[private] Great Britain’s scientific, industrial and cultural achievements were brilliantly displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. What became known as the world’s first fair attracted over six million visitors to London. Authors George Thompson and Jerry Combee, writing in the publication ‘World History and Cultures’, had this to say about the Great Exhibition: “Of the thousands of exhibits presented, over half originated in Great Britain, including steam hammers, express locomotives, power looms, hydraulic presses, threshing machines, and scientific instruments – all evidences of Britain’s superiority in industry and technology.”
There were also displays from other parts of the British Empire. From Canada came furs, birch bark canoes, and maple syrup. India sent carved ivory furniture, the world’s largest diamond, and cashmere shawls. Other nations also sent impressive goods, but Britain and her empire outshone them all in quality, quantity and ingenuity. The great exhibition was housed in a structure dubbed the “Crystal Palace.”
According to Thompson and Combee this enormous edifice was “a prefabricated building erected in London’s Hyde Park, with 800,000 square feet of space. The structure was made of iron and glass panes, the first of its kind, using many architectural principles that would later be incorporated in the designs of modern skyscrapers.” The great exhibition of 1851 became one of the highlights of the Victorian age. This magnificent pageant clearly demonstrated Britain’s rank as the world leader in the advancement of industry, technology and culture.
Less than a century later the United States replaced Great Britain as the world leader in all three categories. This came about through technology, science, ingenuity, and the never-ceasing efforts of many American inventors.
Two men in particular who have affected our everyday lives are Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, statesman and inventor. We are indebted to Franklin for bifocal glasses, lightning rods, and of course the Franklin Stove. Edison was probably the most ingenious inventor in history. Three of his inventions in particular have changed our lives: The phonograph, the light bulb, and motion pictures. Edison – “the wizard of the age of electricity,” was granted an all-time record of 1,093 patents.
Today, the United Sates is facing a number of structural problems, including a ballooning deficit, declining educational performance, a crumbling infrastructure and diminished immigration of new talent. I have always maintained that the great educational institutions of America do not necessarily produce great talent and intellect, but they attract them from all around the world.
After 9-11, so many restrictions were put in place, most of the world’s talent went elsewhere. Americans have replaced working to be exceptional with talking about how exceptional they still are. They don’t seem to understand that you can’t declare yourself exceptional, but others have to bestow that adjective upon you.
At the present time the U.S. is the world’s greatest borrower. China is its biggest creditor and in 2010 China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, with an estimated 2.3 trillion dollars in reserves. The IMF calculates that by 2016 China will supplant the U.S. as the world’s greatest economy. Another major change in 2010 was Brazil leap-frogging past England and France to become the world’s fifth largest economy.
India’s economy is also surging. The World Bank estimates that by 2030, India’s middle class alone will swell to 583 million. That’s almost twice the current U.S. population. Columnist David Brooks of the New York Times recently made this observation regarding present day world order: “Since World War II, we’ve built our national identity on our rank among the nations- at the front with everybody else trailing behind. But in this age of convergence, the world doesn’t have much of a tail anymore.” Few doubt that the current trends are reversible. [/private]