Second Industrial Revolution
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The Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, was a phase of the larger Industrial Revolution corresponding to the latter half of the 19th century until World War I. It is considered to have begun with Bessemer steel in the 1860s and culminated in mass production and the production line.
The Second Industrial Revolution saw rapid industrial development in Western Europe (Britain, Germany, France, the Low Countries) as well as the United States and Japan. It followed on from the First Industrial Revolution that began in Britain in the late 18th century that then spread throughout Western Europe and North America.
The concept was introduced by Patrick Geddes, Cities in Evolution (1910), but David Landes' use of the term in a 1966 essay and in The Unbound Prometheus (1972) standardized scholarly definitions of the term, which was most intensely promoted by American historian Alfred Chandler (1918–2007). However, some continue to express reservations about its use.
Landes (2003) stresses the importance of new technologies, especially electricity, the internal combustion engine, new materials and substances, including alloys and chemicals, and communication technologies such as the telegraph and radio. While the first industrial revolution was centered on iron, steam technologies and textile production, the second industrial revolution revolved around steel, railroads, electricity, and chemicals.
Vaclav Smill called the period 1867–1914 "The Age of Synergy" during which most of the great innovations were developed. Unlike the First Industrial Revolution, the inventions and innovations were science based.
The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron. Its inventor Sir Henry Bessemer, revolutionized steel manufacture by decreasing its cost, increased the scale and speed of production of this vital raw material, and decreased the labor requirements for steel-making. The Bessemer process was soon followed by the Siemens-Martin furnace which was used in the open hearth process. The open hearth furnace allowed recycling of scrap iron and steel. Because it was easier to control quality with the open hearth process, it became the leading steel making process in early 20th century.
The concept of interchangeable parts had been implemented in the early 19th century by inventors including Honoré Blanc, Henry Maudslay, John Hall, and Simeon North. Interchangeable parts in firearms had been developed by the armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry by the mid 19th century and mechanics familiar with armory practice introduced the concept to other industries, mainly in New England. The system relied on machine tools, jigs for guiding the tools and fixtures for properly holding the work and gauge blocks for checking the fit of parts. This method eventually became known as the American system of manufacturing. Application of the American system to the sewing machine and reaper industries in the 1880s resulted in substantial increases in productivity. The American system was applied in the bicycle industry almost from the beginning. A later concept developed during the period was scientific management or Taylorism developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor and others. Scientific management initially concentrated on reducing the steps taken in performing work such as bricklaying or shoveling by using analysis such as time and motion studies, but the concepts evolved into fields such as industrial engineering manufacturing engineering and business management that helped to completely restructure the operations of factories, and later, entire segments of the economy.
The use of wood for making paper freed paper makers from using cotton and linen rags, which had been the limiting factor in paper production since the invention of the printing press (ca. 1440). Finding a more abundant source of pulp became particularly important after a machine was invented for continuous paper making (Ptd. 1799). The first wood pulp (ca. 1840) was made by grinding wood, but by the 1880s chemical processes were in use, becoming dominant by 1900.
The petroleum industry, both production and refining, began in 1859 with the first oil well in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The first primary product was kerosene for lamps and heaters.  Kerosene lighting was much more efficient and less expensive than vegetable oils, tallow and whale oil. Although town gas lighting was available in some cities, kerosene produced a brighter light until the invention of the gas mantle. Both were replaced by electricity for street lighting following the 1890s and for households during the 1920s. Gasoline was an unwanted byproduct of oil refining until automobiles were mass-produced after 1914, and gasoline shortages appeared during World War I. The invention of the Burton process for thermal cracking doubled the yield of gasoline, which helped alleviate the shortages.
Electrification allowed the final major developments in manufacturing methods of the Second Industrial Revolution, namely the assembly line and mass production. The importance of machine tools to mass production is shown by the fact that production of the Ford Model T used 32,000 machine tools, most of which were powered by electricity. Henry Ford is quoted as saying that mass production would not have been possible without electricity because it allowed placement of machine tools and other equipment in the order of the work flow.
