Progress of the 19th Century By Dillon Carson


The 19th century saw the invention of many tools we now see as commonplace in the modern 21st century including the telephone, automobile ,and early electric generators. The 19th century was also an era of social discovery and development in many scientific fields with minds like the Curies and Charles Darwin presenting their discoveries to the world.

The Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell with the first telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell, the most noted inventor of telephones (Pictured above with his model of the telephone), made his revolutionary tool for communication in his spare time from teaching deaf students. Below you will find a video of the first words ever said on the original telephone, discovered by the Smithsonian Museum.


Another great innovation of the 19th century was the construction of the German automobile, made possible by the development of gasoline and the internal combustion engine. This was improved upon in development and cost by Henry Ford whom created the assembly line in his factories, using interchangeable parts to make similar cars that were more affordable to the middle class whereas automobiles before had typically been overly expensive for middle class and were much more likely to be found in the hands of the upper classes.

A team of workers assembling their part of the model-T on the Ford Assembly Line.

Ford's assembly line was a team of workers who assembled their individual pieces of the automobile as it was passing on a conveyor belt on to another team who worked on their part and so on until the automobile was ready.

Entertainment and Mass Culture

The innovations of the 19th century also developed cultures and the types of entertainment that were popular such as the invention of movies using new cameras that could record video (the two main models of these cameras came from Thomas Edison and Louis Le-Prince), and the growth in sports and music halls. The first Barnum and bailey's shows also debuted in the 1860's later merging with Ringling Brothers in 1919 to make Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth.


With the growing amount of free time people had and the growing interest in sports and entertainment many sports clubs opened up in America and Europe, notably the first Football, Soccer, and Baseball clubs. This interest also caused interest in international competition which led to the formation of the first international Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. The Athens Olympic stadium is pictured below.

The First international Olympics were held in 1896 in Athens, Greece.

Scientific advancements

Germ Theory

Undoubtedly one of the most important breakthroughs of medical history, discovered by French chemist Louis Pasteur. The Germ Theory of Disease stated that microscopic organisms called bacteria were the cause of disease. Pasteur discovered bacteria through observation on the fermentation process of alcohol and discovered that bacteria were susceptible to heat calling the process of killing bacteria in liquids "Pasteurization".

From Pasteur's discoveries a British surgeon named Joseph Lister created new sanitation standards for the surgical ward so less patients would die of infections, the new standards required wounds to be washed with antiseptics and that the whole surgical ward should be kept spotless as to prevent spread of bacteria.

Through Pasteur's discoveries governments also realized the dangers of spreading bacteria causing them to start construction of sewers and plumbing systems and sanitation committees causing a low point in the spread of disease like diphtheria and yellow fever.

Darwinian theory of Evolution

Darwin's theory of evolution is one of the most controversial subjects in world history, yet is a clear answer to the questions facing biologists at the time about how flora and fauna were in such variety and were so well suited to their environments. Darwin proposed the idea that plants and animals adapted to their surroundings based on competition for food and shelter with other species in a process he dubbed natural selection. Darwin also claimed all species had evolved from earlier species of plants and animals and through natural selection they developed into what they have become.


Darwin proposed that surviving creatures who reproduced would pass down their variations and traits but was unsure of how they did so. The beginnings of research in genetics started with an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel who found specific patterns within the ways that traits were inherited. The study of genetics as we know it now was founded in 1905 by William Bateson, who coined the term genetics.

Chemistry and Physics

In 1803 a British chemist named John Dalton proposed that all matter is comprised by tiny particles called atoms, elements contained only one kind of atom and compounds contained a combination of multiple atoms.

A portrait of Mendeleev over his Periodic Table

Later on in 1863 a Russian chemist by the name of Dmitri Mendeleev created the Periodic Table which organised all the known elements by their weight leaving gaps for elements he theorized were there but undiscovered at the time. Mendeleev's Periodic Table is still used by scientists.

A picture of the Curies

Pierre and Marie Curie, a French husband-wife chemist duo, researched a new energy they'd noticed radiating off of a mineral known as pitchblende. Marie Curie dubbed it the name radioactivity in 1898. Together the Curies discovered two new elements they named Radium and Polonium for which they won a shared Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903.

Social Sciences

Growth in the study of society, both past and present, raised in the 1800's bringing attention to previously smaller science like archaeology, anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

The most notable advancements appeared in psychology , the study of the mind and its behavior, with minds like Pavlov and Freud. Pavlov was a Russian biologist who is well known for conditioning dogs to respond to a bell for food, eventually the dogs would hear the bell and would come to the bell for food expecting it even when there was none.

A Portrait of Ivan Pavlov

Another great mind of Psychology was the Austrian doctor Sigmund Freud who theorized that the unconscious mind was the motivator for how people acted. The unconscious mind was comprised of suppressed thoughts, repressed memories, subdued primal urges, and natural impulses which acted together to create a pattern for human behavior. He developed a type of therapy dubbed psychoanalysis in which he assisted people in helping balance these forces and help people cope with conflicts in their unconscious mind.

A Portrait of Sigmund Freud

Pavlov and Freud's discoveries received criticism as they were challenging reason, one of the primary components of the enlightenment. The concept of the unconscious and conscious minds did assist in ushering in a new era of art: not based on logic, reason, or sense but rather looking in and observing feelings and emotion.

Created By
Dillon Carson

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