used in water fountain displays. Today, water fountain creations like those by California's Wet Design combine light, water and sound to produce masterful displays around the world. Architecture, sculpture (water, glass, and light), music (armonica), electrochromic light-sensitive glass.
Lucite, plexiglass, and other clear acrylic plastics invented post-WWII.
Copper has been in widespread use for over 7,500 years, bronze (copper with tin) for about 4,000, iron and steel for 3,000 years plus. But the age of aluminum is just beginning. It was born when Alcoa was born, in 1886, with the first process for smelting aluminum in quantity. In 1866, Charles Martin Hall of Oberlin (Ohio) and Paul L. T. Héroult of France, both of them 22 years old at the time, discovered and patented almost simultaneously the process in which alumina is dissolved in molten cryolite and decomposed electrolytically. In other words, it required electricity.
A good blue…Napoleonic France the interior ministry took artists' need for a stable and inexpensive blue seriously enough to commission a leading chemist to search for such a pigment. Zinc white (zinc oxide) and "permanent white" (barium sulfate) were both developed to spare factory workers—and artists—the toxic effects of lead-based white pigment.
Joseph Jacquard (1752 – 1834) – Jacquard LoomJacquard, the son of a silk weaver from Lyons, was a failed businessman when in 1801 he developed a loom that used a series of punched cards to control a complex pattern of warp threads. Further work on the idea produced the familiar looped arrangement of cards for the repeat patterns used in cloth and carpet designs. The invention now enabled intricate patterns to be woven without the continual intervention of the weaver.One interesting effect of this invention was the adaptation by Charles Babbage of the card system invented by Jacquard in his work to produce an automatic calculator, which eventually led to the development of computers and computer programming.