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Transport & communication timeline

This world transport timeline demonstrates the exponential acceleration in technological innovation over time and the way that this occurred in the most politically and economically powerful countries of the world. This is indicated by the use of present-day flags for the regions where this occurred and it highlights the connections between transport, social organization, political and economic power, and sometimes geography. Most notable is the development of transport technology and systems that emanated from Britain as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. Nevertheless there is certainly a British bias in the records as the English-speaking country that built up much of the historical record.

Ideally the claims for these dates would be carefully referenced but time has prevented this. The object of this particular timeline has been to locate general trends within the general framework of increasing social organization. Smilar timelines can be viewed on the web on sites like Wikipedia etc.


Though the history of Homo sapiens sapiens is now dated back about 300,000 years it was only in the last 10,000 or so that we see a major transition in technology as the lifestyle shifted during the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution from nomadic hunter-gatherer to settled urban dweller. . The domestication of beasts of burden including the camel, horse, donkey (ass), ox, and elephant, so between about 10,000 BCE and 2,000 BCE there was the development of the wheel and animal-drawn wheeled vehicles including carts, carriages, and chariots, the construction of both medium-size outrigger sailing craft and large ocean-going ships sometimes accompanied by landscape modification through the building of transport infrastructure such as roads, canals, and irrigation systems.

5000-4000 – Wheel developed in the Ancient Near East spreading to Europe and India c. 4000-3000 and China c. 1200
4,000-3,000 – Horses domesticated in Central Asia
c. 4000 – Canals built in Mesopotamia and used for irrigation
c. 3,500 – Wheel invented in Iraq
3,100 – Sailing boat invented in Egypt
3,000-2,000 – Camels domesticated
c. 3000 – Galleys built for operation in the Mediterranean Sea
c. 2,700 – Egyptians use wooden ships for sea trade
1300-900 – Double-hulled Polynesian rigged catamarans cover about 6000 km from Bismarck Archipelago to Micronesia and on to Hawaii
c. 200 – Kites popular in China

1st century – Network of constructed and maintained roads stretches across the Roman Empire; Roman merchant ships carry up to 1,000 tons of cargo

605 – Construction of the Grand Canal begins in China
1044 – Compass invented in China
12th century – Compass arrives in Europe; rudder used in Europe but Roman roads mostly deteriorated into tracks
c. 1300 – Arabic sailing ship or caravel
c. 1400-1450 – Huge Chinese treasure ships
c. 1450 – European galleons
Late 16th century – European shipbuilders construct Ocean-going galleons

1635 – Messengers of Charles I paid to carry letters – initiation of the Royal Mail
1663 – First privately owned and maintained tolled turnpike roads open. In towns the wealthy are still carried around in sedan chairs
1620 – Cornelius Drebbel constructs the first known submarine propelled by oars
1662 – Blaise Pascal invents a horse-drawn public bus which has a regular route, schedule, and fare system
1672 – Ferdinand Verbiest constructs the first steam-powered car
17th and 18th century physico-mathematical study of aerodynamics
1681 – Canal du Midi opened in France

1716 – Swede Emanuel Swedenborg postulates a hovering vehicle
Mid 18th century – Turnpike roads become commonplace
1756-1836 – John McAdam designs the modern highway with a soil-stone aggregate surface cambered for drainage
1760s – Cast iron rails manufactured but later replaced by rolled wrought iron rails
1761 – In England the Bridgwater Canal opens with many more canals dug in the late 18th and early 19th century
1769 – Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot demonstrates experimental steam-driven tractor
1776 – First submarine propelled by screws
1783 – Joseph Montgolfier and Étienne Montgolfier launch the first hot air balloons; Jacques Charles and Les Frères Robert (Anne-Jean Robert and Nicolas-Louis Robert) launch the first hydrogen balloon
1783 – First verifiable flight Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes went 5 miles (8.0 km) in a hot air balloon invented by the Montgolfier brothers
1784 – Englishman William Murdoch builds a working model of a steam carriage; Lionel Lukin invents the life boat
1785 – Two men fly across the English Channel in a hydrogen balloon