Railroads overtook steamboats operating on rivers and canals as the main transport infrastructure. The building of railroads accelerated after the introduction of inexpensive steel rails, which lasted considerably longer than wrought iron rails. Railroads lowered the cost of shipping to 0.875 cents/ton-mile from 24.5 cents/ton-mile by wagon. This increased the population of many towns. Improved roads such as the Macadam pioneered by John Loudon McAdam, were developed in the first Industrial Revolution, but the road network was greatly expanded during the second Industrial Revolution with a few hard surfaced roads being built around the time of the bicycle craze of the 1890s.
Iron had been used in ship building for a relatively short time before the development of inexpensive steel, after which steel quickly displaced iron.
The gasoline powered automobile was patented by Karl Benz in 1886, although others had independently built cars around that time. Henry Ford built his first car in 1896 and worked as a pioneer in the industry, with others who would eventually form their own companies, until the founding of Ford Motor Company in 1903. Ford and others at the company struggled with ways to scale up production in keeping with Henry Ford's vision of a car designed and manufactured on a scale so as to be affordable by the average worker. The solution that Ford Motor developed was a completely redesigned factory with machine tools and special purpose machines that were systematically positioned in the work sequence. All unnecessary human motions were eliminated by placing all work and tools within easy reach, and where practical on conveyors, forming the assembly line, the complete process being called mass production. This was the first time in history when a large, complex product consisting of 5000 parts had been produced on a scale of hundreds of thousands per year. The savings from mass production methods allowed the price of the Model T to decline from $780 in 1910 to $360 in 1916. In 1924 2 million T-Fords were produced and retailed $290 each.
By the middle of the 19th century there was a scientific understanding of chemistry and a fundamental understanding of thermodynamics and by the last quarter of the century both of these sciences were near their present day basic form. Thermodynamic principles were used in the development of physical chemistry. Understanding chemistry and thermodynamics greatly aided the development of basic inorganic chemical manufacturing and the aniline dye industries.
Control theory is the basis for process control, which is used in many forms of automation, particularly for process industries such as oil refining, paper and chemical manufacturing and for controlling ships and airplanes. Control theory was developed to analyze the functioning of centrifugal governors on steam engines. These governors had been used on wind and water mills to correctly position the gap between mill stones with changes in speed. The governor was adapted to steam engines by James Watt. Improved versions were used to stabilize automatic tracking mechanisms of telescopes and to control speed of ship propellers and rudders. However, these governors were sluggish and oscillated around the set point. James Clerk Maxwell wrote a paper mathematically analyzing the actions of governors, which marked the beginning of the formal development of control theory. The science was continually improved and evolved into an engineering discipline. See: Control system
Another beneficiary of chemistry was steel making with development of the Gilchrist-Thomas process (or basic Bessemer process) which involved lining the converter with limestone or dolomite to remove phosphorus, an impurity in most iron ores. Chemistry also benefited metallurgy by identifying and developing processes for purifying various elements such as chromium, molybdenum, titanium, vanadium and nickel which could be used for making alloys with special properties, especially with steel. Vanadium steel, for example, is strong and fatigue resistant, and was used in half the automotive steel. Other important alloys are used in high temperatures, such as steam turbine blades, and stainless steels for corrosion resistance.
The developing science of metallurgy was able to solve the problem of rail failure in the US by the mid-1880s by properly controlling the temperature of steel while rolling into rails, although this had been understood in Europe some decades earlier.
One of the most important developments of chemistry was the Haber process for producing ammonia (ca. 1913); however, the process did not become widespread until WWII. Today, the world food supply is critically dependent on inexpensive nitrogen fertilizers produced by the Haber-Bosch process.
The Corliss steam engine (1849) was a significant improvement in efficiency, and later steam engines were designed with multiple expansions (stages) which resulted in even greater efficiency. The steam turbine was developed by Charles Parsons in 1884. Unlike steam engines, the turbine produced rotary power rather than reciprocating power that required a crank and heavy flywheel. The large number of stages of the turbine allowed for high efficiency and reduced size by 90%. The turbine's first application was in shipping followed by electric generation in 1903.
