Compared to the previous years that we’ve investigated – 1914 and 1915 – there were very few concrete scientific or technological advancements in 1916. Here are the main developments that year:

The hydrophone sinks ships

With the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, it was clear that technology was required for the detection of icebergs. By 1914, Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden had created a sonar system which enabled icebergs to be identified and also allowed submarines to locate one another. Physicist Paul Langevin built on the work of Fessenden to create the hydrophone, a higher frequency ultrasound machine. The crucial advance was that the device could detect the direction of a body in addition to its presence. The result was the first sinking of a U-boat after detection by a hydrophone on 23 April 1916. A trawler named Cherio detected the German U-boat UC3 in the Atlantic, sinking it with depth charges within minutes. Read more on the BBC website.

A tank is first deployed on the battlefield

The Battle of the Somme is notorious for its appalling casualty rate, but is also notable for being the first place where a tank was used on a battlefield. On 15th September, the British army deployed forty tanks against the German forces at Flers Courcelette in France. Some of the tanks suffered mechanical failure and others were too slow, but around a third of the tanks made it across no man’s land to the German lines. The tanks used at the Somme were too small in number to make a difference to the battle’s outcome, but important feedback was gained on their design. An order for 1,000 tanks was placed by the British, and technical developments improved the tank’s armour and engine power. Read more on the History website.

Exploring outside the scientific arena…

In other fields, 1916 produced more notable events:

BMW is established

In March 1916, the Flugmaschinenfabrik Gustav Otto company merged with Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke AG to form Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. The company adopted its distinctive blue and white propeller logo (the colours of the Bavarian national flag) the following year, but it wasn’t until 1929 that the company began to manufacture automobiles. Until then, the focus had been on producing motorbikes, aircraft engines and industrial engines. Read more on the BMW website.

Irish republicans rebel against British rule

The Easter Rising occurred on Easter Monday 1916, when Irish dissidents rose up against British rule and established an independent Irish Republic. Activists seized key locations in Dublin, with skirmishes in other parts of the country. However, after six days the republicans, overwhelmed by the better-resourced British forces, surrendered. Read more on Wikipedia.

Daylight Saving Time is used nationally

The idea of putting clocks forward during the summer months was adopted by separate provinces in Canada a few years earlier, but Daylight Saving Time (DST) was first implemented on a nationwide basis by Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1916. The main incentive was that adopting DST would help to conserve coal during the First World War (1914-18). According to Wikipedia, “Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year and the United States adopted it in 1918”. Read more on timeanddate.com.

Rasputin is assassinated

Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin was murdered in 1916. A controversial figure, Rasputin was an influential associate of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, and his family. After being accused of a range of offences, including religious heresy and an inappropriate relationship with the Tsar’s wife, Rasputin survived an assassination attempt in 1914. In December 1916, his body was found with bullet wounds in the Malaya Nevka river but, despite many theories, no one stood trial for his murder. Read more on Wikipedia.

The National Park Service is incorporated

Until August 1916, America’s national parks were individually managed by the Department of the Interior. The new National Park Service was created on 25th August by the National Park Service Organic Act “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations”. Since the inception of the Service, its scope has grown in size to the management of more than 400 areas. In additional to National Parks, these include monuments, trails, battlefields and coastline. Read more on the National Park Service website.

Further reading

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