Man’s Use of the Forces of Nature
What distinguishes man from all other living creatures is his superior intelligence, which has enabled him not only to subdue them, but to catch and tame and use, for his own purposes, such great forces of nature as wind, water, fire, steam, and electricity.
By means of wind-mills, he forces the wind to grind his corn and drain wetland and raise water by pumps. Long ago he forced the winds to carry him in his ships across the sea by the ingenious invention of sails.
In the same way, he makes water drive the machinery in his mills and factories. Before the discovery of the power of steam, most of the mills in England were driven by water power. And today in America the great Niagara Falls supplies power to many factories and to the machinery that generates electricity. A good example is the Cauvery Falls in South India, which supply electric power to Mysore and Bangalore, about a hundred kilometers away.
Man very early discovered the useful power of fire and used it to cook his food, to smelt metals like bronze, iron, gold, and silver, and to supply him with artificial heat. And today, to see a great iron-foundry with its huge furnace pouring out white-hot molten metal, is to have an awe-inspiring vision of the power of man over such a terrible force as fire. Fire, also, applied to water, gives man steam-the great motive power of the world.
The discovery of the expansive power of steam led to the invention of the steam engine, which has revolutionised our social and industrial life. From it have come to the railway, the steam-ship, the great factory with its steam-driven machinery; and from these, the great towns, the large industries, and the widespread commerce of the modern world.
Lastly, man has captured and tamed the lightning; and today we live in the age of electricity, as the 19th century was the age of steam. By electricity men have given themselves artificial light; they can send messages by telegraph and cable all over the world; they can speak to each other at a distance by the telephone, and now by wireless they can speak to and hear each other right across the globe.