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? James Burke : Connections, Episode 7, "The Long Chain", 3 of 5 (CC)

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  1. Title:
    James Burke : Connections, Episode 7, "The Long Chain", 3 of 5 (CC)
  2. Description:

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    Episode 7 of James Burke's most well-known series "Connections" which explores the surprising and unexpected ways that our modern technological world came into existence. Each episode investigates the background of usually one particular modern invention and how it came into being. These explorations are an attempt to locate the "connections" between various historical figures who seemingly had nothing to do with each other in their own times, however once connected, these same figures combined to produce some of the most profound impacts on our modern day world; in a "1+1=3" type of way.

    It is this type of investigation that is the core idea behind the Knowledge Web project, whereby sophisticated software is being developed to attempt to discover these subtle interconnections automatically. See

    See channel page for purchase options.

  3. By 1823, he'd worked out what to do
    with the rubber solution:

  4. Spread it on a layer of cloth,
    and stick another layer of cloth "on top".

  5. Made the cloth waterproof!

  6. Called it after his own name...

  7. Yes, the "Mackintosh".

  8. [? triumphant ?]

  9. In 1826, Mackintosh joined up with
    another guy who was into rubber called "Hancock"

  10. And together they began delivering waterproof "everything"
    all over the country!

  11. And in Britain, where it rains a lot, how could they lose?

  12. Well, they could
    if they had to go on relying on South America.

  13. Hancock wanted British rubber plantations,
    so he started cultivating the right people?

  14. If anybody was able to grow rubber seeds,

  15. and organize plantations in British Far Eastern colonies,
    Kew Botanical Gardens in London was.

  16. The matter was vital to Britain!

  17. All Hancock wanted was that they understand
    the critical connection between patriotism,

  18. and rubber goods?

  19. [Female: " one pair of rubber shoes"]

  20. [" one breast bottle"]

  21. [" one pair of false teeth"]

  22. [" (inaudible)"]

  23. [" one rubber cushion"]

  24. Unfortunately, the middle of the 19th century was the
    wrongest possible time to interest these guys in rubber.

  25. They had something far more important in mind
    for the Far East.

  26. [? oriental ?]

  27. See, at a time when a lot of people
    were being sent to the "ends of the earth",

  28. when the average Brit got to a place like this,
    the island of Penang, off the coast of Malaya,

  29. he really cared a good-deal less about culture and...
    things like that temple of the 10,000 Buddhists,

  30. than he did about the stuff that surrounded it:

  31. The jungle.

  32. Out of which the British were
    "hacking-themselves"-out an empire.

  33. And getting themselves in quite a sweat.

  34. and... not just because of the steamy cloths!

  35. [? comic ?]

  36. Let me explain:

  37. See, ...

  38. this... place... is absolutely full of nutmeg plantations.

  39. Here's a nutmeg tree.

  40. See...

  41. nutmegs were one of the reasons why Europeans
    came out here to the Far East in the first place;

  42. to look for spices... ohh nutmeg

  43. cinnamon, ginger, pepper, that stuff.

  44. And by 1852... the Brits out here
    were doing really rather well...

  45. thanks to cheap local labor and...

  46. all those raw materials lying around
    in places like India and

  47. Salone and

  48. Malaya and

  49. various other "imperial hot spots".

  50. Now, most of the imperial goodies came from plantations.

  51. And if you want to get a plantation going,
    you've got to do one thing first:

  52. You've got to hack the jungle down.

  53. [? cheerfully ironic ?]

  54. [grunts]

  55. Now, what that gives you,
    apart from a heart attack,

  56. is a lot of clear ground to do you planting

  57. and a lot of water exposed to sunlight,

  58. so you get

  59. your sugar or your cotton plantation going,

  60. and... the "Anopheles" mosquito

  61. gets a warm...

  62. and wonderful place to do it's reproduction thing

  63. because it's babies ?love? warm water,

  64. and that's just what you've given them?

  65. Now, the Anopheles mosquito
    is err.. a simple soul.

  66. The most it wants out of life
    is to be able to give you and me ?malaria?

  67. and the feverish sweats that go with it.

  68. and by 1852, that's just what it was doing

  69. all over the British emperial Far East.

  70. [? cheerful, circus music ?]

  71. Now, that gave everybody a bit of a problem,

  72. because you try running the trains on time...

  73. or keeping the army on it's feet...

  74. or the thousand-and-one other things
    that the emperial administration demands

  75. with malaria everywhere everywhere,
    and you've got "a job".

  76. Life expectancy out here was about
    half what it was back in England because,

  77. although you may not die from malaria,

  78. it'll weaken you to the point where
    you'll die from practically anything else.

