What happened in technology in 1913?

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Numerous technological and scientific advances occured in 1913.  As a change from the slew of predictions about the coming year, we thought we’d devote our last post of 2012 to a look at the developments in science and technology 100 years ago.  We will soon see whether or not 2013 will be as productive.

The creation of stainless steel

The development of stainless steel dates back to the late 19th century, when various scientists conducted work on iron-chromium alloys.  In 1912, British scientist Harry Brearley was requested by a gun manufacturer to find a way to stop their gun barrels corroding.  He decided to develop an erosion-resistant steel, and in August 1913 created a steel with 12.8% chromium and 0.24% carbon.  This is thought to be the first ever stainless steel.  Brearley immediately started work on the alloy’s application in the cutlery industry.  Read more on the British Stainless Steel Association’s website.

The definition of the quantum atomic structure

Danish physicist Niels Bohr introduced the Bohr model of atomic structure in 1913, supplanting earlier theories such as the ‘plum pudding’ model, where electrons were thought to be scattered throughout a dense atomic structure.  Bohr’s concept built on Ernest Rutherford’s 1911 model, which describes a nucleus surrounded by circling electrons.  Bohr used quantum theory to explain the stability of this atomic structure, establishing the ground for the development of quantum mechanics.  Read more on the PBS website.

The first moving assembly line

The Ford Motor Company introduced the first large scale moving assembly line in 1913. It was the result of years of investigation into ways of making the motor car affordable for the mass market.   The assembly line was used to manufacture the Model T and could produce a complete car much faster than the company’s competitors.  The result was a cheaper price and dominance of the automotive industry.  Read more on the PBS website.

The invention of the zip fastener

Swedish scientist Gideon Sundbäck patented what he termed a ‘hookless fastener’ in 1913.  It consisted of parallel rows of teeth, interlocked by a sliding tab.  The name’zipper’ was patented b y B. F. Goodrich Company in 1925, while the actual manufacture of the product was patented by the YKK group in 1934.  In its early years, the product was most commonly used for closing boots and tobacco pouches, but was adopted by the fashion industry in the 1930s. Read more on Wikipedia.

The first production of Formica

In May 1913, the Formica Products Company was started with the aim of capitalising on its owners’ 1912 invention of Formica, a heat-resistant composite material.  The product was originally designed to make electrical components, followed swiftly by other engineering uses.  It took until the 1920s for Formica to be adopted for kitchen worktops, café tables and other decorative uses.  Read more on the Formica website.

And some other innovations…

1913 also saw the reopening of Grand Central Station after a complete re-engineering and renovation, the first published crossword puzzle, which appeared in the New York World (click here to see the first puzzle), and the Parisian premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Further reading

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