THE GIFTS OF WAR

Undoubtedly a war is abominable and leaves behind misery, pain , loss and bad memories. Ironically, wars in general and the second world war in particular sired a number of inventions, developments and discoveries.

One does not go to the extent of opining that wars are good but they do provide a motivating atmosphere as well as wherewithal for ground breaking research.

Whether in science, technology, medicine or communications, the original objective behind the research was certainly to feed the war machinery and make it more efficient and deadly. Nevertheless the new inventions kept being used after the war, and underwent improvisations and developments which made the life of mankind happier and healthier.

Most of the Research and Development in wartime had to be done covertly, the enemy spies were always a threat.

Penicillin invented by Howard Florey & Ernst Chain as a “practical” antibiotic, might be rated as the number one invention as it saved lives not only during the war but continues to ameliorate lives of people globally.

Several pioneers developed early versions of dialysis machines during World War II when many injured soldiers and civilians were inflicted kidney damage and died. In 1937, a young Dutch physician, Willem Kolff, working in Groningen, Holland, had already put together a rudimentary dialyzing machine and worked to refine it. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands in 1941, Kolff moved to Kampen where, in spite of wartime shortages, he constructed a dialysis machine using cellophane tubing and beer cans

During the pressures of world war I, Germany developed synthetic rubber of industrial variety, this became a spring board for further developments of elastomers all over the world. During second world war when Japan occupied Malaysia and impeded the sourcing of natural rubber to the allies, more finesse got added to synthetic rubber in America.

The biggest problem with war is that it tends to put holes in people, thus encouraging blood to take a scenic flow through places it’s not supposed to visit. During World War I, a cotton shortage made the bandaging of bleeding soldiers a pain in the neck. At that time, Kimberly-Clark was a paper mill company that realized you could do more with wood pulp besides just make it into paper. In fact, if you

prepared the right combination of pulp, you could get a material that was five times more absorbent than cotton, yet significantly cheaper to produce. Kimberly-Clark named their newly discovered material cellucotton and the Allied Forces were on it like white on rice. It turned out those super absorbent bandages worked really well as disposable sanitary napkins, something that was not readily available to women at that point. So once the war ended, Kimberly-Clark packaged cellucotton as feminine hygiene products and was hailed as the savior of women everywhere.

And, there’s Walter “Fred” Morrison. Fred, like most other college kids in the 1930s, spent a great deal of time throwing around pie pans from the Frisbie Baking Company. But it wasn’t until he joined the Air Force that he learned about aerodynamics and he realized he was doing science during those pan-flinging sessions. So, Fred took what he learned about basic aerodynamics from the Air Force and made a prototype of a better flying disc, that didn’t have bits of pie crust stuck to it. And instead of tin, he went with plastic. He dubbed his creation the “Pluto Platter,” which was ultimately renamed the “Frisbee” and went on to provide hard core leaping motivation for extreme college kids everywhere.

During WWI, When Japan cut off the West from their silk, life became a hazard for American women. Dupont, put the best chemists of the day to work on synthetic polymers to replace the silk and what they came up with was Nylon. Nylon was stronger than silk, but the war effort really needed all of America’s nylon for Parachutes, Tires and Flak Vests. Once the war was over, the women got an improved variety of Nylon to wear.

Its natural for wars to invent and improvise on weapons of destruction, like Ballistic Missiles, Atomic Weapons, Norden bomb sights, Owen sub machine guns, but these would hardly qualify as “gifts”! An exception could be the Jet Aircraft engine which makes travel so easy.

The famous Mark I, was the world’s first electro mechanical computer and was used during World War 2 by the U.S. Navy. In comparison to 20th-century systems, it could be likened to a battleship in size!

The need for communication between the homelands and many far-flung theatres of war gave rise to the need for improved long-range overseas communication systems.

High-powered mobile radio sets and Radio relay telephony became common at division and regimental level during the WWII.

Television – had its start in the war as a screen with a camera. Transistors, Hundreds of medical equipment, tools and medicines, Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Medicine, Heart transplants and many other transplants, mechanical hearts, hydrogen peroxide, tools that run on battery power, portable gasoline container, small disposable batteries and radar all are gifted to mankind by the second World-War.

No wonder the phrase “war footing” is in common parlance whenever some work is being done on a mission critical priority, on a large scale , with big budgets and above all with a “killer’’ instinct ! The saturnine clouds of war do have a silver lining.

 

Abominable

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; unequivocally detestable; exceptionally bad or displeasing

Synonyms : detestable, execrable

Ameliorate

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; to improve the condition or allay the damage of something or someone

Synonyms : amend

  • Cellucotton

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; used for a soft absorbent creped cellulose used in surgical dressings

Synonyms : nitrocotton, pyrocotton

  • Covert

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; not openly acknowledged or displayed

Synonyms : secret, stealthy

  • Elastomers

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; a natural material such as rubber or synthetic material such as polyvinyl that has elastic properties

Synonyms : ulsters

Espionage

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the systematic use of spies to get military or political secrets

Synonyms : spying

Fecund

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; capable of producing offspring or vegetation; intellectually productive

Synonyms : fertile

Finesse

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; subtly skillful handling of a situation

Synonyms : finish

Hazard

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; an obstacle on a golf course; a source of danger; a possibility of incurring loss or misfortune; an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result one way rather than another;

Other Meaning(s) : Verb; put forward, of a guess, in spite of possible refutation; take a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome; put at risk

Synonyms : jeopardy, peril

Ironically

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adverb; not according to what is logically expected

Synonyms : wryly

Improvisations

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; unplanned expedients; creations spoken or written or composed extemporaneously (without prior preparation

Other Meaning(s) : performances given extempore without planning or preparation

Synonyms : extemporizations

Inflicted

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; caused pain or suffering or misery to

Synonyms : wreaked

Impeded

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; made difficult or slow

Synonyms : occlude, block

Lethal

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; of an instrument of certain death

Synonyms : baleful

Opining

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; expressing one’s opinion or views

Synonyms : animadverting

 

Parlance

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a manner of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language

Synonyms : idiom

Rudimentary

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; being in the earliest stages of development;

Other Meaning(s) : Adjective; not fully developed in mature animals; being or involving basic facts or principles

Synonyms : elementary

Sired

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; produces, gave birth to, became parent of

Synonyms : begot

Stroll

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a leisurely walk (usually in some public place); (other) verb walk leisurely and with no apparent aim

Synonyms : amble, perambulation

Savior

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a person who rescues you from harm or danger; (other) a teacher and prophet born in Bethlehem and active in Nazareth; his life and sermons form the basis for Christianity (circa 4 BC – AD 29)

Synonyms : Redeemer, Deliverer

Saturnine

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; something which is dark or sullen or gloomy

Synonyms : morose, doleful

  • Telephony

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; the science, technology, or system of communication by telephone

Synonyms : telephone system

Wherewithal

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the necessary means (especially financial means)

Synonyms : means

 

 

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