Part I: Technology: The Contribution
The Achievements of China
we come to the great contribution made by China. If we should
ask today what three things above all have contributed to or
are contributing to our present conquest of the earth, we might
possibly agree that printed matter, a convenient medium of exchange
of some kind (i.e., paper currency), and powered propulsion are
fundamental. All of these -- and of course hundreds besides --
we have derived from China, though often indirectly via the Arab
For our wheeled vehicles we initially
used draft animals domesticated in the Middle East, but because
of harnessing methods, these draft animals could not pull nearly
as much as they now do, thanks to the development in China of
far more effective systems of harness. But we have of course
long since passed out of the draft-horse age into the jet propulsion
era. The motive power for such high-speed engines was likewise
inspired by the Chinese. In the air, China and the Far East anticipated
us in virtually every form of airborne vehicle or device, including
of course rockets, but also kites, gliders, balloons, parachutes,
weather forecasting, and even the helicopter principle in the
form of toys.
Because of the extraordinary developments
of Chinese technologists, it is not uncommon to see references
to their "science." As we shall try to show this is
perhaps an error, even though some of
the greatest authorities do it. In reviewing Needham's magnum
opus on the Science and Civilization of China, the
Editor of Discovery says:145
We are forced to realize
that the old question as to why Science failed to develop in
China must be replaced by the much more cautious one, "Since
the Chinese people have shown ability to observe and invent surpassing
that of the West until comparatively recent times, what factors
in environment and thought carried them so far and yet prevented
the development of the full scientific method?"
145. Under the title "Science and Civilization
in China," in the section "The Progress of Science,"
Discovery, Nov., 1957, p.458.
all due respect to both Needham and the Editor of Discovery,
I think there is a serious danger here of supposing that
Science is merely an extension of Technology, a kind of natural
adult stage. I would rather take the view held by James Conant
that Science is not merely an extension of Technology, any more
than infinity is merely a very very large number; it is in a
different category. One should not speak of a 'full scientific
method,' any more than one should strictly speak, conversely,
of something only being 'half-alive.'
But of their engineering achievements
and mechanical and technical skill there is not the slightest
doubt. It is all the more remarkable that they did not step over
the boundary into the kind of Industrial Revolution which resulted
from the development of Science in Europe. Certainly there is
no evidence that either they, or any of the other highly developed
civilizations we have been discussing, were ever on the verge
of doing so. As Herbert Butterfield put it in his Origins
of Modern Science;146
There does not seem to be any
sign that the ancient world before its heritage had been dispersed
was moving towards anything like a scientific revolution.
of why China stopped short where she did, is explored at great
length by Needham: his knowledge of Chinese culture should surely
entitle him to speak of their having achieved a measure of scientific
knowledge, if he feels it is justified to do so. And this he
does. To challenge such an authority must appear as little more
than impudence on the part of anyone whose knowledge is so completely
derived from secondary sources. Yet even Needham himself makes
admissions now and then which are tantamount to saying that he
is using the word Science to mean merely a highly developed
Technology, and nothing more. The Chinese, as he makes quite
clear, were never impractical dreamers or people likely to waste
time asking questions whose answers did not seem to be of immediate
practical value. Yet this is an essential attitude for the scientific
In reviewing Needham's work, Robert
Multhauf indicates that the conclusion to be drawn from the two
volumes published thus far, is that Chinese Technology participated
little and probably contributed little immediately to the development
of scientific thought.147 In fact, Needham himself asserts that the Chinese
worldview depended on a totally different kind of thought pattern
from that in the West. What he could
146. Butterfield, Herbert, The Origins of Modern
Science, Bell, London, 1949, p.163.
147. Multhauf, Robert, Book review, Science, vol.124,
Oct., 5, 1956, p.631.
have mentioned, perhaps,
is that it is not only unlike that of Western Man, but it is
exceedingly like that developed by almost all other cultures
which are non-Indo-European. In a subsequent chapter this will
be considered carefully. It is of fundamental importance and
to my mind accounts for the absence of Science not only in China
but in all other cases.