The first widely used internal combustion engine was the Otto type (1876). From the 1880s until electrification it was successful in small shops because small steam engines were inefficient and required too much operator attention. The Otto engine soon began being used to power automobiles, and remains as today's common gasoline engine.
The diesel engine was designed by Rudolf Diesel in 1897 using thermodynamic principles with the specific intention of being highly efficient. It took several years to perfect and become popular, but found application in shipping before powering locomotives. It remains the world's most efficient prime mover.
One of the most important scientific advancements in all of history was the unification of light, electricity and magnetism through Maxwell's electromagnetic theory. A scientific understanding of electricity was necessary for the development of efficient electric generators, motors and transformers. Heinrich Hertz's 1887 experiments confirmed and explored the phenomenon of electromagnetic waves that had been predicted by Maxwell. This led to the development of radio before the end of the 2nd I.R., but radio was mainly used in shipping until the early 1920s when commercial broadcasts began. Radio as we know it depended on the development of the vacuum tube (thermionic valve) (ca. 1906-08) which allowed amplification. The vacuum tube was essential for most electronics until the transistor became available in the 1950s.
Electrification was called "the most important engineering achievement of the 20th century" by the National Academy of Engineering. In 1881, Sir Joseph Swan, inventor of the first feasible incandescent light bulb, supplied about 1,200 Swan incandescent lamps to the Savoy Theatre in the City of Westminister, London, which was the first theatre, and the first public building in the world, to be lit entirely by electricity. Electricity was used for street lighting in the early 1880s. Electric lighting in factories greatly improved working conditions, eliminating the heat and pollution caused by gas lighting, and reducing the fire hazard to the extent that cost of electricity for lighting was often offset by the reduction in fire insurance premiums. Frank J. Sprague developed the first successful DC motor in 1886 which he successfully adapted to power street railways, and by 1889 there were 110 electric railways either in operation and using his equipment or in planning. The electric street railway became a major infrastructure before 1920. AC motors were developed by Nikola Tesla (Induction motor), Westinghouse, Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky and others in the 1890s and soon began to be used in the electrification of industry. Household electrification did not become common until the 1920s, and then only in cities. Fluorescent lighting was commercially introduced at the 1939 World's Fair.
Telegraph lines were installed along rail lines for communicating with trains, and evolved into a communications network. The first commercial electrical telegraph was co-developed by Charles Wheatstone and William Fothergill Cooke, and was first successfully demonstrated on 25 July 1837 between Euston railway station and Camden Town in London. The first lasting transatlantic telegraph cable was laid by Isambard Kingdom Brunel's ship the SS Great Eastern in 1866. By the 1890s there was a telegraph network connecting major cities worldwide, which greatly facilitated international commerce, travel and diplomacy.
The tabulating machine, which read data stored on punched cards by allowing electrical contact through the holes and keeping running totals with electro-mechanical counters, was invented by Herman Hollerith in the mid-1880s. Tabulating machines were used for the US 1890 census, which was completed in less than a year and at great reduction in labor compared to the 8 years for the 1880 census using hand counts. Hollerith founded a company to make and lease the machines. It was renamed "International Business Machines" (IBM) in 1924. Tabulating machines and other unit record equipment was widely used by census bureaus, insurance companies, railroads and numerous other businesses. Unit record equipment remained the dominant form of data management until the 1960s.
Studies by biologists led farmers such as Henry A. Wallace to use genetic biology to create hybrid corn in the 1920s. It was the first application of biotechnology and was followed by the Green revolution.
Socioeconomic impacts 
The period from 1870 to 1890 saw the greatest increase in economic growth in such a short period as ever in previous history. Living standards improved significantly in the newly industrialized countries as the prices of goods fell dramatically due to the increases in productivity. This caused unemployment and great upheavals in commerce and industry, with many laborers being displaced by machines and many factories, ships and other forms of fixed capital becoming obsolete in a very short time span.
