We talk a lot on this blog about how wonderful, important, and historic London town is. If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll have already discovered a multitude of things that make the city truly special. However, we’ve never spent much time elaborating on exactly why England’s capital is such an important place…besides it being, you know, the capital.
The fact is, the impact of London’s scientific, cultural, and political heritage has had a global impact that has changed the course of history. Amongst the bustling streets of the capital, some of the greatest minds of the modern era contrived to build the world we live in today.
What’s so great about London? Well, these four world-changing events for starters.
The invention of time
It may be difficult to fully understand, but without London time would not exist. At least, our modern interpretation of time – the way we measure, track, and understand it from minute to minute, hour to hour. Before 1670, every village and city in the world kept its own sense of time according to the position of the sun. Days would be longer or shorter depending on the time of year and people would plan their days accordingly.
It wasn’t until the creation of Greenwich Mean Time in 1675 that scientists were able to model time as a universal standard. By recording the local time that the sun crossed the prime meridian in Greenwich every day for one year they were able to create an averaged time-keeping system that unified locations throughout the world. It changed the way we travel and communicate forever.
The miracle cure
In August 1928 a tired professor of bacteriology left his lab in St Mary’s hospital for a long, relaxing holiday. Little did he know that the Petri dishes he left dirty on the counter would be the birthing ground for one of medicine’s greatest discoveries.
Prior to Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, bacterial infections from wounds as small as a paper cut could prove to be fatal to everyday people. Blood poisoning, pneumonia, gonorrhea and rheumatic fever killed thousands every year. By observing bacterial interactions with common mold, Fleming was able to create an antibiotic remedy that would save millions of lives.
The world’s first human rights
Ok, so we’re cheating a little on this one. Magna Carta – the world’s first written constitution of it’s kind – was actually signed 20 miles outside of London in Runnymede. The importance of this document is so astronomic, though, that we had to put it in.
Magna Carta was the first time in history that a nation’s population at large was given inalienable rights beyond the remit of its monarch. After the first Baron’s War in 1215, the landed gentry of England forced King John to sign a decree that limited his ability to demand money from private citizens. It also removed the legal obligation for women of wealth to re-marry after the death of their husband.
The digital revolution
Computers have undeniably been one of the defining inventions of the modern era. Although Charles Babbage is recognized as the inventor of the computer, the thing would be next to useless without the mathematical genius of Ada Lovelace.
From her home in London, Lovelace outlined a complex system that would allow Babbage’s Analytical Engine to process original algorithms. Her computer program – the world’s first – would extend the initial capabilities of the engine to allow it to work through a series of Bernoulli Numbers. It was the first time an algorithm of this kind had been programmed into an existing machine, and her invention paved the way for computer programs, software, and the internet – none of which would be fully realized until hundreds of years later. Her work in 1842 would be a watershed moment for the technological revolution.
So, if you ever wondered why London is so important to the world, there you have it; four moments in history that defined our modern world. To learn even more about the amazing things achieved here in London, we recommend the Big Bus London tour from Evan Evans.