1801 – Richard Trevithick runs full-sized steam ‘road locomotive’ in Camborne England
1802 – André-Jacques Garnerin and Edward Hawke Locker make a 27 km) balloon flight from Lord’s Cricket Ground in England, takingabout 15 mins
1803 – Etienne Robertson and his co-pilot Lhoest ascend in a balloon from Hamburg, Germany to an altitude of c. 7,300 m
1804 – Sir George Cayley builds a model glider with a main wing and separate, adjustable vertical and horizontal tail surfaces; scientists Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Jean Baptiste Biot use a balloon to measure the earth’s magnetic field and composition of the upper atmosphere
1803 – Trevithick builds 10-seater London Steam Carriage; first voyage of William Symington’s ‘Charlotte Dundas’ is the world’s first practical steamboat
1804 – Trevithick builds prototype steam-powered railway locomotive t orun on the Pen-y-Darren Line near Merthyr Tydfil Wales
1807 – Maiden voyage of Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat, the world’s first commercially successful steamboat ; Nicéphore Niépceuses internal combustion engine in a boat on the river Saone in France
1809 – George Cayley publishes On Aerial Navigation explaining the scientific principles of heavier-than-air flight
1812 – First commercially successful self-propelled engine on Land, Mathew Murray’s ‘Salamanca’ on Middleton-Leeds Railway using toothed wheels and rail; Timothy Hackworth’s “Puffing Billy” runs on smooth cast iron rails at Wylam Colliery nr Newcastle England
1814 – George Stephenson builds first practical steam-powered railway locomotive ‘Blutcher’ at Killingworth Colliery
1815 – Steamships begin crossing the English Channel
1816 – Most likely originator of the bicycle is the German, Baron Karl von Drais, who rode his 1816 machine while collecting taxes from his tenants
1819 – ‘SS Savannah’,first vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean partly under steam power, arrives at Liverpool, England from Savannah, Georgia
1822 – Stevenson builds locomotive and designs railway for Hetton Colliery, the first railway not to use horse-traction
1825 – Stevenson’s ‘Locomotion’ runs on Stockton to Darlington railway which opens as the first Public railway using horses, self-propelled steam engines, and stationary engines with ropes along a single track; Sir Goldsworthy Gurney invents steam-powered passenger carriages and by 1829 completes the 120-mile journey from London to Bath, Somerset and back
1829 – Rainhill Trials to find best self-propelled engine for the Liverpool to Manchester line are won by Robert Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ (model for all future steam engines with boiler tubes, blast pipe, and the use of coal rather than coke) proving there is no need for horse traction or static engines; horse drawn omnibuses run in London
1830 – Liverpool Manchester Railway opens. First public transport system without animal traction, first public line with no rope hauled sections for main journey, first twin track, first railway between 2 large towns, first timetabled trains, first railway stations, first train faster than a mail coach, first tunnels under streets, first proper modern railway which formed the template for all subsequent railways
1835 – First hansom cab is made in Hinckley
1836 – The Great Balloon of Nassau flown by Charles Green covers 722 km from London to Weilburg, Germany in 18 hours, the first overnight balloon flight and a distance record that stands until 1907
1838 – Charles Green and others ascend to height of 8,280 m over England in the Great Balloon of Nassau reaching speeds of 130 to 160 km/hr
1842 – English engineer William Henson makes complete drawing of a power-driven aeroplane with steam-engine. Proposal to English House of Commons for an ‘Aerial Transport Company’ greeted with hilarity
1843 – William Henson and John Stringfellow file articles of incorporation for the world’s first air transport company, the Aerial Transit Company
1845 – Henson & Stringfellow build a steam-powered model aircraft, wingspan 3.0 m
1838 – A steamship crosses the Atlantic in only 19 day; the first elevated railway is built in London
1838 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Western, the first purpose-built transatlantic steamship, inaugurates the first regular transatlantic steamship service
1840s – A frenzy of railway construction as a network is built across Britain
1847 – HMS Driver the first steamship to travel round the world
1848 – Stringfellow flies powered monoplane model a short distance in a powered glide at an exhibition at Cremorne Gardens in London
1849 – Frenchman Francisque Arban makes the first (and until 1924 only) balloon flight over the Alps, flying a hydrogen balloon from Marseille to Turin; George Cayley launches a small glider towed by a team of people running down a hill – the first known flight by a person in a heavier-than-air machine
1852 – French engineer Henri Giffard flies 27 km from Paris in a steam-powered dirigible at aspeed ofabout 10 km/h
1853 – A George Cayley glider flown across part of Brompton Dale in Yorkshire, the first adult aeroplane pilot
1853 – Sir George Cayley built and demonstrated the first heavier-than-air aircraft (a glider)
1857 – Félix Du Temple flies clockwork and steam-powered model aircraft