It is interesting to find
that a Chinese man writing a few years ago on this very point,
titled his Paper, "Why China has no Science." In this,
the author, Tu-Lan Fung, makes it clear that a feeling for the
essential personal-ness of Nature is what discouraged experiment: plus a conviction that the
definition of what is 'righteous' is what is 'useful' in the
immediate sense -- leading to considerable distrust of activities
of a purely intellectual or abstract character, and a feeling
of positive distaste for experimenting with Nature. Scientific
research, in the proper sense, was an im-pure waste of time that
almost amounted to sacrilege! As he put it, "to speak of
things in abstract and general terms is always dangerous."148
Ancient China's technology
But meanwhile in this chapter,
we shall review briefly their Technology. That we obtained from
China -- silk, porcelain, explosives, paper, printing with moveable
type, paper money, the magnetic compass, and mechanical water
clocks -- is so well known that the facts need little or no elaboration.
That they anticipated us in the use of gas for cooking and heating,
cast iron, flame weapons in warfare, and, as has been stated
above, the initial conquest of the air is possibly less well
known. In addition to this they initiated the use of fingerprinting
for identification purposes, chain pumps, the crossbow and a
repeating bow with 12 shots per loading, gimbal suspension systems,
the draw loom, the rotary fan and a winnnowing machine, piston
bellows, wheelbarrows, stirrups, a greatly improved harness for
draft animals that enabled them to pull almost twice as heavy
a load, deep drilling methods, and much more is even less commonly
Marco Polo gives us an extensive
account of the use of paper money.149 He say it was issued in various denominations, stamped
authoritatively by the Governor of the mint, and circulated as
the only form of valid currency over a very wide geographical
area. The bills, he says, were quite remarkably strong and did
not tear easily: any which had been torn, however, or had suffered
defacement, were recalled to the mint and replaced. Strikingly
reflecting our own bills of a few years ago, they contained a
promise that they would be redeemed for certain fixed quantities
of either precious stones or precious metals upon request! Foreign
148. Fung, Tu-Lan, "Why China has no Science, International
Journal of Ethics, 1922, p.237-263.
149. Polo, Marco, The Travels of Marco Polo, New York,
Library Publications, (undated), Chapter 24, p..37- 140.
not sell their jewels
or precious metals on the open market, but were required to turn
them in at the Mint, where they received a good recompense in
Consider how great such an innovation
really was. As Marco Polo says, a man who wished to move could
turn in hundreds of pounds (by weight) of valuable goods in personal
property, and walk away with a pocketful of money so light as
to be hardly noticeable with which in some other part of the
Empire he could recover his hundreds of pounds of goods. Everywhere
else in the world men were loaded down with the weight of their
possessions which often took such a form as to be virtually worthless
once the owner left his own locality. What such a scheme did
for trade and commerce is incalculable. What paper money does
for us today whether in notes or cheques, is virtually to keep
our civilization running. Maybe, we would have come to it anyway
in time. Certainly we did not initiate the idea. It originated
in the 13th century with the Great Khan.
It was, as Needham points out,
often many centuries before such inventions reached the West
from China. And he also notes that China received from the West
very little in return: actually, only four items are listed --
the screw principle, a force pump for liquids, the crankshaft,
and clockwork powered by a spring.150 Of these in turn, only the screw principle and an
alternative form of it (the windmill) seem actually to be to
the credit of Indo-Europeans, possibly the Greeks for the screw
and the Persians for the windmill. There is evidence that even
the screw was obtained from Egypt. Needham points out that the
art of drilling deep wells or bore-holes as used today in exploiting
oil reserves is specifically of Chinese origin.151 He also mentions that the use of graticules on maps
to simplify the specifying and location of places, is probably
of Chinese origin, although Ptolemy also employed this method.152 For almost all Needham's
illustrations, one thing can be said, to use his own words:153
Firm evidence for their use
in China antedates and sometimes long antedates, the best evidence
for their appearance in any other part of the world. . . .
150. Needham J.M., Science and Civilization
in China, Cambridge University Press, vol.1, p.241. But there
is some question about the Screw Principle, Archimedes may have
'borrowed' it from Egypt.
151. Needham, J.M., ibid., vol.1, p.244.
152. Needham, J.M., ibid., vol.1, p.245
153. Needham, J.M., ibid., vol.1, p.241.
then quotes Toynbee as having said:
it may or may not be possible to trace back our Western mechanical
trend towards the origins of our Western history, there is no
doubt that a mechanical penchant is as characteristic of the
Western civilization as an aesthetic penchant was of the Hellenic.