“The economic changes that have occurred during the last quarter of a century -or during the present generation of living men- have unquestionably been more important and more varied than during any period of the world’s history”.
Crop failures no longer resulted in starvation in areas served by railroads and inland waterways.
Proving the germ theory of disease led to improved public health and sanitation. Measures were taken to insure safety of public water supply, including chlorination. This greatly reduced the infection and death rates from many diseases.
By 1870 the work done by steam engines exceeded that done by animal and human power. Horses and mules remained important in agriculture until the development of the tractor near the end of the second Industrial Revolution.
The improvements in steam engine efficiencies, like triple expansion, allowed ships to carry much more freight than coal, resulting in greatly increased volumes of international trade. Higher steam engine efficiency caused the number of steam engines to increase several fold, leading to an increase in coal usage, the phenomenon being called the Jevons paradox.
By 1890 there was an international telegraph network allowing orders to be placed by merchants in England or the US to suppliers in India and China for goods to be transported in efficient new steamships. This, plus the opening of the Suez Canal, led to the decline of the great warehousing districts in London and elsewhere, and the elimination of many middlemen.
The tremendous growth in productivity, transportation networks, industrial production and agricultural output lowered the prices of almost all goods. This led to many business failures and periods that were called depressions that occurred as the world economy actually grew. See also: Long depression
The factory system centralized production in separate buildings funded and directed by specialists (as opposed to work at home). The division of labor made both unskilled and skilled labor more productive, and led to a rapid growth of population in industrial centers. By the estimate of historian H. C. Cuzins (of the BHS Foundation), the industrial working class was nearly a third of the US population around the start of the 20th century. Like the first industrial revolution, the second supported population growth and saw most governments (not including Britain) protect their national economies with tariffs. The wide-ranging social impact of both revolutions included the remaking of the working class as new technologies appeared. The creation of a larger, increasingly professional, middle class, the decline of child labor and the dramatic growth of a consumer-based, material culture.
By 1900, the leaders in industrial production were the US with 24% of the world total, followed by Britain (19%), Germany (13%), Russia (9%) and France (7%). Europe together accounted for 62%.
The great inventions and innovations of the Second Industrial Revolution are part of our modern life. They continued to be drivers of the economy until after WWII. Only a few major innovations occurred in the post-war era, some of which are: computers, semiconductors, the fiber optic network and the Internet, cellular telephones, combustion turbines (jet engines) and the Green Revolution. Although commercial aviation existed before WWII, it became a major industry after the war.
New products and services were introduced which greatly increased international trade. Improvements in steam engine design and the wide availability of cheap steel meant that slow, sailing ships were replaced with faster steamship, which could handle more trade with smaller crews. The chemical industries also moved to the forefront. Britain invested less in technological research than the U.S. and Germany, which caught up.
Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction, and his inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology. In 1880, pioneer of electric light Sir Joseph Swan began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England, with the Savoy in London electrically lit in 1881. The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron. The process named after its inventor Sir Henry Bessemer, revolutionized steel manufacture by decreasing its cost, from £40 per long ton to £6-7 per long ton during its introduction, along with greatly increasing the scale and speed of production of this vital raw material. The process also decreased the labor requirements for steel-making. After the introduction of the Bessemer process, steel and wrought iron became similarly priced, and most manufacturers turned to steel. The availability of cheap steel allowed large bridges to be built and enabled the construction of railroads, skyscrapers, and large ships. Other important steel products—also made using the open hearth process—were steel cable, steel rod and sheet steel which enabled large, high-pressure boilers and high-tensile strength steel for machinery which enabled much more powerful engines, gears and axles than were possible previously. With large amounts of steel it became possible to build much more powerful guns and carriages, tanks, armored fighting vehicles and naval ships. Industrial steel also made possible the building of giant turbines and generators thus making the harnessing of water and steam power possible. The steam turbine invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884, has almost completely replaced the reciprocating piston steam engine primarily because of its greater thermal efficiency and higher power-to-weight ratio. As the turbine generates rotary motion, it is particularly suited to be used to drive an electrical generator – about 80% of all electricity generation in the world is by use of steam turbines. The introduction of the large scale steel production process perfected by Henry Bessemer, paved the way to mass industrialization as observed in the 19th–20th centuries.
