In England, in 1784, Joseph Bramah received the first patent for a lock, which he claimed to be impossible to pick. Bramah was so sure of the security offered by his lock that he placed the lock in his store window and offered £200 to anyone who could pick it. The prize was not won until 67 years later by an American locksmith, A.C. Hobbs. Hobbs went on to develop the Parautoptic lock which he exhibited at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London in 1851 — alongside the prize money he had won! Hobbs, who had claimed that his lock could not be picked, was proved wrong when five years later Linus Yale succeeded. Yale, in turn introduced his "Yale's Infallible Bank Lock". This was a major improvement since, unlike the early locks, it could be mass-produced.
Spectacles are usually said to have been invented during the l3th century but magnifying lenses inserted into frames were used for reading in the Middle East, Europe and China well before that date. Nero is recorded as using a jewel with curved surfaces to watch the Roman games.
Despite this, credit for the invention of spectacles is usually given to Alessandro di Spina, a monk who died at Pisa in 1313, and to Salvino degli Amati, who died at Florence in 1317. Glasses first appear in a portrait painted in 1352. In 1482 there were spectacle-makers at Nuremberg.
The earliest glasses were only helpful in overcoming farsightedness. Concave lenses to overcome nearsightedness are first recorded in 1517 in a portrait of Leo X painted by Raphael. Benjamin Franklin is credited with the invention of the bifocal lens, the middle and lower portion of the lens having different focal lengths.
At first, spectacles were very clumsy, both in the lenses themselves and also in their frames and very little improvement took place until the beginning of the l9th century, when light metal frames were introduced instead of cumbersome horn or tortoiseshell mountings.
The earliest known method of measuring time was the sundial used in ancient Egypt in 1500bc. This was useless at night which led to the water clock, developed about 1400bc. A bowl of water with a hole at the base drained out at a reasonably regular rate making it possible to measure the time by how far the water had fallen. In the 9th century clock candles were in use, the hours marked down the length. Hourglasses were developed in the 12th century but generally were limited to one or two hours.
Simple machinery was used in monasteries to sound bells at regular intervals to call the monks to prayer. The word clock comes from the French "cloche" meaning bell. The first proper clock was erected in Milan in 1335, it too only operated bells. In 1368 a clock was installed in Salisbury Cathedral in England and it is still working.
None of the early clocks indicated minutes as their accuracy was so poor but with the development of the pendulum in Holland in the 1650s clocks became far more accurate and minute hands were added.
The earliest record of a passenger elevator was in the Palace of Versailles built for Louis XV in 1743. This was manually operated by pulling on a rope.
The first practical elevator was developed by Elisha Graves Otis. In 1852, in Bergen, NJ, he installed what was known as a "safety hoist" for moving bedsteads from one floor of a factory to another. The major advance made by Otis was an automatic safety device which prevented the elevator from falling if the chain or rope holding broke. In May 1854 at an exhibition in New York he dramatically demonstrated how safe his device was by standing on the platform and inviting visitors to cut the rope with an axe. In 1857 he installed the first safety elevator for passenger service in Haughwout's store in New York City. His development led to major changes in building design for until the acceptance of elevators, buildings were effectively limited to 10 stories.
The first elevators that did not require an operator were introduced in 1927.
Cholera had been endemic in India for centuries but in the 1830s spread all over the world. Although it is practically unknown in the western world now, it was a devastating epidemic for much of the 19th century.
Cholera starts with serious vomiting and diarrhea. As the body dehydrates it turns black and blue and terrible cramps occur, often leading to death even today.
When cholera spread to Europe and North America, the cause was totally unknown. Some people thought it was carried in the air and barrels of tar were burned in the streets to "purify" the air. It was noticed quickly that poorer parts of the cities were hit more seriously than the richer areas and some people believed that it was deliberately spread to reduce the population. There were serious revolutions in France, Germany, Italy and Austria in 1848 and one of the causes was the panic resulting from cholera outbreaks.
The source of the disease was not found until the 1850s. An area of South London was supplied by two separate water companies and careful detective work during one of the recurring outbreaks showed that the disease only affected people drinking the water from one of the companies. This proved that cholera was a water-borne disease. It was soon established that it was caused by human waste from infected people finding its way into the water supply. This discovery led to the massive schemes in all major cities in Europe and North America to install clean water supplies and proper sewage systems.
Cholera outbreaks have killed millions of people, especially at the start of the 20th century in India. Outbreaks today are generally confined to parts of the world where refugees rapidly set up camps; this is one of the reasons why some of the first help is to provide a clean supply of drinking water.
The impact of a cholera outbreak in the eastern states in 1832 is shown in the press clippings from the Washington Globe dated 25 August. Although only two deaths were reported in the city on the previous day, there had been 29 deaths in Baltimore, 9 in Philadelphia and 22 in New York. Despite this last figure, the epidemic must have been coming to an end in New York as there is a further story from the New York Evening Post.
“The Board of Health have at length announced that the city may be safely visited by strangers, and that those who have left it for fear of the disease, may return without danger. The ravages of the epidemic have been so far stayed, that the measure has been expected for some days past. The Board, in fact, have delayed it until many of our citizens, and a large number of persons engaged in mercantile occupations from various parts of the country, have already anticipated it. Our business streets are beginning again to be thronged, the shutters of shops and warehouses are thrown open, the rattle of drays and wagons is again heard, private carriages again make their appearance in the streets. Broadway resumes from day to day someweat (sic) of its former appearance and a general air of cheerfulness and confidence has succeeded the aspect of gloom which lately prevailed. We have no doubt that at the present moment, N York, on the score of health, is one of the safest places in the Union. In one respect - that it has already gone through with its turn of the cholera, it has the advantage of most other cities of the land.”