  79. So the stiff-upper-lip, colonial-service chaps
    were dropping like flies!

  80. i... if that's the right phrase to use?

  81. [train whistle]

  82. Now, about all you could do to help prevent malaria,

  83. was to try to get down out of the jungle

  84. to get regular supplies of a rather nasty white powder

  85. like that:

  86. Made from the bark of a tree called the "Cinchona".

  87. Now rather unfortunately... the cinchona
    was only grown in South America and and Java,

  88. neither of which belonged to the British.

  89. So the British colonial government
    was paying-through-the-nose for this stuff.

  90. Very bad form!?

  91. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and
    at least one good thing was to come out of the mess.

  92. You see...

  93. they used to put the powder into water,
    that had a bit of sugar in it for taste,

  94. and they got themselves quinine-water because
    the white was quinine...

  95. still tasted pretty foul.

  96. Until somebody had the bright idea
    of putting a drop of Gin in it.

  97. And that's why the "Gin and Tonic" was invented:

  98. For medicinal purposes?

  99. Well, back to the problem:

  100. In 1852, the Governor General of Inida sent
    a rather "stiff" note back home saying...

  101. [Accent: Eng./pompous] Look here, my botonists
    say that we aught to be able to grow cinchona here.

  102. And that's why the experts at Kew gardens in London
    turned down the rubber-plantation idea, remember?

  103. They were working themselves into a lather
    about the "feverish" Far East,

  104. and the fact that if they didn't manage to come up with
    a healthy cinchona plant they can take off to India,

  105. and stick it in the ground so that
    the Governor General would get what he asked for,

  106. they'd be, so to speak...

  107. "in the manure".

  108. [? cheerful, ironic ?]

  109. Trouble was...

  110. the more they learnt about cinchona...

  111. the less likely it looked to survive a transplant...

  112. heart-failure all 'round!

  113. And then, out of the blue,

  114. the new Royal College of Chemistry suggested
    having a go at making quinine "artificially"!

  115. [? magical harp ?]

  116. So, a young 18-year-old called "William Perkin"
    was asked to get-on with it...

  117. and in 1856 he was playing around with
    a by-product of our old friend "coal tar",

  118. when he came up with a load of muck that very definitely
    wasn't the quinine he was trying to make,

  119. it was very close;

  120. only a few molecules different.

  121. But everybody should have that kind of accident!

  122. Because when William Perkin
    chucked this muck away into some water...

  123. he got very rich!

  124. And the world got...

  125. The first artificial dye.

  126. [? British, proud ?]

  127. Perkin's new "mauve" was an instant,
    and raving success.

  128. By the great exhibition of 1862

  129. most of the huffing and puffing
    wasn't coming from the machines on show,

  130. it was from the reporters who'd seen the new
    color-miracle from coal tar.

  131. They, and the thousands of others who came to the show,

  132. went away harrumphing pompously about how Britain
    was going to become:

  133. The greatest "colour exporting" country in the world!

  134. In 1862, most of these well-fed, complacent,
    middle-class victorians

  135. regarded themselves and their country as the rightful
    guardians of anybody on earth they muscle-in on?

  136. militarily or economically!

  137. ... uhh to save them from themselves of course?

  138. The new artificial dye was just one more example of how
    British genius was that much better than any other variety.

  139. That's what made Great Britain...

  140. "Great"

  141. [? British, proud ?]

  142. Unfortnaltely, when it came to putting money
    into the new colour-chemistry,

  143. the investors preferred the easier profits to be had
    from the colonies.

  144. There was no point in taking risks with the new
    "infant science" nobody knew about.

  145. Most of the investors didn't even know what chemistry was!

  146. And as for acually training chemists well...

  147. I mean that was quite out-of-the-question.

  148. I mean ...uhh... the chap who went to university
    just didn't do that sort of thing.

  149. To have actually trained "for a career"...

  150. would've been unspeakably lower-class?

  151. That's why Perkin's teacher in London
    had been a German.

  152. See they were awfully good at a rather soddy business of

  153. opening universities and techincal schools,

  154. and actually letting anybody in on merit,
    never mind their family background.

  155. And they actually encouraged links
    between university and industry,

  156. the kind of thing that made the early,
    Victorian intellectual mind...

  157. boggle!

  158. So, let me ask you what you think the British did

  159. with that headstart that William Perkin had given them
    in color-chemistry?

  160. Ahead of all their rivals.

  161. A clear opportunity to grab and hang onto the lead

  162. in one of the most profitable new industries
    for a hundred years?

  163. Yes...