The development of more intricate and efficient machines along with mass production techniques (after 1910) greatly expanded output and lowered production costs. As a result, production often exceeded domestic demand. Among the new conditions, more markedly evident in Britain, the forerunner of Europe's industrial states, were the long-term effects of the severe Long Depression of 1873–1896, which had followed fifteen years of great economic instability. Businesses in practically every industry suffered from lengthy periods of low — and falling — profit rates and price deflation after 1873.
Belgium during the Belle Époque showed the value of the railways for speeding the Second Industrial Revolution. After 1830, when it broke away from the Netherlands and became a new nation, it decided to stimulate industry. It planned and funded a simple cruciform system that connected major cities, ports and mining areas, and linked to neighboring countries. Belgium thus became the railway center of the region. The system was soundly built along British lines, so that profits were low but the infrastructure necessary for rapid industrial growth was put in place.
United States 
The U.S. had its highest economic growth in the last two decades of the Second Industrial Revolution. The Gilded Age in America was based on heavy industry such as factories, railroads and coal mining. The iconic event was the opening of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, providing six-day service between the East Coast and San Francisco.
During the Gilded Age, American manufacturing production surpassed Britain and took world leadership. Railroad mileage tripled between 1860 and 1880, and tripled again by 1920, opening new areas to commercial farming, creating a truly national marketplace and inspiring a boom in coal mining and steel production. The voracious appetite for capital of the great trunk railroads facilitated the consolidation of the nation's financial market in Wall Street. By 1900, the process of economic concentration had extended into most branches of industry—a few large corporations, some organized as "trusts" (e.g. Standard Oil), dominated in steel, oil, sugar, meatpacking, and the manufacture of agriculture machinery. Other major components of this infrastructure were the new methods for manufacturing steel, especially the Bessemer process. The first billion-dollar corporation was United States Steel, formed by financier J. P. Morgan in 1901, who purchased and consolidated steel firms built by Andrew Carnegie and others.
Increased mechanization of industry is a major mark of the Gilded Age's search for cheaper ways to create more product. Frederick Winslow Taylor observed that worker efficiency could be improved through the use of machines to make fewer motions in less time. His redesign increased the speed of factory machines and the productivity of factories while undercutting the need for skilled labor. This was made possible due to the advent of electrification during this time period. Innovations were possible due to the high amassment of natural resources, which provided a source of capital for the U.S. to continue to build advancing technologies. Mechanical innovations such as batch and continuous processing began to become much more prominent in factories. This mechanization made some factories an assemblage of unskilled laborers performing simple and repetitive tasks under the direction of skilled foremen and engineers. In some cases, the advancement of such mechanization substituted for low-skilled workers altogether. The demand for skilled workers increased relative to the labor needs of the First Industrial Revolution. Machine shops grew rapidly, and they comprised highly skilled workers and engineers that were needed to oversee factory operation. Both the number of unskilled and skilled workers increased, as their wage rates grew Engineering colleges were established to feed the enormous demand for expertise. Railroads invented complex bureaucratic systems, using middle managers, and set up explicit career tracks. They hired young men at age 18-21 and promoted them internally until a man reached the status of locomotive engineer, conductor or station agent at age 40 or so. Career tracks were invented for skilled blue collar jobs and for white collar managers, starting in railroads and expanding into finance, manufacturing and trade. Together with rapid growth of small business, a new middle class was rapidly growing, especially in northern cities.