1861 – First use of observation balloons in naval warfare takes place during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Balloon Enterprise with a telegraph key wired directly to the White House, Thaddeus Lowe sends a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln to demonstrate the value of balloons in military reconnaissance; Aeronaut Henry Tracey Coxwell and English physicist James Glaisher officially reach a height of 29,527 ft (9,000 m) in a coal gas balloon according to their balloon’s barometer although later estimates place the maximum altitude they attained at between 35,000 and 37,000 feet (10,668 and 11,278 meters). The two men nearly die of hypoxia during the flight, Glaisher falling unconscious and Coxwell losing all feeling in his hands
1862 – Étienne Lenoir made a gasoline engine automobile
1863 – London’s Metropolitan Railway opened to the public as the world’s first underground railway
1863 – The first underground railway opens in London. Carriages are pulled by steam trains
1865 – Solomon Andrews flies a dirigible twice over New York City; Jules Verne describes in his novel The Journey to the Moon the launch of a rocket from Florida, from which many years later American space flights actually will start
1866 – Foundation (12 Jan. London) of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain later Royal Aeronautical Society, the world’s oldest society devoted to all aspects of aeronautics and astronautics; first exhibition of aviation in London’s Crystal Palace
1868 – British inventor Matthew Piers Watt Boulton patents the aileron in its modern form
1867 – first modern motorcycle was invented
1868 – George Westinghouse invented the compressed-air brake for railway trains
1868 – Louis-Guillaume Perreaux’s steam velocipede, a steam engine attached to a Michaux velocipede
1871 – The Englishmen Wenham and Browning construct the first wind tunnel and conduct airflow experiments
1872 – German experimenter Paul Haenlein tests the first airship with an internal combustion engine in Brünn, Austria-Hungary, achieving 19 km/hr burning coal gas drawn from its balloon
1873 – New York Daily Graphic sponsors first attempt in history to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon carrying a lifeboat
1874 – Felix and Louis du Temple de la Croix build a piloted steam-powered monoplane which flies a short
1876 – Alphonse Pénaud and Paul Gauchot apply for a patent for a power-driven aeroplane with a retractable undercarriage, wings with dihedral and joystick control; experimental helicopter by Enrico Forlanini (1877)
1877 – First flight of a steam-driven model helicopter built by Enrico Forlanin
1880 – Werner von Siemens builds first electric elevator
1883 – The first electric-powered flight is made by Gaston Tissandier who fits a Siemens AG electric motor to a dirigible
1884 – First fully controlled free-flight is made in the French Army dirigible La France by Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs. The flight covers 8 km (5.0 mi) in 23 minutes. It was the first flight to return to the starting point
1885 – Frenchmen Hervé and Alluard achieve a hot air balloon flight of over 24 hours
1888 – Wölfert flies a petrol powered dirigible at Seelburg, the first use of a petrol-fuelled engine for aviation purposes. The engine was built by Gottlieb Daimler
1889 – Percival G. Spencer makes a successful parachute jump from a balloon at Drumcondra, Ireland
1883 – Karl Benz invents the first car powered by an internal combustion engine, he called it the Benz Patent Motorwagen
1885 – The car is invented
1890 – The first electric underground trains run in London. Thomas Ahearn invents the electric car heater
1892 – The first contract is awarded for the construction of a military airplane: Clément Ader is contracted by the French War Ministry to build a two-seater aircraft to be used as a bomber, capable of lifting a 75-kilogram (165-pound) bombload; 31 July – Hiram Maxim launches an enormous biplane test rig with a wingspan of 32 m (105 ft) propelled by two steam engines. It lifts off and engages the restraining rails, which prevent it from leaving the track; 4 December – German meteorologist and Aerologist Arthur Berson ascends to 9,155 metres (30,036 feet) in a balloon, setting a new world altitude record for human flight
1895 – Percy Pilcher makes his first successful flight in a glider named the Bat
1897 – 3 November – The first flight in a rigid airship is made by Ernst Jägels, flying the all-aluminium craft designed by David Schwarz and built by Carl Berg. It reaches an altitude of 24 m (79 ft), proving metal-framed airships can become airborne, but after an engine failure is damaged beyond repair in an emergency landing
1894 – Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first motorcycle available to the public for purchase
1896 – Jesse W. Reno builds first escalator at Coney Island, and then reinstalls it on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge
1897 – Charles Parsons’ Turbinia, the first vessel to be powered by a steam turbine, makes her debut
1897 – The most likely first electric bicycle was built in 1897 by Hosea W. Libbey
1898 – The Aéro-Club de France is founded; March – Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt calls for the creation of a four-officer board to study the utility of Samuel P. Langley’s “flying machine,” the Langley Aerodrome. Roosevelt asserts that “the machine has worked.” It is the first documented United States Navy expression of interest in aviation

