Tradespeople: The Roots of Civilization

There’s no doubt about it, qualified, skilled tradespeople are a hot commodity these days.  Can you find an aspect of civilization that doesn’t depend upon them?  There’s not one career out there that doesn’t depend on the foundation skilled tradespeople have built.  Tradespeople provide the framework many professionals, including doctors, psychologists and IT professionals, need to do their jobs.  Tradespeople are the roots of civilization.

Is that a bold statement? Sure it is, but try to imagine a world without carpentry, plumbing, and ironwork.  We’d still be living in caves, dumping in holes, unable to hunt and protect ourselves effectively.  It took skilled hands to weave, sew clothing, farm and cook.  It took skilled hands to hammer and chisel a civilization out of a jungle.  If a tradesperson is defined as one who uses his or her hands for work, then, really, we’re all tradespeople.  It is our nature.  If manual work is so valuable to society, indeed, part of our very nature as human beings, why are tradespeople so under appreciated today?

Tradespeople were the first inventors.  The big reason Christopher Columbus landed in America rather than India was because he had no accurate way of measuring longitude.  For 3000 years mariners traveled the sea using only latitudes gathered from celestial navigation.  Without longitudinal location, accurate long distance travel was nearly impossible.  So much so, in 1714 the British Parliament offered what would be worth today almost £3 million to anyone who could find a way to use longitude on the open sea within 30 miles of accuracy.

Who washed ashore to navigate such a sea change?  …A carpenter and clockmaker by the name of John Harrison through his invention of the chronometer.  Years later, Captain James Cook would use the chronometer to circumnavigate the globe within eight miles of accuracy.  Being intimately involved with both the design and application of mechanics often allows tradespeople to become great inventors changing the course of history.

Tradespeople were the first engineers.  The term engineer comes from two Latin words: ingeniare and ingenium. Respectively, they mean “to contrive” and “cleverness”.  Many of the first trades were inspired by the military to protect and contrive effective weaponry such as the metalsmith, wheelwright and the mason.  Engineering has evolved out of tradespeople using their hands to create clever ways to protect themselves and attack enemies in warfare.  Naturally, their ingenuity resulted in the development of utensils, cookware and useful tools for agriculture.

Back when design and operation were applied by the same people, tradesmen were considered the engineers required to think outside box for solutions.  By discovering and taking advantage of mechanical principles they were able to develop the tools and technology needed to survive and thrive.  These advancements in complexity led modern man to develop many branches of engineering, but all can trace their roots to a “tradesperson” experimenting and devising new clever methods to fix a problem.

After all, it is our nature to be a tradesperson.



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