. . .
Of this observation,
Needham says, "It is to be feared that all such valuations
are built on insecure foundations." The fact is, we simply
do not have any such penchant if we judge our 'racial' character
by looking at our achievements prior to the time we began to
borrow from non-Indo-Europeans. Since that time, racial mixture
has taken place on such a scale, and with it of course 'cultural'
mixture also, that it is difficult to say for certain who is
and who is not Indo-European in many cases. About all we can
do is to attempt to gain a certain measure of objectivity in
this regard by looking more carefully at the actual achievement
involved in many borrowed elements of our civilization which
we now think simple and obvious, merely because we have become
so used to them.
Take as an example,
the preparation of silk. Sarton says of this:154
Consider what the invention
implied -- the domestication of an insect, the 'education' of
silkworms, the cultivation of the white mulberry, the whole of
But -- which
is more -- it involved the recognition of the possibilities
of the material in the first place. Spider web is one of the
strongest known natural filament, but it does not seem that anyone
ever thought of cultivating spider web for this purpose. The
idea of such a possibility is not enough. It requires considerable
energy to turn it into a working industry, and although it seems
highly improbable that it was done in a single step, somebody
must have been alive to the practical advantages of making the
effort -- and have demonstrated it could be done. But then it
seems, having developed the 'industry' until it was producing
results, there it was left . . . with virtually no effort to
extend it or improve the technique or seek for substitute insects
or even attempt to make a
154. Sarton, George, A History of Science, Harvard
University Press, 1952, p.5, footnote 4.
synthetic material using the same
kind of substance produced by other means. This is the kind of thing we
are good at: but we always seem to need the initial stimulation from somewhere
Warfare and the conquest of the air
Needham also draws attention to
the fact that the Chinese have excelled in the art of war, inventing
new weapons and new methods of attack or defence. The repeating
or magazine' crossbow, of which an example of the mechanism is
to be found in the Royal Ontario Museum, is surely the world's
first machine gun.155
To their credit (?) must also be given the invention of flame
weapons and smoke bombs. Although the former appeared in the
Mediterranean area first from North Africa, being used there
against the Romans, there is no doubt that the Arabs derived
them from the Chinese, for they called them "Darts of China."
In a classified document on Chemical Warfare published some years
ago in the United States, Harold Lamb had this to say:156
A search through Oriental
annals reveals other ancestors of present European weapons. But
it is a little surprising to find the modern hand grenade, flame-thrower,
and cannon in use in Asia centuries ago.
In Roman days vases filled
with a fire compound were employed by the Persians at the Siege
of Petra. This compound was sulphur, asphalt, and naphtha; and
the vases were cast by mangonels (a kind of giant catapult).
The flames which sprang up when the vessel broke could not be
extinguished. This was the origin of the much talked about Greek
fire, which they, having borrowed it from the Arabs . . . were
surprised to find would continue to burn on water, a fact which
mystified the early Crusaders.
Haram al-Raschid used a sulphur-naphtha
compound at the siege of Heraclea. . . . At the siege of Acre,
a Damascus engineer destroyed the wooden towers of the Crusaders
by casting against them light clay vessels of the fluid until
everything was well saturated. Then a flaming ball was thrown
out and, as we read in one old Chronicle, "all was destroyed
by flame, man, weapons, and all." During the 13th century
flame weapons were highly developed by the Arabs. They had hand
grenades -- small glass or clay jars that ignited when they broke;
and a curious fire-mace, that was to be broken over the head
of a foe, its owner keeping well to windward!
Flame throwers appeared in the
form of portable tubes that could burn a man to ash at 30 feet
[We still cannot do much better - or worse - with modern weapons!
ACC] Some of the names of these flame weapons,
such as "The Chinese Flower" and so on, only indicate
that they had their origin in that country. In fact we find the
Chinese of the 13th century very familiar with destructive fire.
They had the pao that belched flaming power, and the fie-ho-tsing,
the "spear of fire that flies."
155. Repeating Bow: this is described in the
Bulletin of the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, No.10,
May, 1931, p.11, under the title Crossbow.
