Necessity is the mother of invention. This adage buttress the school of thought that technological innovation is hardly lost but rather it’s superseded by modern superior alternatives. Fair enough, the process of craftsmanship for a particular invention may be lost but the final masterpiece (technology) can be refashioned. However, lack of the original prototype to compare with the modern fabrication remains a challenge.
Reproducibility of scientific inventions is a quality assurance of validation of inventions. To that end, where does this leave some of the innovations spearheaded by Nikola Tesla, the Damascus steel, Starlite and the Greek fire that either never come to full fruition or failed to be replicated? Here is our list of inventions lost to history.
Nikola Telsa blind-folded the world with some of his innovations. Bordering to mythical sciences (in theory) colleagues never dared to replicate them. Wardenclyffe Tower was a case in point of his daring innovation. A dream to transmit electricity without wire. Yes you read it right! Transmit high voltage current without overhead cables. Inadequate record keeping (by design) on the part of Nikola is partly to blame for the slow uptake of developing the wireless technology. However, all is not lost. Dr Katie Hall is living Nikola’s wireless electricity dream. The only challenge that remains to date is the distance to be covered.
The Greek fire was a mysterious weapon with no match at the battle front. The exact chemical composition of the weapon was a closely guarded secret. Legend has it that knowledge fragmentation was deployed to safeguard the secrecy of the weapon. No single individual had the entire information to fashion it according to Alex Ronald’s article in technology and culture. Folklore description of the fire characteristics has led to intelligent scientific guesses to replicate the fire. However, without the original recipe accredited to Kallinikos, modern scientist equivalents such as napalm will remain just but intelligent guesses.
Starlite was considered the next big invention as a fire retardant. Unfortunately, the secret of its invention died with its inventor- Maurice Ward. Two decades ago (relatively recent compared to the aforementioned inventions), Maurice demonstrated to the world the power of starlite. An egg coated in starlite was in a position to remain unscathed by a blowtorch. Starlite potential remains huge. From atomic bomb protection to simple fire outbreaks to military armor. The list is endless. With such enormous potential, it remains to be seen if the starlite invention will resurrect with advances in science.
The formula that fashioned the legendary crusader’s swords for a long time was considered lost in the midst of time. Astonishingly strong, Damascus steel swords were fashioned out of Wootz steel specifically obtained from Asia. The invention of firearms later led to the negation of the steel fabrication knowledge. It’s only recently with the advent of electron microscope that the secret of wootz ingots steel has been unraveled. The secret being the impurity of the ores from Asia.
When the need arises, provided adequate and necessary documentations are in place, reproducibility of innovations’ considered lost can be redeemed.