1900 – Ferdinand von Zeppelin pilots his experimental first Zeppelin, LZ 1, over Lake Constance, reaching an altitude of 400 metres (1,300 feet) with five men on board. Although the flight lasts only 18 minutes, covers only 5.6 kilometers (3.5 mi), and ends in an emergency landing on the lake, it is the first flight of a truly successful rigid airship; Wright brothers arrive at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to begin a season of glider experiments; Wilbur Wright makes the Wright brothers’ first glider flight at Kitty Hawk; On her second flight, the Zeppelin LZ 1 remains aloft for 80 minutes
1903 – Wright brothers make the first sustained, controlled, and powered heavier-than-air flight on December 17, 1903 in the aircraft ‘Wright Flyer’
1899 – Ferdinand von Zeppelin builds the first successful airship
1900 – Ferdinand von Zeppelin launches the first successful airship
1900s – Electric trams begin running in many towns
1903 – Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright fly the first motor-driven airplane;Diesel engine tested in a canal boat by Rudolph Diesel, Adrian Bochet and Frederic Dyckhoff
1908 – Henry Ford develops the assembly line method of automobile manufacturing with the introduction of the Ford Model T
1911 – Selandia launched, the first ocean-going, diesel engine-driven ship
1909 – Alice Ramsey is the first woman to drive across the USA in a car
1915 – The Luftkissengleitboot Hovercraft, the first hovering vehicle was created by Dagobert Müller. It could only travel on water; a British commission was tasked with creating a vehicle able to cross a 4ft wide trench – the tank
1916 – The first tank prototype, nicknamed “mother”, was created by Britain during World War 1
1919 – Spaceflight became an engineering possibility with the work of Robert H. Goddard’s publication in 1919 of his paper ‘A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes’; where his application of the de Laval nozzle to liquid-propellant rockets gave sufficient power that interplanetary travel became possible
1919 – Planes begin carrying passengers between London and Paris
1925 – The first electric traffic lights in Britain are installed in London
1926 – Robert Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket
1930s – In most towns electric trams are replaced by buses
1934 – In Britain a driving test is introduced. Cats eyes are invented. A 30 mile an hour speed limit is introduced in built up areas in Britain
1935 – The first traffic meters are installed in the USA
1935 – First flight of the DC-3, one of the most significant transport aircraft in the history of aviation
1939 – First jet engine powered aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, takes flight
1940 – About 1 family in 10 in Britain owns a car
1942 – V2 rocket covers a distance of 200 km
1944 – Germany -MW 18014 – 20 June 1944 – First artificial human object to enter space
1947 – Chuck Yeager in the Bell X1 completes the first supersonic manned flight
1949 – The first jet airliner was the de Haviland DH 106 Comet built at Hatfield aerodrome in Hertford UK and flown in 1949 then put into commercial service in 1952
1949 – The first zebra crossing
1952 – The first passenger jet service commences
1952 – the de Haviland DH 106 Comet is the first jet put into commercial service
1955 – The first nuclear-powered vessel, the USS Nautilus, a submarine, is launched
1957 – Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite to be launched into orbit; Gateway City, the world’s first purpose-built container ship, enters service; first flight of the Boeing 707, the first commercially successful jet airliner
1955 – The hovercraft is invented by Christopher Cockerell
1957 – Sputnik 1 – 4 October – First Earth orbiter; Sputnik 2 – 3 November 1957 – Earth orbiter, the dog Laika the first animal in orbit
1958 – The first traffic meters in Britain are installed
