History of Innovation

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1905: Frank Lloyd Wright Goes to Japan

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Innovation: Frank Lloyd Wright Goes to Japan
Location: Tokyo and other cities, Japan
Year: 1905, 1917-1922
By: Frank Lloyd Wright

An avid collector and dealer of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Frank Lloyd Wright first traveled to Japan in 1905 and lived in Tokyo from 1917-1922. During this time, he designed 14 buildings—of which 6 were built—including the Imperial Hotel, the Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan, and the Tazaemon Yamamura House. According to historians, this proliferation of work may have aided him both financially and creatively after he returned to the United States [1].

Wright’s Asian influences have had significant impact on architecture and building technologies. While working on the Imperial Hotel, he hired a Czech architect named Antonin Raymond, who would go on to become the father of modern architecture in Japan. Raymond was influenced by Wright to use reinforced, wood-textured concrete in buildings. A notable example of this technique appears on the Reinanzaka House, which employed concrete engrained with the texture of cedar [2].

Web links to more information: 1 , 2
Information on the Reinanzaka House


Written by Xiuzhu Shao

October 5, 1905 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Architecture, Concrete

1903: First Powered Flight

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Innovation: First Powered Flight
Location: Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Year: 1903
By: Orville and Wilbur Wright

Despite their claim being shroud in controversy, the Wright brothers are credited with the invention of the airplane and the first powered flight on December 17, 1903 [1]. Earlier attempts at flight consisted of gliders, balloons, and engine-focused aircraft, which offered minimal direction control [2]. In contrast, the Wright brothers developed a fixed-wing, three-axis system which enabled pitch, roll, and yaw control for the pilot [3]. They patented this “system of aerodynamic control that manipulated a flying machine’s surfaces” under U.S. patent 821,393[4], and by June 1905 had constructed the first practical fixed-wing aircraft[5].

Later applications of the air plane range from warfare to passenger and goods transportation. Today, it is still the only fast and reliable method of cross-ocean transit, which makes powered flight vital for face-to-face, intercontinental communication and the development of building technologies.

Web links to more information: 1 , 2 , 3

Written by Xiuzhu Shao

December 17, 1903 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Transportation

1902: First Modern Electrical Air-Conditioning Unit

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Innovation: First Modern Electrical Air-Conditioning Unit
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Year: 1902
By: Willis Carrier, built for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co.

Air-conditioning had been in existence before electricity. Dr. John Gorrie (1803-1855), an American physician in Florida, built a machine that used ice-cooled air to control the temperature of his patient’s rooms. Later, naval engineers constructed an ice-water contraption for President James Garfield, which was capable of significantly lowering the temperature of a room at the expense of half an million pounds of ice in two months [1]. Neither of these inventions was practical for extensive usage nor for wide-spread consumption.

In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioner, which he called an “Apparatus for Treating Air”. Unlike its predecessors, this machine was capable of modifying both the temperature and humidity of its environment. After refinements, Carrier was able to patent and release his project on a large scale in the 1920s, allowing office buildings, movie theaters, and crowded skyscrapers to establish comfortable environments for workers and patrons. Following the end of World War II (1945), air-conditioning became universal in many building designs, and is used today for both industry processes and human comfort [2].  `

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Video: A

Written by Xiuzhu Shao

October 5, 1902 at 6:32 pm

1866: First Permanent Transatlantic Telegraph Line

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Innovation:  First Permanent Transatlantic Telegraph Line
Location: Britain-U.S.
Year:  1866
By: Anglo-American Telegraph Company

Although the first transatlantic telegraph cable was completed by August 5, 1858, its structure proved weak and the cable had ceased functioning by the beginning of September. Later, several more attempts were made by different companies to install new cables, including a failed attempt in 1865 [1].

In 1866, the Anglo-American Telegraph Company, headed by an American named Cyrus West Field, successfully laid the first permanent Transatlantic Telegraph Line connecting Britain and the U.S. From there, Field continued to advocate other oceanic cables. By 1902, the first American Trans-Pacific cable system connecting San Francisco to Honolulu, Manila, and Shanghai had been laid [2]. With this technology, communication time across the ocean fell from months to hours, and greater interconnectivity enabled the spread and development of innovations in building material and design, among others.

Web links to more information: 1, 2

Written by Xiuzhu Shao

July 27, 1866 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Communication