** economics raw material fuel

Economics: Raw Materials--Fuel

Figure 1.--

It was once said that what made humans different than animals was the ability to make tools. We now know that quite a number of animals make and use tools. What is distinctive to humans more than any other matter is the use of energy. Only humans use energy and develop energy sources. Energy was important even durung the Neolithic period as homonoid species were developing into modern man. This began when man first dicovered how to make and use fire. This involved using wood as a fuel. Just when humans first learned how to control fire is unknown. It was belived that this was a step only taken by Neanbderthals and Homo sapienns. It was an vital step in developing human culture. It meatn that humans could cook food, increasing nutrutional value. And it mean that threy could increase the ability to live in the colder climates outsiude of Africa, making possuble geograophic expansion. Fire made possible both warmth and protection. Ther were other advantages sich as activity in the dark and a degree of protection from predators and insects. [Price] The cooking of food was especially imprtant. Some foods like nuts and fruits which do not need to be cooked, but others such as root vegetables require cooking to fully dugest. Cooking meat is also imprtant. Itb is no known when humans first took this step. Confirmed evidence dates back (1 million BP). [Luke] This would mean that it was a step made by Homo erectus. And this continued with thhe Neolithic Revolution--agriculture. The only diffderence was that with the advent od civilization, more fuel was needed. Wood as used as a building material, but also a fuel for warmth and cooking, And this was a problem in the ealy river valley civilizations, esecially Mesopotamia and Egypt. with limited supplies of wood. Animal 'chips' were used as a fuel. For most of history covering millenia, wood was tthe major fuel. For milennia, the primary source of power was animals. That is why engines even tiday are measured in hiesepower. The first mechanical power was generated It was not for millenia used for power. Water wheels generated the first mecahanical power in anceint times. Later in medieval times, windmills were developed. With the advent of the Industrail Revolution, energy was needed to power the machinery being developed. And that source of power was the steam engune. The first practical steam engines was to develop a major problem--how to remove water from flooded mines. As mines went deeper in search of ores, flooding from ground water became a serious problem. Thomas Savery, an engineer and inventor, patented a machine that could effectively draw water from flooded mines using steam pressure (1698). Inventors gradually improved the first machime. James Watt is credited with producing the first modern steam engine (1765). Wood was first used as a fuel, but was expebdive ndcause a lot of labor was needed to produce it. Coal became the major fuel of the industrial Revolution during the 19th and much of the 20th century. A new fuel appeared in the mid-19th century--oil. This was at first mostly used for home lighting and lubricants. And the United States became the primary producer of oil. It became a major fuel in the 20th century and until after World War II (1939-45), America was the primary source. Electrical energy was beginning to become imprtant by the-turn of the 20th century. But this was mostly generated by first coal and than oil. In the early 21st century we begin to see natural gas and varuius renewable energy sources becoming important.


Luke, Kim. "Evidence that human ancestors used fire one million years ago," Proceedings of the Batioanl academy of Sciences (April 2, 2012).

Price, David. "Energy and human evolution," Population and Envirinment: A Journal of Interdisciplarian Studies Vol. 16, No. 4 (March 1995), pp. 301-19. .


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to the Main Economics page]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Created: 1:32 PM 2/13/2021
Last updated: 1:32 PM 2/13/2021