Technical Developments in Feudal Society:
Other innovations used and improved by the Europeans were the lenses and the spectacles. This gave an impetus to the further study of optics and there were some contributions to Ibn al-Haitham's optics, as mentioned wilier. The demand for spectacles also gave rise to the profession of lens grinders and spectacle makers.
Distillation of perfumes and oils was already known in Europe through the Arabs. To this was added the distillation of alcohol, which gave rise to the first scientific industry, that of distillers, and laid the foundation of modem chemical industry.
Of all the innovations introduced m the West from the East, gunpowder had the greatest effect politically, economically and scientifically. With its use in cannons and hand guns, gunpowder enormously altered the balance of power. In science, the making of gunpowder, its explosion, the expulsion of the ball from the cannon and its subsequent flight, furnished many practical problems. Solutions to these problems and the accompanying explanations occupied the attention of medieval scientists for many centuries and led to sciences like mechanics and dynamics. The preparation of gunpowder required a careful separation and purification of nitre giving rise to the study of solutions and crystallisation. Nitre provides the oxygen needed for explosion of gunpowder. So, unlike ordinary fire, it does not require air. Studies related to the explosion of gunpowder led to attempts to explain combustion, i.e. burning. These attempts were later extended to studies on breathing which provides the oxygen needed to convert food into energy inside the animal body. These explanations were not easy at that time and taxed the ingenuity of medieval chemists most.
Two other technical introductions from the East had a far greater effect in the West than in the land of their origin. They were the inventionspf paper and printing. The need for a writing material cheaper than parchment became urgent with the spread of literacy. Linen rags provided the basis for the first paper of quality. Paper turned out to be so good and cheap that its increased availability led to a shortage of copyists. This contributed a lot to the success of printing, originally a Chinese invention of the eleventh century.
Printing, with movable metal types, was first used by KoreaAs in the fourteenth century. It was introduced into Europe in the mid-fifteenth century and it spread rapidly, first for prayers and then for books. The new, cheap, printed books promoM reading and created increased access to education for a larger number of people. This, as we shall see, became a medium for great technical and scientific changes as well as changes in the society during the Renaissance. To sum up, we have seen above that by the fifteenth century a number of small technical changes had taken place. Before we move on to the study of Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, let us assess the effect of all these technical advances on the economy and ideas of the late Middle Ages. This is necessary because the feudal system contained the see& of its own transformation.