[lit-ideas] Lunchtime Reading

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 12 May 2014 12:45:22 -0700

I started with an article about King David the First of Scotland.  Having spent 
time at the court of Henry the First in England, he thought that abbeys and 
priories and so on might be engines of agricultural improvement and commerce.  
So he encouraged this kind of thing and created, along the way, burghs.  
Scotland also got the idea of a shire from England, and the term Shire Reeve, 
which was shortened to "sheriff."

John Boyd Dunlop, one of two people who could claim to have invented the 
pneumatic tire (tyre), was born on a farm in Aryshire.  He grew up to be a vet 
and opened a practice in Downpatrick, Ireland, later moving into Belfast.  It's 
said that Dunlop junior was prescribed cycling as a cure for a heavy cold and 
that John Boyd felt compassion when he saw his son trying to ride on Belfast's 
cobbled streets.  He tinkered in a workshop on May Street and came up with a 
patentable invention.  He was awarded the patent in 1888.  Two years later the 
patent office decided that they'd made a mistake and that the patent of another 
Scottish inventor, Robert William Thomson had priority, having been filed some 
forty years prior.  Dunlop didn't make much from his invention--details on 
Wikipedia--but he did marry a countess, named Daisy.  The article I read 
suggested that the song about a bicycle made for two refers to her.  Wikipedia 
tells a different tale.  Boyd features on a ten pound note in circulation in 
Northern Ireland.  The Dunlop company was eventually broken up and sold to 
Japanese and American and South African and...interests.

The earliest steel in Britain has been found in Broxmouth, about forty minutes 
east of the center of Edinburgh.  The artifacts have dated to between 490 and 
375 BC which is between the early iron age and the middle iron age, again 
according to Wikipedia which says, "During the Iron Age, the best tools and 
weapons were made from steel, particularly alloys which were produced with a 
carbon content between approximately 0.30% and 1.2% by weight.[citation needed] 
Alloys with less carbon than this, such as wrought iron, cannot be heat treated 
to a significant degree and will consequently be of low hardness, while a 
higher carbon content creates an extremely hard but brittle material that 
cannot be annealed, tempered, or otherwise softened. Steel weapons and tools 
were nearly the same weight as those of bronze, but stronger. However, steel 
was difficult to produce with the methods available, and alloys that were 
easier to make, such as wrought iron, were more common in lower-priced goods. 
Many techniques have been used to create steel; Mediterranean ones differ 
dramatically from African ones, for example. Sometimes the final product is all 
steel, sometimes techniques like case hardening or forge welding were used to 
make cutting edges stronger.

You may now know more than you did.  Do carry on.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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