1959 – About 32% of families in Britain own a car. The first electric underground trains run in London. The three point seat belt is invented
1959 – Luna 1 – 2 January – First lunar flyby (attempted lunar impact?); Russia Luna 3 – 4 October 1959 – Lunar flyby; First images of far side of Moon
1960 – Apollo 8 – First manned lunar orbiter; Apollo 11 – First manned lunar landing; Pioneer 5 – 11 March – Interplanetary space investigations
1961 – Vostok 1 – 12 April – First manned Earth orbiter
1963 – Dr Beeching closes many branch lines in Britain
1961 – Vostok 1, the first manned space mission, designed by Sergey Korolyov and Kerim Kerimov, makes two orbits around the Earth
1961 – First human spaceflight by Russian Vostok 1 and Yuri Gagarin the first astronaut
1962 – Mariner 2 – 27 August – First successful planetary encounter, First successful Venus flyby
1964 – Mariner 4 – 28 November – First Mars flyby
1966 – Luna 9 – 31 January – First lunar lander; Russia Luna 10 – 31 March 1966 – First lunar orbiter
1967 – Venera 4 – 12 June – First Venus atmospheric probe
1967 – first space stations Russian Kosmos 186 and Kosmos 188
1968 – Zond 5 – 15 September – First lunar flyby and return to Earth, first life forms to circle the moon; USA Apollo 8 – 21 December 1968 – First manned lunar orbiter
1969 First flight of the Boeing 747, the first commercial widebody airliner; NASA rocket technology, spurred on by the US/Russia Space Race, makes the first manned Moon landing a reality
1969 – Lollipop men and women are introduced The pelican crossing is introduced
1969 – Apollo 11 – 16 July – First manned lunar landing and first successful sample return mission; USA – Apollo 12 – 14 November 1969 – Manned lunar landing
1969 – Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission walked on the moon surface before returning safely to Earth
1971-1991 – Russian space stations Salyut and Mir
1970 – Venera 7 – 17 August – First Venus lander; Russia Luna 16 – 12 September 1970 – First robotic lunar sample return
1971 – Salyut 1 – 19 April – First space station; Mariner 9 – 30 May 1971 – First Mars orbiter; Apollo 15 – 26 July 1971 – Manned lunar landing; First manned lunar rover
1971 – Salyut 1, the first space station, launched by Kerim Kerimov
1973 – Pioneer 11 – 5 April – Jupiter flyby and First Saturn flyby; Mariner 10 – 4 November 1973 – Venus flyby and First Mercury flyby
1975 – Venera 9 – 8 June – First Venus orbiter and lander; First images from surface of Venus; Viking 1 – 20 August 1975 – Mars orbiter and lander; First lander returning data and First pictures from Martian surface
1976 – Concorde makes the world’s first commercial passenger-carrying supersonic flight
1978 – UNISEE-3 – 12 August – Solar wind investigations; later redesignated International Cometary Explorer and performed Comet Giacobini-Zinner and Comet Halley flybys – First comet flyby
1981 – First flight of the space shuttle
1983 – Wearing seat belts is made compulsory in Britain. Wheel clamps are introduced
1992 – Speed cameras are introduced into Britain
1994 – The Channel Tunnel opens
1997 – The first Maglev train prototypes are tested in Japan
1999 – First comet coma sample return – returned 15 January 2006

2001 – (April) the unmanned aircraft Global Hawk flies from Edwards AFB in the US to Australia non-stop and unrefuelled taking 23 hrs23 mins
2002 – the Segway PT self-balancing personal transport was launched by inventor Dean Kamen
2004 – the first commercial high speed Maglev train starts operation between Shanghai and its airport
2004 – EU Rosetta/Philae – 2 March 2004 – First comet orbiter and lander (Landed in November 2014); MESSENGER – 3 August 2004 – First Mercury orbiter (Achieved orbit 18 March 2011)
2008 – Chandrayaan-1 – Water Around Fresh Moon Crater; India Chandrayaan-1 – 22 October 2008 – Lunar orbiter and impactor – Discovered water on the Moon
2010 – First 24 hr flight using only solar panels and their electrical power

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