This is another great one from last year on Jason Crawford’s Roots of Progress project, in which he dives into advancements in human progress. In this post he covers a brief background on cement, one of the oldest of mankind’s technological discoveries:
Stone would be ideal. It is tough enough for the job, and rocks are plentiful in nature. But like everything else in nature, we find them in an inconvenient form. Rocks don’t come in the shape of houses, let alone temples. We could maybe pile or stack them up, if only we had something to hold them together.
If only we could—bear with me now as I indulge in the wildest fantasy—pour liquid stone into molds, to create rocks in any shape we want! Or—as long as I’m dreaming—what if we had a glue that was as strong as stone, to stick smaller rocks together into walls, floors and ceilings?
This miracle, of course, exists. Indeed, it may be the oldest craft known to mankind. You already know it—and you probably think of it as one of the dullest, most boring substances imaginable.
From reading this I added Concrete Planet to the reading list. I’m overdue for some more history of technology reading this year.