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Mechanization


Mechanization or mechanisation (British English) is the process of changing from working largely or exclusively by hand or with animals to doing that work with machinery. In an early engineering text a machine is defined as follows:

Every machine is constructed for the purpose of performing certain mechanical operations, each of which supposes the existence of two other things besides the machine in question, namely, a moving power, and an object subject to the operation, which may be termed the work to be done.

Machines, in fact, are interposed between the power and the work, for the purpose of adapting the one to the other.

In some fields, mechanization includes the use of hand tools. In modern usage, such as in engineering or economics, mechanization implies machinery more complex than hand tools and would not include simple devices such as an ungeared horse or donkey mill. Devices that cause speed changes or changes to or from reciprocating to rotary motion, using means such as gears, pulleys or sheaves and belts, shafts, cams and cranks, usually are considered machines. After electrification, when most small machinery was no longer hand powered, mechanization was synonymous with motorized machines.

Water wheels date to the Roman period and were used to grind grain and lift irrigation water. Water powered bellows were in use on blast furnaces in China in 31 AD. By the 13th century, water wheels powered sawmills and trip hammers, to full cloth and pound flax and later cotton rags into pulp for making paper. Trip hammers are shown crushing ore in De re Metallica (1555).

Clocks were some of the most complex early mechanical devices. Clock makers were important developers of machine tools including gear and screw cutting machines, and were also involved in the mathematical development of gear designs. Clocks were some of the earliest mass-produced items, beginning around 1830.

Water powered bellows for blast furnaces, used in China in ancient times, were in use in Europe by the 15th century. De re Metallica contains drawings related to bellows for blast furnaces including a fabrication drawing.



  • Jerome, Harry (1934). Mechanization in Industry, National Bureau of Economic Research. 
  • Hunter, Louis C.; Bryant, Lynwood (1991). A History of Industrial Power in the United States, 1730-1930, Vol. 3: The Transmission of Power. Cambridge, Massachusetts, London: MIT Press. ISBN . 
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