The United States became a world leader in applied technology. From 1860 to 1890, 500,000 patents were issued for new inventions—over ten times the number issued in the previous seventy years. George Westinghouse invented air brakes for trains (making them both safer and faster). Westinghouse developed alternating current long distance transmission networks. Theodore Vail established the American Telephone & Telegraph Company. Thomas A. Edison, the founder of General Electric, invented a remarkable number of electrical devices, including many hardware items used in the transmission, distribution and end uses of electricity as well as the integrated power plant capable of lighting multiple buildings simultaneously. Oil became an important resource, beginning with the Pennsylvania oil fields. Kerosene replaced whale oil and candles for lighting. John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil Company to consolidate the oil industry—which mostly produced kerosene before the automobile created a demand for gasoline in the 20th century.
At the end of the 19th century, workers experienced the "second industrial revolution," which involved mass production, scientific management, and the rapid development of managerial skills. The new technology was hard for young people to handle, leading to a sharp drop (1890–1930) in the demand for workers under age 16. This resulted in a dramatic expansion of the high school system.
Influential figures 
Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt were among the most influential industrialists during the Gilded Age. Carnegie (1835–1919) was born into a poor Scottish family and came to Pittsburgh as a teenager. In 1870, Carnegie erected his first blast furnace and by 1890 dominated the fast-growing steel industry. He preached the "Gospel of Wealth," saying the rich had a moral duty to engage in large-scale philanthropy. Carnegie did give away his fortune, creating many institutions such as the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University) to upgrade craftsmen into trained engineers and scientists. Carnegie built hundreds of public libraries and several major research centers and foundations. Rockefeller built Standard Oil into a national monopoly, then retired from the oil business in 1897 and devoted the next 40 years of his life to giving away his fortune using systematic philanthropy, especially to upgrade education, medicine and race relations. Cornelius Vanderbilt started out as a sailor in New York harbor, then took part in the transportation revolution, from steamboats to railroads. He brought the corporation from its infancy to maturity as the organization of choice for big business.
The German Empire came to rival Britain as Europe's primary industrial nation during this period. Since Germany industrialized later, it was able to model its factories after those of Britain, thus making more efficient use of its capital and avoiding legacy methods in its leap to the envelope of technology. Germany invested more heavily than the British in research, especially in chemistry, motors and electricity. The German concern system (known as Konzerne), being significantly concentrated, was able to make more efficient use of capital. Germany was not weighted down with an expensive worldwide empire that needed defense. Following Germany's annexation of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, it absorbed parts of what had been France's industrial base.
By 1900 the German chemical industry dominated the world market for synthetic dyes. The three major firms BASF, Bayer and Hoechst produced several hundred different dyes, along with the five smaller firms. In 1913 these eight firms produced almost 90 percent of the world supply of dyestuffs and sold about 80 percent of their production abroad. The three major firms had also integrated upstream into the production of essential raw materials and they began to expand into other areas of chemistry such as pharmaceuticals, photographic film, agricultural chemicals and electrochemicals. Top-level decision-making was in the hands of professional salaried managers, leading Chandler to call the German dye companies "the world's first truly managerial industrial enterprises". There were many spinoffs from research—such as the pharmaceutical industry, which emerged from chemical research.
Alternative uses 
There have been other times that have been called "second industrial revolution". Industrial revolutions may be renumbered by taking earlier developments, such as the rise of medieval technology in the 12th century, or of ancient Chinese technology during the Tang Dynasty, or of ancient Roman technology, as first. "Second industrial revolution" has been used in the popular press and by technologists or industrialists to refer to the changes following the spread of new technology after World War I. Excitement and debate over the dangers and benefits of the Atomic Age were more intense and lasting than those over the Space age but both were predicted to lead to another industrial revolution. At the start of the 21st century the term "second industrial revolution" has been used to describe the anticipated effects of hypothetical molecular nanotechnology systems upon society. In this more recent scenario, the nanofactory would render the majority of today's modern manufacturing processes obsolete, transforming all facets of the modern economy.
See also 
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- British Agricultural Revolution/Neolithic Revolution
- Scientific Revolution
- Industrial Revolution
- Information Revolution
- Digital Revolution
- Chemical Revolution
- Green Revolution
- Kondratiev wave
- Productivity improving technologies (historical)
- Capitalism in the nineteenth century
- Machine Age
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