The World as we know it is a result of a myriad of different theories, philosophies and ideas, many of which paved way for groundbreaking application in various fields. Summarising these ideas would take a whole book, and then some, so we have some of them which came to define the modern era. While one may argue that the Wheel or Fire will always top every other invention, we decided to give them short shrift because so much ink has already been spilled over them. Shall we dance?
While the church would have us all believe that The Sun is an insignificant ball of fire and the earth was as flat as Hiroshima after the A-bomb , Galileo and Copernicus were the two brave crusaders of science who braved persecution and anathematisation and stood up to the Church with conclusive proofs. It was an important step in realising human insignificance on the grand scale of things, and as Carl Sagan so poetically put it
We humans are like butterflies…we flutter for an instant and think it’s eternity.
Before there was the pdf and the Kindle and e-books, there were books. And the man behind them was John Gutenberg, inventor of the first printing machine. to put it into perspective, this single innovation has been the source of all the other consequent ones, as it is highly unlikely that the inventor of any important thing or the thinker of any great idea did so without reading a few books (and maybe writing a few too). Printing was the first attempt to humanise knowledge and bring it within the reach of common masses. Education, invention, reformation, revolution, there is no important event in the world that happened and did not require some form of print after its invention. The anti-gospel gospel was spread far and wide and it led to the emergence of protestants. Printing made it all possible, and continues to do so.
Just take a deep breath, and slow it down a bit. Think where the world would be today, if not for the computers that have brought about a new age in human history. The experiments that began with the inception of the first calculating machine would lead to such results was unexpected indeed, but once the djinni of superhuman calculations was let out of the bottle, there was no putting it back inside. With developments in Artificial Intelligence, computers are being upgraded to not just obeying machines, but thinking machines. A great paradox, and a great achievement, all rolled into Gigabytes of memory and Giga hertz of clock speeds, computers have heralded a new era in our lives.
Laissez Faire, i.e non-interference of government over business dealings. Scottish philosopher Adam Smith was behind the spread of this idea, that if individuals were allowed to interact and deal in a way that they deemed beneficial to themselves, an unseen guiding hand would lead them to work in a way that is the best for all. Think of it as self interest being ultimately good for the society. It is one of the founding theories of Economics and has lead to the inception of many related and child theories like Thatcherism, Capitalism, etc.
While most of the classical physics deals with bodies on a macro scale, the Quantum theory deals with particles that are the basic building blocks of everything on the earth, and beyond. A distinguished group of scientists including Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrodinger to name a few worked out and formulated the laws of interaction between smallest of particles. Their results are unnerving and mind-boggling to say the least, with conclusions like “Light is both a wave and a particle” or “the knowledge of both momentum and location of an electron simultaneously is imposible”. However, it laid the groundwork for the advancements in semi-conductor technology, Transmission, etc. Along with the all important advent of Nuclear energy.
Where do we even start on this one. While attributing an invention so vast to a single person is erroneus, we might safely say that Tim Berners-Lee was the major driving force behind the invention of the famous WWW, or World Wide Web. One good encapsulation of the impact of it would be to call it the new ‘printing, and Lee as the new Gutenberg. The Internet has indeed added to the veracity of the adage of ‘small world’. The world is now more connected, and nothing ever escapes the all seeing eye. Predicting the actual imapct of it is quite a task, as who would have had the foresight about the world in 1455 when the Printing Press was invented. One thing is certain though, the role of Internet has only just begun.
While literary theories are found a dime a dozen among scholars, few ever shake the actual and the proverbial layers of thought and criticism like Psychoanalysis. The theory of analyzing everything from a literary character’s actions to mass hysteria and depression with the glasses of subconscious and sexual repression, Psychoanalysis became all the rage at the turn of the century. With catchphrases like sublimation, repression, Oedipus complex, dreams, etc, it was definitely an event that changed the literary scene forever. Sigmund Freud, known as the father of Psychoanalysis was the chief contributor along with Carl Gustav Jung and Alfred Adler, the theories of all three branched out to form separate schools of thought. Most of Freud’s theories have been proved faulty and in some cases downright false, however, they still hold considerable sway in psychoanalytics and not just the bookish kind, but rather, the actual, going to a doctor kind. It also gave rise to surrealism in the painting world, with Salvador Dali one of its most famous proponents.
If ever there was a theory in opposition to Freud, it was Feminism. Then again, if ever there was a theory in opposition to anything and everything, it was Feminism. Feminism is a theory that at its most basic level involves equal treatment of women when compared to men. It weighs in against all the injustice that has been wrought upon the ‘second sex’ as Simone de beauvoir famously titled her book. It has had some prominent figures in the literary scene, like Simone, Mary Wollstonecraft, Luce Irigaray etc. There have been 4 waves of feminism and it seems fair enough that about half the population of the world demand equal rights. It has changed the world in a way towards equality and free thinking and women all over the world have become more aware of their rights.