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November 12, 2010 / pkdhodapkar

Re-inventing the wheel

“Let us not re-invent the wheel” is a common refrain when people do not want to deliberate on something which is supposed to be known by all. However, I find it interesting to delve into the origin of technologies that have transformed our lives- and the wheel is one such marvel of human ingenuity.

Innovations do not occur suddenly (the eureka moment), but build up upon the work of others or on the existing arrangements. Human beings, being keen observers, must have noticed that round pebbles (the ones that were eroded uniformly by the river currents) roll nicely and travel some distance. The flat ones resist movement, but the combination of flat shape with round edge is an ideal arrangement and evolved into the wheel as we know. It must have taken years (may be several hundreds of years) to exploit this discovery and innovating mobility, because fewer resources were available. 

What must have sustained the interest of the earlier human beings to pursue the discovery of wheel? Keen observation, an element of fun and adventure, experimentation and persistent efforts, necessity of reducing human labor….. all of these must have gone into making of the wheel. As it happens with almost all the innovations, the efforts to make the wheel must have been ridiculed in the initial stages, because the dominant use of tools was in hunting, and the wheel must have appeared a very useless thing for most of the hunters.

 Things have changed dramatically, and today the wheel is a ubiquitous, whether we want to travel on roads, by airplanes or railways.


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