People take modern inventions for granted these days. They use their cellphones, laptops and slam them out of frustration when something does not go their way. The poor appliances get the short end of the stick, for just being there. People forget that many of these technological pieces of equipment had to travel a long way in order to exist. So many ideas and energy went into them combined with sleepless nights and great minds. Such brilliance came from a French author, by the name of Jules Verne.
Jules Verne was born on the 8th of February 1828 in Nantes, France. He wrote a lot of adventure books, but before putting his thoughts on paper, he always did his own research before. He read a lot, especially when he had to write a story. Different encyclopedias, depending on the book he was going to write, went through his hands daily. He had a keen eye for details. He loved reading about science and that helped him foresee things that nobody else could at the time. Jules was well-read and had a bright mind, which allowed him to write about different inventions that would come later, which people at the time read and enjoyed those inventions as works of fiction and fantasy.
One of Jules' novels was called "From the Earth to the Moon". This novel was published in 1865. Set in the time of the post-American Civil War; it is about the attempts of the Baltimore Gun Club society on building an enormous space gun. President Impey Barbicane announces to his club members, with the calculations he has made, the belief that they can build a cannon (Figure 1) to launch a projectile from the Earth to the Moon. After receiving their approval and the funds from other states, they began to build the cannon. The cannon needed a circular hole to be excavated around 900 feet deep and 60 feet wide. It had a cylinder shape and on the bottom part of it, had fluid to burn with the help of an electric battery, which ignited the spark right into the breach. The space gun was named Columbiad and would shoot the projectile towards the Moon from Florida (Figure 3) and it would land on the Pacific Ocean. Now many people have heard about Apollo 11, which was the spaceflight that landed us on the Moon. Every human being is familiar with the words " That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. " Well the ship's name was Columbia (Figure 2) and the route it followed was the same that Jules described in his story, they launched from Florida (Figure 4) and crash-landed right into the Pacific Ocean. In this novel, Jules Verne also mentions a kind of clothing that helps them to breathe outside the projectile. The special suit also exists nowadays and it's called a spacesuit. This was the first recorded instance, where an author mentioned in one of his stories about going in a projectile around the Moon. It has great importance as it's one of the first times in history that somebody foresaw the invention of artificial satellites. At this moment, while an individual is reading this essay, 6,542 satellites are orbiting Earth.
One of the most known stories from Verne is the 20000 Leagues Under the Seas. It has been published in June 1870. It is about Captain Nemo and his submarine called Nautilus. Nautilus in Verne's words was a masterpiece containing masterpieces. Its power was provided by sodium and mercury batteries. According to Captain Nemo's words, Nautilus was a very long cylinder with conical ends and had the shape of a cigar (Figure 5). Its length was 70 meters and its total surface was 1,011,45 square meters. Real submarines were used during World War I (1914-1918). A lot of experimental submarines were built before, but the one design launched in the 19th century. Its design consisted of a cylindrical body with conical ends and a vertical structure. The system of electric submarines is the same, they get powered by electricity. The Nautilus however could not refill its air supply underwater, so it needed to resurface just like a whale would do. Meanwhile, modern-day submarines have in their disposal tanks of oxygen on the go and also by putting seawater through a process of electrolysis.
The Nautilus had inside fancy compartments, including rooms with fine arts and luxury furniture. However, the modern-day submarines are crammed and not furnished like a yacht, which was exactly what Jules had in mind when he described the interior of the Nautilus.
However, only in 1960, the submarines (Figure 6) were equal in their performances with that of the Nautilus, 90 years after the book was published.
Robur the Conqueror is another story that might not be as known as the other two above. But the material inside carries a certain significance. It is a science fiction novel published in 1886. The story revolves around the desire that mankind has for flying. The Weldon Institute is trying to build a lighter-than-air vehicle so it can fly. They were adamant that creations with heavy parts, or heavier-than-air, cannot fly. What they meant with heavier-than-air were airplanes or helicopters. Robur shows up at their meeting and taunts them, accusing them of being air balloons enthusiasts when they are actually trying to build their own airship. He insults them and declares that the heavier-than-air flying machines are the only way to the future. Robur then leaves by vanishing into the crowd and later that evening kidnaps three important figures of the Weldon Institute; among them the president of the Institute. He takes them aboard his ship, which is a battery-powered machine with multi-rotors called the Albatross (Figure 7). The Albatross has a lot of vertical airscrews, otherwise known as propellers, and two horizontal airscrews to drive the apparatus forward. Robur has only taken them, so they can admire his creation and admit that it is the superior vessel. The definition of a helicopter (Figure 8) is a type of rotorcraft, where lift and thrust are made possible by horizontal rotors, which allow the vehicle to take off and land vertically and to also fly backward, forwards, and laterally. As per fuel, they use jet fuel or biodiesel.
Jules' description of a helicopter consisted of many propellers, vertical and horizontal ones for lifting the vessel up into the air. He also suggested the usage of electric batteries instead of coal, making him a precursor of alternative fuels.
These three stories are just the tip of the iceberg when you study all of his pieces. He had ideas for cellphones, elevators, how to help countries in need, and so much more. But how did exactly this man help shape the future besides just foreseeing it? That is an easy answer. Jules Verne, this extraordinary man inspired so many children at his time and later on to achieve what others thought was impossible. It is said that on Mendeleev's deathbed, his last wish was to be read one of Jules' novels as he passed away. Of course, we all know Dmitri Mendeleev as the Russian chemist who created a farsighted version of the periodic table of elements. Mendeleev, and many other scientists or great minds were absorbed, just like towels dry out spilled liquids, by the future laid in front of their eyes. They were in awe of this possible advancement, and they tried over and over to make it happen. Verne laid out the work, from the start with his crazy ideas, until the end, with his calculations. Jules Verne, the French writer who poured his knowledge into the minds of not only children but also adults. He made them dream and try to reach for the stars, for nothing is unachievable if you exert yourself. He had that mentality from Victor Hugo, a known French author, and Illuminist of his time, who posed a big influence in Verne's writings. His lawyer diploma stayed buried under different papers, never to be used. The man, the futurist' himself Verne, had no use of it. After all, what use can you have from a piece of paper bounding you to monotonous work, when you can see into the future just by reading and researching into the technology of your time.
Source of the featured image:
Jules Verne. (n.d.). [Illustration]. https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/happy-birthday-jules-verne-70-years-of-fantastic-comic-book-classics
Polmar, N. C. P. (2019, June 10). Submarine - Toward diesel-electric power. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/submarine-naval-vessel/Toward-diesel-electric-power
Wier, S. K. W. (2015). The design of Jules Verne’s submarine Nautilus (4th ed., Vol. 1). Stuart Wier. http://www.westernexplorers.us/Jules_Vernes_submarine_Nautilus.pdf
P. (2019, February 4). Submarines spend months submerged - where do they get oxygen and drinking water from? Technology Org. https://www.technology.org/2019/02/04/submarines-spend-months-submerged-where-do-they-get-oxygen-and-drinking-water-from/
Martín-Pozuelo, V., Martín-Pozuelo, V., & Martín-Pozuelo, V. (2013, September 13). The inventions that Jules Verne predicted. Blogthinkbig.com. https://blogthinkbig.com/inventions-jules-verne-predicted
Mohanta, N. (2021, June 7). How many satellites are orbiting the Earth in 2021? Geospatial World. https://www.geospatialworld.net/blogs/how-many-satellites-are-orbiting-the-earth-in-2021/
FAA. (n.d.). 4. In Helicopter Flying Handbook (1st ed., Vol. 1, pp. 1–20). FAA.