Guest Author - Deborah Watson-Novacek
The Renaissance era is marked by extensive European innovation in many areas of study. While many people think first of developments in the arts, religion and philosophy, the Renaissance is also marked by a large number of inventions by the scientific community. Short descriptions of many of the most important are presented in this article. (A - G)
To improve the accuracy of rocket launchers (made possible by the invention of gun powder), engineer William Congreve invented the "launching tube." This tube, later known as a "howitzer," was invented in the 17th century and was the first of the modern artillery weapons.
While the first mechanical clock was invented during the early 1300's, Galileo, an Italian scientist, did not invent the pendulum until 1581. Usage of a pendulum greatly improved the consistant and constant movement of the hands of the clock, bringing down the average clock error from 10 to 15 minutes a day to only seconds a day.
Additionally, in 1410 the first portable clock was developed in Florence, Italy by Filippo Brunelleschi - an Italian architect. Brunelleschi devised a spring-driven clock which could be made much smaller than previous clocks which were large and had to remain in a fixed position in order to function.
Chinese voyager Zheng He (1371 - 1435) is believed to be the creator and first user of the compass. It was later introduced to the Europeans.
Italian inventor Salvino D'Amata is credited with developing the first eyeglasses in 1284. Paintings of people wearing or holding them first appeared in the late thirteenth century. In 1352 eyeglasses were only worn by the well educated, very rich noblemen or well read Italian clergy. Paintings of Pope Leo X often depict him wearing glasses.
After the invention of the printing press in 1456, the use of reading glasses became more common. These glasses were made with a variety of materials including wood, lead, copper, bone, leather, and even horn.
In 1596, Sir John Harrington, British noble and godson of Queen Elizabeth I, invented a valve that - when pulled - would release water from a water closet. The true "flush" toilet was invented some 200 years later by Alexander Cummings.
While gunpowder itself was invented around 850 AD by the Chinese to launch fireworks, it wasn't until the early 1230's that they began using it in weapons. It is believed that the first use of gunpowder in Europe was during the Battle of Crecy in 1346. Historians are still debating the question of whether the invention was carried from China to Europe or if the Europeans invented it independently.
William Congreve developed rockets for use during wars sometime between 1670 and 1729, and it was in the seventeenth century that guns were developed by the English and Dutch armies.