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INNOVATION

THROUGH THE AGES




Hunched in the dark recesses of a
cold, damp cave, gnawing on a hunk of
raw meat- imagine if this were our
reality. Without innovation, humans
would have stalled out, unlikely to have
survived primitive times. Our ability to
think creatively and innovate led not
only to survival, but to progress.
Innovation, the key to societal
advancement, has inspired important
changes in many areas throughout the
ages, especially education, health, and
communication.

Education
The nudge of necessity has inspired
some of the worlds greatest
advancements. This is most certainly
the case in the history of education.
Centuries before the development of
agriculture, men and women
subsisted in a constant state of need.
Through their nomadic resourcefulness,
our ancestors cultivated the instinct of
curiosity and ingenuity- both essential
elements of learning. Education was
quite literally obtained through in-the-
field training.

The introduction of agriculture brought
great changes to this instinctive way of
life. Hunter-gatherers who once relied
on skill and creative drives were forced
to exchange these attributes for
plowshares.
1
Farming required
consistent, arduous labor and
necessitated permanent dwellings.

As civilizations grew and industry
increased in these permanent
communities, the need arose for
information to be recorded and passed
down. Early tribes that once relied on
word of mouth, pictures, or dance now
found this mode of learning ineffective
and the time came to innovate.
2
The
invention of writing altered the
environment of education. There was a
shift from learning through life
experiences to learning in a classroom.
Priests and scribes became instructors
of children and young adults in a
formal education setting.

Cultures have evolved and educational
processes have transformed with the
progression of time. Todays formal
education tends to mesh ancient hands-
on learning techniques with the more
modern instruction-based classroom
learning. Current technology provides
platforms of learning unimagined by
scholars of the past.

The Internet places a world of
information at the very fingertips of
pupils around the globe. Students can
use virtual labs to visit an African
safari or simulate space travel. Online
instruction can even allow a student in
the Philippines to communicate with an
instructor in India. The educational
resources available to students will
multiply as mankind continues to
innovate, allowing students
to reconnect with the primitive instincts
of curiosity and ingenuity.

Health
A look at advances made in the medical
field gives us another portrayal of the
impact of innovative ideas on society.
One of mankinds most beneficial
health innovations has been the
development of anesthesia. Before
modern anesthesia was developed, the
options for numbing pain were crude
and insufficient. Lettuce, for example,
was used to block the pain of surgery.
3

Imagine going in for surgery, and
'under the knife' all the surgeon has to
offer you for pain control is some
lettuce to munch on...GULP.

Other available options for pain control
were numbing the area with ice or
cutting off circulation to decrease
sensation to the limb. Some patients
preferred other methods such as being
knocked unconscious with a hit to the
head.
4
According to the National
Center of Biotechnological
Advancements, surgeons offered
alcohol and opium in more recent
centuries, but ...neither opium nor
alcohol were strong enough to block
the pain completely. There usually had
to be a group of men standing by, ready
to hold the patient down in case the
opium or alcohol wore off...
5
It's no
wonder surgery was an absolute last
resort.

Fortunately, in the 18
th
and 19
th

centuries, some game changers entered
the scene. Unique scientific thinkers
just were not sold on the 'life stinks-get
used to it' idea and sought to innovate
healthcare by offering other viable
methods of pain control.

Of these pain-saving superheroes, one
stands out as especially innovative.
William T. G. Morton, a resourceful
Bostonian dentist, saw the anesthetic
potential of inhaling ether. Anesthetic
experiments had been attempted in the
18
th
century and publicly failed,
sometimes leading to the professional
ruin of the experimenting physician.
This did not deter Morton. He pressed
forward, confident in his studies.
Finally, in 1846, he effectively numbed
a surgical patient with ether. The
physician exclaimed excitedly,
Gentleman, this is no humbug!
3


Mortons perseverance and innovative
zest paved the way for further

...neither opium nor alcohol were
strong enough to block the pain
completely. There usually had to be a
group of men standing by, ready to
hold the patient down in case the
opium or alcohol wore off...
advancement of pain control methods.
So now, when you go in for that
stomach surgery, relax. Lie down on
the table and float blissfully into
unconsciousness. As you drift off, be
sure to utter a semi-conscious 'thank
you' to medical innovators for going
against the grain with their creative
thinking.

Communication
Creative thinking and innovation have
also influenced the communication
field. Look how far we have come over
the ages in terms of communication,
especially across long distances. No
longer are we forced to use shouting,
smoke signals, fire, or whistling as the
only means for communicating over
long distances. Though these practices
effectively served their purposes at the
height of use, they were limited. Even
written messages could not fully
remedy the limitations. Bamber
Gasciogne, author of the History World
website, says, Until recent centuries,
the only way to increase the speed of
communication has been to improve
the speed of the messenger.
6


Over the centuries, innovation and
creative thinking have fueled many
changes in the way messages are
communicated over long distances.
Innovators sought not only to improve
the speed of the messenger, but to
change the communication process
altogether. The inventions that
improved the speed and ease of long-
distance communication are too
numerous to list in their entirety, but
here are just a few: the telegraph,
typewriter, telephone, gramophone,
radio, motion picture, transistor,
television, computer, microprocessor,

and Internet.
7


Today, innovative thinking has led to
the development of technologies like
Skype, snapchat, Worketc, Dropbox,
and more to aid in communication over
nearly any distance. It is because of the
innovations of those creative
individuals that came before us and the
continued innovation of creative
individuals today that we have the out-
of-the-box technologies that have made
communication easier and speedier
than ever before.

Advancements in education, health, and
communication have improved our way
of life. These advancements represent
only the tip of the innovative iceberg,
yet they demonstrate innovations
ongoing role in societal progress.
Innovation is an ever-present, ever-
changing phenomenon. Our desire to
create and improve our way of life will
continue to shape our future. All of us
can improve our work performance and
our contribution to society by
harnessing and applying innovation.
The future is out there! Are you ready
for it?

1
Gray, Peter. Freedom to Learn: A Brief History of Education. Psychology Today. Aug 2008. Web. 5 Jun. 2014.
2
Weigl, Egon. The Written Language Is More than Reading and Writing. The Reading Teacher, Vol. 33, No. 6 (Mar., 1980), pp. 652-657. Web. 5 Jun. 2014.
3
Markel, Howard, Dr. "The Painful Story behind Modern Anesthesia." PBS. PBS, 13 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 Jun. 2014.
4
Inglis-Arkell, Esther. "Bite Down on a Stick: The History of Anesthesia." Io9. Unknown, 3 Mar. 2011. Web. 06 Jun. 2014.
5
Robinson, D.H., and A.H. Toledo. "Result Filters." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 25 June 2012. Web. 06 Jun. 2014.
6
Gascoigne, Bamber. History of Communication HistoryWorld. From 2001, ongoing. Web. 6 Jun. 2014.
7
Bellis, Mary. The History of Communication About.com Inventors. About.com. Web. 6 Jun. 2014.