So, in honor of the end of another year, we thought we would talk about something that everyone knows but no one ever really talks about:
We all know that the wheel is considered the greatest invention of mankind, and is responsible for developing civilization from savagery. From the earliest version to today’s most evolved, advanced models, the wheel has literally moved our history forward. So, let’s go back to the beginning.
The oldest wheel, according to archaeological records and theories, was invented in Mesopotamia around 3500 BC, but it wasn’t used for transportation. It was a potter’s wheel. It wasn’t until around 300 years later, around 3200 BC, that ancient Mesopotamians took the idea and fastened it to chariots. Thus, transportation took a major ‘roll’ forward.
However, these chariot wheels were simple wooden circles with supporting spokes. They did not hold up well, and in the region they were mainly used for pottery, milling, and irrigation for nearly another two millennia.
Around 1000 BC, iron rims were applied to the outer edges of the wheel for the first time. This increased the durability of the structure, and ensured that one wheel could be used for more intense work. Wooden spokes were still the norm, and it took nearly another two millennia before we saw any further advancements in the design of the wheel.
In 1802, round wire tension spokes replaced the wooden staves of the past. To this day we still see this innovation in use on bicycles the world over.
In 1845, the first pneumatic (air-filled) tire was invented by R. W. Thompson.
In 1885, the first automobile wheel was invented and manufactured by Karl Benz.
In 1888, pneumatic tires were reinvented by John Dunlop, a Scottish veterinarian. He chose to replace the hard rubber manufacturers were using at that time, providing a more comfortable, smooth ride.
In 1910, B. F. Goodrich’s company gave us tires that lasted longer; he added carbon to the rubber mix, and we entered a new era.
In 1926, steel welded-spoke wheels brought automotive tires into the modern age.
Since then, the industry has developed two major types of automotive wheels.
Steel wheels are lower priced, and can made into different shapes with ease. They are also easier to replace than their counterparts.
Alloy wheels are lightweight, made from a combination of aluminum, magnesium, nickel, and other light metals. They are more conductive and visually appealing to the public.
Wheels made humanity what we are today. In fact, without wheels, we never would have learned to successfully mill grain, harvest large amounts of crops, or transport people and goods over long distances in short amounts of time. There is literally no aspect of modern life that is not affected by the invention of the wheel. Your smartphone has its roots in clockworks, which use gears (modified wheels) to automate operations. Your home could not have been made without wheels to transport the materials to your site. Your food comes to your local store on trucks that run on wheels.
Wheels make the world go round.