156. Lamb, Harold, "Flame Weapons," Chemical Warfare
Magazine, Edgewood, (U.S.), Dec., 1927, p.237.
seems then that the Arabs borrowed much from the Far East -- paint brushes
(but with the original pig bristles replaced by camel hair -- for religious
reasons), paper manufacture, block printing, silk, alchemy, and of course
such weapons of war as the above in addition to explosives. They were
great carriers but apparently somewhat uninventive except possibly during
one short period of their history. Further reference to this point will
be made in the next chapter.
Another document prepared by the
Office of the Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service (Washington,
1939) opens with these words:157
Ghengis Khan, famous ruler
of the Mongols and of China, used chemicals in the form of huge
balls of pitch and sulphur shot over the walls of besieged towns
to produce a combination of screening smoke, choking sulphur
fumes, and incendiary effects as a standard routine of attack.
gases were used by the Arabs against the Roman Legions in North
Africa as early as 220 A.D. According to Captain A. Maude,
the secret of this weapon was learned by the Romans finally by
the capture of a Prince of Mauritania named Juball, subsequently
married to Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra.158
The Chinese, curiously enough did
not make much use of their explosives in warfare by developing
cannon until the idea was suggested to them by Europeans! But
they did make rocket arrows, and their launching devices were
certainly the sires of modern multiple rocket launchers. Some
illustrations of these, from a Chinese manuscript, are given
in Fig. 22, and in Fig. 23 is a single rocket weapon that
might well deter anyone! They also developed 'psychological'
weapons using large arrows with whistling or 'screaming' heads
on them that were guaranteed to stampede horses. Some of their
bows were so beautifully designed that, as Klopsteg has shown,
they could actually shoot up to half a mile with them.159
| The Chinese may have used
rockets as early as 1232. Here incendiary rocket arrows are launched
||Launcher built by the Chinese had
a capacity of 100 rocket arrows. It could be tilted to alter
||Portable launcher had a capacity
of 40 rocket arrows. These rockets had a range of some 400 feet.
157. "The Story of Chemical Warfare"
(no author stated), Jan., 1939, p.1.
158. Maude, A., "Ancient Chemical Warfare," Journal
of Royal Army Medical Corps, vol.62, 1934, p.141.
159. Klopsteg, Paul E., Turkish Archery and the Composite
Bow, privately published in Toronto, 2nd. edition, 1947.
| Their gunpowder burned rather slowly and unevenly.
Hence it was not too effective in cannon. But this did not deter
them. They made use of the fact. Practically speaking,
they arranged the cannon's barrel so that it was free to move
and then fastened the charge in it so that it stayed with the
weapon, thus they had a jet propelled rocket. They then made
the tube out of tightly wound paper to save weight, and put a
point on it for better flight. But they soon found that because
of the uneven burning of the propellant the rocket's flight was
somewhat erratic. This they overcame by putting a trailing stick
on it to steady it. At first this stick had feathers, but they
found that the feathers were simply burned off. It made no difference,
for these feathers proved unnecessary. What they did discover
was that regardless of the size of the rocket, it had the best
balanced flight when the stock was seven times as long as the
rocket head. This is still found to be so.160
Fig. 23 A Chinese rocket weapon.
Fig. 24 An illustration of the earliest known Cast
Iron Stove from China as published in an advertisement by the
Borg-Warner Corporation, in the Saturday Evening Post, of Sept.
Ley says that the Arabs learned of these weapons from the Chinese
and thus called them "Alsichem alkhatai" or Chinese
French Sinologist, Stanislas Julien, has found references to
these rockets in China as early as 1232 A.D.
In metallurgy (and in alchemy),
the Chinese were far ahead of the West very early in their history.
R. J. Forbes, a foremost authority on metallurgy in antiquity,
tells us that they were making cast iron stoves by 150 B.C.
at least.162 A
picture of one such stove is given for interest's sake, though
the original source of the illustration cannot be vouched for.
It was used by the Borg-Warner Corporation in an advertisement
in a Technical paper (Fig.24).
