Technique has kept man busy since the early days of mankind. It began when the first tool-like object was used. The evolution from the primitive tool to the concentration of technical invention in modern times has been a long one. The ultimate achievements have been the outcome of collective efforts spread over thousands of years. They were now and then marked by the rise of ideas well in advance of their time. Some of these ideas fell back into the dark until the time was ripe to receive them and to apply them for useful purposes.
Human ways of feeling and thinking, too, change with the times and materialize accordingly. Periods with religious or mystical feelings will breed less inventive power than periods with rational and scientific thinking. Certain progressive powers may be conceived, but the power to realize them may be weak, or missing, and so may engineering capacity, experience, and knowledge. Only when they all meet can practical results materialize and survive. That is what took place in the nineteenth century, when all the circumstances in every domain of life encouraged technical inventions and favored their realization. A stage was reached which could no longer do without them. A development of this kind is illustrated by photography.
“Introduction,” A Hundred Years of Photography by Lucia Moholy (a 6p Pelican Special, 1939).