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WE HAVEN'T had our mode rn plumbing, our automatic heating, and our air conditioning ve ry long, and considering the obstacles that have impeded their development over the years, it's a wonder we have them at all. England, for example, once rated the burning of coal as a capital offense, and at least one Britisher was executed for the crime. So it's understandable that heating innovators may have become a bit timid. In France, advances in cooling rather than heating were blocked by the government.
When 16th century Frenchmen built a thriving business by carting tons of snow and ice from the mountains to chill their summer foods and make frozen delicacies, they might soon have progressed to air conditioning by the same means. But the icemen's taxes were boosted until the business collapsed, and artificial cooling was forgotten for another hundred years.
(More about the rigorous past of heating and cooling shortly.) Plumbing, on the other hand, made slow headway largely because our ancestors of long ago rarely took much interest in it. If they had they might have copied an almost incredible example 4,000 years ago. At that time, archaeologists now know, the plumbing in the Cretan palace of King Minos was so advanced it incorporated the most important features found in our plumbing codes today. Its sewerage system, for instance, was vented as required by modern health regulations.
Its toilets not only could be Hushed, but, like all present-day plumbing fixtures, were designed to seal out sewer gases. And, for a final master's touch, the te rra cotta water-supply pipes w'ere tapered to increase the How velocity at points where sediment might otherwise accumulate. But, along with the ancient culture that created them, all these things and their related ideas of sanitation, vanished.
If they had not, many of the great plagues of history might never have occurred; and, in addition to the name of King Minos, history might have recorded the name of his plumber. Though hygie nic refinements faltered and progress was slow, the watersupply aspects of plumbing eventually revived on a major scale. What was probably the first long-distance municipal water system was developed for Jerusalem by King Hezekiah in 727 B.C. To do it, he had his workmen tunnel a third of a mile through rocky hills to bring water from the Pool of Siloam to the city.
The finished job worked beautifully. To the ancient Romans, however, goes the credit for first supplying water in the truly grand manner. They not only did their plumbing on an unprecedented scale, but coined the word itself, and developed what was undoubtedly the first method of cheating the water company. Around Nero's heyday (34 to 68 A.D.) they were getting their water through as many as fourteen aqueducts with a total length of almost 360 miles.
Siphon systems lifted the How over hills, towering stone trestlework carried it across valleys. Approximately 130 million gallons a day poured into the city where more than 90 million gallons went into 247 reservoirs, nearly 40 decorative fountains, and close to 600 public watersupply basins operating around the clock. At the basins, official tenders supplied the Roman man in the street with his water on a fill-your-jug-for-cash basis.
And, as the business brought in a total close to $40,000 a year, shady characters occasionally found their way into it. As might be expected, they also found a way of boosting their profits by "beating the meter. " The "meter" in those days was simply a piece of pipe a little less than a foot long out of which water flowed constantly from the main.
As the meter pipe was made of soft lead not quite an inch in diameter, the slick water tenders simply enlarged it with a little prying on nights when things were slow. And from then on, they enjoyed a greater supply of water and a more rapid procession of customers than the city fathers had planned. So Rome's water officials had to switch from lead pipe to harder brass and bronze.
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