Another metallurgical journal gives
a picture of a huge single cast iron statue which is believed
to have been set up in 953 A.D. This is held to be one
of the largest single iron castings ever made. It is shown in
As a matter of interest, it is
sometimes pointed out that the Hittites (possibly a non-Indo-European
people with an Indo-European aristocracy) who disappeared from
History so completely that their very existence was once doubted,
are referred to in cuneiform documents as the Khittai, and sometimes
as the Khattai. C. R. Conder suggested that they disappeared
because when their Kingdom came to an end, the people packed
up and travelled East where they left their name associated with
China and the Far East in the form 'Cathay'.163
160. Coggins, Jack, and Fletcher Pratt,
Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships, New York,
Random House, 1951, p.4, with foreword by WiIley Ley.
161. Ley, Willey, "Rockets," Scientific American,
Mar., 1949, p.31.
162. Forbes, R.J., Metallurgy in Antiquity, Leiden,
Netherlands, Brill, 1950, p.442.
163. Conder, C.R., "The Canaanites" " Transactions
of the Victoria Institute, vol.24, 1890, p.51.
The Arabs term Chinese Arrows as Alkhatai,
as we have seen. Forbes holds that the Hittites discovered cast
iron even before the Chinese did. If this is true, it would suggest
that this is possibly where the latter obtained their knowledge
In the conquest of the air, China
played a very prior part. Francis R. Miller states that:164
China enters first claim to
the invention of the balloon -- centuries before Europe knew
it. The Chinese further claim to have had a system of signals
by which different toned trumpets sounded from the top of high
hills and gave notice of impending changes of wind and weather,
for use by navigators of dirigible balloons.
Fig. 25 Cast probably in 953 A.D., this may well
be the largest single cast iron figure in the world. It stands
in the yard of the Kai-Yuam Monastery in Ts'ang-chow. It is approximately
20 feet high.
gives an illustration from an official Chinese document of a
large dirigible said to have been used at the coronation of the
Emperor Fo-Kien, in 1306. It was large enough to carry 9 individual
gondolas which were lowered to the ground with pulley systems.
In another place Miller reports
A contemporary of Confucius
(c. 550 B.C.) named Lu Pan, who was known as "the mechanician
of Lu,"is said to have made a glider in the form of a magpie
from wood and bamboo which he caused to fly.
states that kites, as precursors of airplanes, first appeared
in Chinese annals at a very early date. Chinese scholars who
kept records frequently refer to them. The earliest kites were
used for military signalling, first recorded in warfare in the
time of Han Sin, who died in 198 B.C., one of the Three Heroes
who assisted in founding the Han Dynasty. General Han Sin, plotting
to tunnel into Wei-yang palace, flew a kite to measure the distance
According to Needham:167
De Ia Loubere saw the
parachute used by acrobats in Siam around 1688, and his description
was read a century later by Lenormant, who then made some successful
experiments and introduced the device to Montgolfier. This is
not to deny that the idea of the parachute had been proposed
in Europe at the time of the Renaissance, but there are Asian
references to it much earlier still.
164. Miller, Francis T., The World
in the Air, New York, Putnam's, 1930, vol.1, p.99.
165. Miller, Francis T., ibid, p.56.
166. Miller, Francis T., ibid, p.73.
167. Needham, J., Science and Civilization in China,
Cambridge University Press, 1954, vol.1, p.231.
More invention 'firsts'
suspension bridges with iron chains were constructed in China
at least 10 centuries or more before they were known and built
The story of printing and of paper
manufacture is so well known as to need little consideration
here. It came to Europe first with the old camel silk trains
as a finished product -- its secret of manufacture jealously
guarded. Not until an Arab armed victory over the Chinese armies
near Samarkand in 751 A.D. did paper settle in the West as an
industry, set up by captured Chinese paper makers. Its use soon
spread all over Europe.
The development of printing depended
upon the manufacture of suitable ink. We have already mentioned
the use of carbon black to strengthen rubber. This material was
first made by the Chinese who prepared it by burning oil and
allowing the flame to impinge on a small porcelain cone, from
which the deposited carbon was removed at frequent intervals
with a feather. The famous stick ink resulted from the compounding
of this with a strong glue solution.169
R. H. Clapperton has shown that
the recent researches of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin prove
beyond doubt that the Chinese were .not only the inventors of
rag paper, raw fibre (mulberry bark and bamboo paper) and paper
made of a combination of raw fibre and rags, but also the inventors
of loading and coating paper!170 We formerly used a china-coated paper to obtain the
best reproduction of photographs with a fine screen, though this
has now been replaced with less expensive and possibly more durable
plastic coatings. But the idea originated with the Chinese.
