Our modern world is characterised by a non-stop hectic rush. Our daily life is stuffed with appointments and a To-Do list that will never be finished. This world is running, adapting and changing so fast that it is challenging to keep the pace up and not fall behind. In all the innumerable fields of work there is the omnipresent drive to improve things and build a robust way of living. In the end, our success is decided by trial and error. Some things work, some things do not. That is perfectly fine and brought us to the world of today. A key factor of this process is learning, we can use knowledge that has been acquired before. But how has this knowledge been discovered? I guess to address this question we need to listen to the whispers of time that can tell us incredible stories about a forgotten past. Let’s travel back in time a few centuries and imagine we are waking up in the Middle Ages, surrounded by castles and fortresses, tanners and farmers, monks and sages, millers and merchants, and so on… We are just living a day-to-day life, working for a living and trying to survive. Compared to our future, we were not fortunate enough to benefit from a plethora of resources. The wonder of electricity, without which our modern world would collapse instantaneously, is nothing but a dream in these times and is probably considered as witchcraft.
So, I just wake up in the morning of a rainy Monday in middle England in September 1542. I get up, get some water from the well, wash my face and bring some water home for my wife and my two kids. My five-year-old daughter is sick for 2 weeks and the village’s healer is preparing herb extracts and we are desperately trying to help her. But I cannot stay home because I need to work. Our family is poor and even with my work we just survive. I am a blacksmith and working for the royal armoury since my father taught me the craftsmanship. In my work, I forge tools, weapons, and armours for our knights and soldiers. Me and my co-workers got instructions from the military leaders that our army will attack Scotland next year and that we need to equip our knights and their horses with armoury. In the last battle, a substantial number of our men died because the breast parts of their armour were too weak and they were hit by arrows or killed by swords. So, we need to create a new type of armour that is strong enough to withstand the different threats or dangers in a war. They need to be robust and thick. On the other hand, they must not be too heavy as our men need to move and fight wearing the armours, so we can’t simply make a thick plate out of iron. We got a good armoury, but there is a lot of pressure to create something good, because the king is very impulsive and when bad things happen, he wants someone to be punished and that is usually us, the small people. I can’t die because then my family will have nobody that provides for them, therefore I need to figure something out. I try out different ores and different combinations of metals to find something that would satisfy our king’s demands. The weeks and months are passing on and we are not really making any progress. The pressure increases and I barely sleep anymore, I am working 20 hours a day. And one day, together with the other blacksmiths we found an alloy that is relatively light but very resistant to mechanical power. That is great because our time is running short and we have two months left to provide equipment for 5000 men. Again, we are working all day and all night in order too meet the expectations. When the times has come, we haven’t finished the entire 5000 armours yet but are able to equip the majority of the army and the rest will follow in the next days. So, the war can begin… I am not joining the front as I am needed here, but still I have contributed a large amount to that fight. Under high pressure we were able to work on a problem, we tried out new things, we did not give up and in the end we were successful.
Coming back to reality, we see that science persisted throughout the past centuries and millenniums. There were always people trying to improve and optimize new things, explore uncharted territories, create new things and knowledge. Fortunately (for us), we don’t work under the threat of being killed if we don’t perform, but still we are motivated by different objectives to reach our goals. All the knowledge and objects we are using and enjoying today to live a pleasant life were once crafted, discovered, or invented. Out of nothing. This vast amount of knowledge from the past is incredibly important and can help us to work on our modern problems. As it was 500 years ago, the main objective is the future and the view is focused on the future. But hopefully, this story tells us that a short glance at the past can also be beneficial. Of course, this particular story does not help a lot for the modern challenges but it delivers a valuable message.
So, to the reader who still has not given up and arrived at this point of my story, I hope it encouraged you to dwell about the past from time to time and see how much we achieved until today. All this would not have been possible without people being eager and ambitious to solve problems, even though they might have seemed unsolvable. This type of people, scientists, propel the modern world. It is a pity that scientists regularly need to fight for funding and to find a way to continue their research. Without them, the technological progress would grind to a halt life would become very challenging eventually when the problems are getting more severe and dangerous. Hence, support science!