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Traditionally coal has been used as a fuel by being burnt in air. In this programme Dr. Colin Russell, Reader in History of Science, looks at the evolution of the discovery that coal heated in the ...absence of air can be decomposed. He looks at the uses found for the products of decomposition, and the way these led to the formation of new industries and eventually a new science. He begins by visiting a site near Newcastle where coke was manufactured in "beehive ovens". Next he turns to coal gas and traces the history and social impact with the aid of cartoons by Rowlandson and dioramas in Kensington Science Museum. He visits a gas works at Newton Stewart in S.W.Scotland where coal gas is still manufactured in hand fired horizontal retorts. Then he looks at the coal tar, which is a by product of the manufacture of coal gas, and visits a distillery at Falkirk which has original stills for obtaining benzene. He follows the benzene to another plant in the north of England, which is no longer in use, where benzene was converted into nitro benzene and then into aniline. Finally through a series of reconstructed experiments and old stills we see how aniline was converted into dye stuffs. Throughout the programme we have filmed original plant wherever possible. Some of this is still in use, some is derelict. We have supplemented this material with original stills and animated sequences. We have adapted throughout the techniques of using the actual words of engineers and scientists to describe processes.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: AST281, Science and the rise of technology since 1800
Item code: AST281; 02
First transmission date: 28-02-1973
Published: 1973
Rights Statement: Rights owned or controlled by The Open University
Restrictions on use: This material can be used in accordance with The Open University conditions of use. A link to the conditions can be found at the bottom of all OUDA web pages.
Duration: 00:22:56
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Producer: Paul Kafno
Contributors: Edward Lowes; Colin Russell
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Beehive ovens; Benzene; Coal; Coal gas; Coal tar; Coke ovens; Gas production; Gaslighting; Newton Stewart; Nitration plants
Footage description: Shots of coal falling into a hopper and of pithead winding gear. Colin Russell describes the importance of coal in 19th century technology and continues to recount the discovery of coke (carbonised coal). Shots of early coke ovens. With Edward Lowes, Colin Russell examines beehive coke ovens at Blaydon on Tyne. The method of operation to produce coke is described Colin Russell describes the early coal gas industry and its introduction by Frederic Winsor for lighting. From contemporary reports the commercial success of coal gas as artificial lighting is recounted. Shots of painting of George Dixon demonstrating gas light from a kettle, portrait of Frederick Winsor. Rowlandson cartoon of gas street lighting. Shots of painting of Guildhall dinner, Lord Mayor"s Day 1815, illuminated by gas light. Animated drawing of map shows the spread of municipal gas light throughout Britain by 1819. Colin Russell, at Newton Stewart Gasworks, describes later methods of gas production. The whole process is shown in considerable detail. Samuel Clegg"s description of the activities are read over shots of the coal gas production process. Colin Russell describes the gas purification process over shots of the equipment. Colin Russell repeats his description of the purifying process using animated drawings of the process to show internal reactions. Colin Russell goes on to discuss the formation of coal tar its distillation in the 19th century. Quotations describing tar and its distillation are read from "Punch" and from writings of Charles Mansfield. An animated sequence shows the process. Shots of Scottish Tar Distillery. Colin Russell now describes the collection of benzene from coal tar and its combination into nitro-benzene. Colin Russell describes the uses to which it was put. Shots of a nitration plant in operation. The conversion of nitro benzene into aniline is now described by Colin Russell. Nitration plant machinery in operation is shown, Russell"s description being read over. Colin Russell then continues to describe the uses to which aniline was put in the nineteenth century. Portrait of A. W. Hofmann. Quotations from William Henry Perkin"s description of Hofmann"s research is read over portrait of Hofmann and shots of recreation of the experiment described. Portrait of William Henry Perkin. Colin Russell describes Perkin"s work on aniline; experiments are recreated with Perkin"s words read over, and his importance in the dye industry recounted. Colin Russell summarized the programme.
Master spool number: 6HT/70983
Production number: 00525_3028
Videofinder number: 3362
Available to public: no