A recent Chinese author, Li Ch'iao-p'ing
points out that Chinese inventions opened up new fields of chemical
manufacture in early times, but then remained stationary for
centuries. One of their earlier contributions to medicine was
the extraction of ephedrine from the herb Ephedra, a process
credited to a very famous Emperor Shen Nung, who is supposed
to have lived somewhere between 3000 and 2200 B.C.171
A two thousand year old rig for
drilling salt wells was recently cited as a good model still
for the modern cable rig of today's oil fields.172
Even in the design of clothing,
they seemed to have a genius for hitting upon the best end-results,
168. Needham, J., ibid., vol.1, p.231.
169. Stick ink: Stern, H. J., Rubber: Natural and Synthetic,
London, Maclaren, 1954, p.118.
170. Clapperton, R. H. and William Henderson, Modern Paper
Making, Oxford, Blackwells, 2nd.edition, revised, 1941, 376
171. Ephedrine: Bender, George A., "Pharmacy in Ancient
China" in the series, A History of Pharmacy in Lectures,
Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Co., 1957.
172. Oil rig model: see Edward Farber, reviewing Li Ch'iao-p'ing,,
The Chemical Arts of Old China in Scientific Monthly,
vol.68, June, 1949, p.430.
from the actual materials they
developed. Thus it has been recently shown that the so-called 'Chinese
sleeve' which permits each forearm to be inserted into the opposite sleeve,
is more effective for keeping the hands warm in cold weather than either
Arctic mittens, or a muff! Europeans adopted muffs and mittens -- but
having investigated the Chinese pattern thoroughly, it now appears to
be equally if not more effective. 173
Although the 'clockwork' motor
principle was taken to the Chinese from the West, their water
clocks long antedated the European systems of keeping accurate
time, and were certainly more dependable, especially when mercury
was used in place of water. The complexity of these water-clocks
has only recently been recognized as a result of the finding
of some ancient documents sufficiently explicit and detailed
to enable Needham and some associates to draw plans and diagrams
of their operation. This was reported recently in the British
Journal Nature.174 These devices were highly ingenious, involving gear
trains of several kinds, the speed being very exactly regulated
by a most dependable and clever use of water or mercury. Knowledge
of these seems to have come into Europe possibly during the Crusades.
The clocks were connected with astronomical observations, in
an endeavour to predict seasons, etc., more exactly. The interest
was purely of a practical nature.
As we have already mentioned briefly,
the Chinese had already discovered the uniqueness of finger prints,
and quickly perceived how useful this could be for identification
purposes. They were used during the T'ang dynasty as early as
According to a special report on
the uses of natural gas, it is said that the Chinese were the
first to use it. 176 Probably
the Sumerians can dispute this claim. But the story goes that
some villagers near Peiping were trying to put out a local brush
fire, when they found one flame that could not be extinguished
with water. "The practical villagers then built a bamboo
pipeline, from the outlet to the village, and used the gas for
heating brine to make salt." This is said to have taken
place somewhere about 450 B.C. Whether they can be said
to have 'invented' the use of natural gas or not is a questionable
point -- but certainly they were very quick to see its practical
possibilities. This is in exact contrast to the Romans who produced
Cast Iron in considerable quantities but threw it
173. This is reported in an Annual Project
Report issued by the US. Quartermaster Stores, Jan.-Dec.,
1956, vol.1, p.401.
174. Needham, Joseph, Wang Ling, and Derek J. Price, "Chinese
Astronomical Clockwork," Nature, vol.177, March 31,
1956, p.600, 601.
175. Haddon, Alfred C., The History of Anthropology,
London, Watts, 1934, p.33.
176. Reported in The Telegram, Toronto, April 4,
1955, in a special section devoted to the use of Natural Gas;
under the title "Gas and Pipeline too: way back in 450 B.C."
all away because they did not recognize
it as a potentially useful product.177 As we
have already remarked, the basic technology of all metallurgy is entirely
non-Indo-European, even heat-treatment and case hardening being known
before we 'discovered' it.
Indeed, in some instances, we not
only never have improved upon the products of our instructors,
but actually have not even been able to improve upon their methods
of manufacture, where we usually shine. Cire perdu casting
is still employed for small bronze statues of racing horses and
such items, and even the use of cow manure for the mold has been
retained from the most ancient times, to give the best results.
This system is extraordinarily effective for casting hollow articles
of intricate form, where the use of ordinary cores is quite impossible,
and yet it is found in every primitive society that has any knowledge
of metals, in every archaeological site bearing the remains of
cultures who had developed metal casting skills, and virtually
every high civilization, with the exception of Indo-Europeans,
seem to have had knowledge of the art . . . almost exactly as
it is done in Europe today. We therefore use the same basic methods
as non-Indo-Europeans for casting hollow objects in metal as
they used, just as we have adopted exactly the same method of
moulding hollow objects in rubber (cored or slush-moulded) as
the natives of Central and South America did.
contributions to our technology, notably in connection with the
use of electricity and internal combustion engines, will be acknowledged
in the next chapter. They will be used to illustrate some important
aspects of this question as to whose contribution has been most
Although it will be possible to
quote authorities who do not hesitate to say in so many words
that we have invented virtually nothing, such sweeping generalizations
need qualification. In the first place radical mixture has proceeded
so extensively in Europe and America that it is no longer possible
in many cases to say, for certain, which individuals do or do
not carry some non-Indo-European genes. In other words it is
no longer always clear who is truly Indo-European and who is
not. But it is true to say that whatever inventiveness we have
shown in the past three or four centuries has almost always resulted
from stimulation from non-Indo-Europeans. Our chief
177. Forbes, R. J., Metallurgy in Antiquity,
Leiden, Netherlands, Brill, 1950, p.407.
glory has been the ability to improve
upon and perfect the inventions of others, often to such an extent that
they appear to be original developments in their own right. We can also
make some claim to have greatly advanced mass production methods. But
it would surely be a great mistake to credit the improver with greater
inventive ability than the originator. Moreover, the individual who tells
the truth 99% of the time, but now and then tells lies, would hardly be
termed a liar. By the same token, it does not seem proper to call a people
'inventive' who once in a while do invent something, but who 99% of the
time merely adapt the inventions of others to new ends.
Paul Herrmann has written an interpretative
survey of man's conquest of the earth's surface from Palaeolithic
times to the present day. It is the work of one man, no small
undertaking, and has therefore not the comprehensiveness one
might desire, but it has the advantage of being a unified treatment.
In his foreword he has this to say: 178
A further aim in writing this
book was to weaken the very widespread conviction that our progress
in the technological aspects of civilization represents, in any
real sense, a greater achievement than that of our forebears.
The liberation of atomic energy probably means no less than did
the invention of the fire drill or the wheel in their day. Both
discoveries were of immense importance to early man.
that the only Persian invention of first rank was the windmill,
and apart from the rotary quern whose history is not quite certain,
the only European contribution of value, mechanically speaking,
is the pot-chain pump. 179 This gives us two claims to originality. Compared
with the originality of other cultures prior, let us say, to
the 15th century A.D., we certainly did not shine in this direction.
Yet we have advanced technology so far ahead of all previous
civilizations that there must be some more subtle reason which
will bear investigation.
It could be argued that primitive
people do not invent much either: but this is easily accounted
for. They do not see any need to do so. When that need arises,
they are ingenious enough, though for reasons we may consider
subsequently, they actually resist innovations as a rule.
The next chapter will be devoted
to an examination of two things. First, the evidence for this
lack of originality among Indo-Europeans; and secondly, the evidence
for the almost total lack among non-Indo-Europeans of that "impulse
towards philosophical speculation" as Maritain so aptly
put it, 180
which has finally given us the great
technical superiority we currently enjoy over other cultures.
178. Herrmann, Paul, Conquest by
Man, New York, Harper, 1954, p.xxi, xxii.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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Chapter (Part II)
179. Needham, Joseph, Science and Civilization in China,
Cambridge University Press, 1954, vol.1, p. 240.
180. Maritain, Jacques, An Introduction to Philosophy,
translated by E. I. Watkin, New York, Sheed and Ward, 1937,