10 Historical Challenges With Big Prizes That Spurred Great Innovations

Money has been a pushing cause behind some of history’s biggest innovations. Whether tinkering divided in labs or risking their lives in a new drifting contraption, people can turn intensely encouraged to solve formidable problems when they know there’s a vast esteem during a end.

10 Flax-Spinning Prize


If there was one male who accepted that cold, tough income is a absolute incentive, it was Napoleon. Throughout his reign, he promoted several contests to accelerate France’s economy and revoke a country’s coherence on European imports. He awarded 12,000 francs to Nicolas Appert for building a routine of canning food that recorded it longer.

Napoleon indifferent his many estimable endowment for a flax-spinning machine. In 1810, he announced a esteem of 1 million francs to a chairman who could digest a routine of spinning chronicle from flax fiber. This was a esteem with no time limitation that could have been won by anyone regardless of their nation of origin.

The competition lasted until 1813 and perceived around 80 submissions. Although contriver Philippe de Girard came closest to a operative model, he was never strictly awarded a prize. In financial trouble, Girard went to Austria where he hoped to benefit support and rise a operative spinning mill.

In 1817, he returned to France with a operative prototype, though Napoleon was no longer in power. When his successors didn’t respect a contest, Girard was forced to sell his obvious to England. However, his efforts were famous posthumously, and his descendants were awarded a pension.

9 Rainhill Trials


One of a defining components of a industrial array was steam power, that revolutionized travel. In a 1820s, work began in England on a Liverpool and Manchester Railway (LMR). It was going to be a initial open intercity railway to rest wholly on steam energy with no horse-drawn traffic. It was also going to be a softened travel choice to canals, that authorised for a carrying of load and passengers.

Suffice it to contend that a expectations for a railway were significant, though a success was wholly reliant on a locomotive used for a train. It indispensable to be stout and absolute adequate to lift a load several times a day. In Oct 1829, a Rainhill Trials were staged to find a best candidate. Five opposite engines competed on a lane that was 1.5 kilometers (1 mi) long.

Besides finishing a course, a locomotives had to belong to several guidelines. These enclosed regulating coke as fuel, carrying dual vigour reserve valves, and progressing boiler vigour underneath 50 pounds-force per inch. The personality of a competition would be awarded a esteem of £500.

Determining a personality was sincerely easy. Only one locomotive finished a course: a Rocket built by George Stephenson. He won a prize, and his Rocket was used when a LMR non-stop in 1830.

Prize income aside, Stephenson became one of a many successful locomotive builders in a decade to come. In England, he is remembered as a “Father of Railways.”

8 Turbine Prize


The industrial epoch in France was a duration that followed a time of misunderstanding and instability. In sequence for a nation to sojourn a European mercantile energy that was clever adequate to competition with a neighbors, France indispensable technological advancements to support a flourishing industries. That is since a French Society for a Encouragement of Industry was born.

One of a society’s initial ambitions was to find a softened choice to a waterwheel, something some-more complicated and fit that could be introduced on a vast blurb scale. In 1823, a multitude determined a Turbine Prize—a competition that rewarded a best new pattern with 6,000 francs.

In 1827, a immature operative named Benoit Fourneyron claimed a esteem with his new invention: a H2O turbine. Based on a pattern from Claude Burdin, Fourneyron’s invention became a initial blurb hydraulic turbine in a world.

Although this 6-horsepower turbine was considerable for a time, it wasn’t adequate for Fourneyron. He used a esteem income to continue his investigate and urge his design.

The finish outcome was a 60-horsepower Fourneyron turbine, that was finished in 1834. It functioned during 80 percent potency and became renouned via Europe and North America during a industrial era.

7 Schneider Trophy


Jacques Schneider was a 19th-century French nobleman with a passion for aviation. However, after a serious collision in 1910, he could no longer fly. Undeterred, he used his income to support this new courtesy by initial a Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (aka a Schneider Trophy).

Schneider believed that seaplanes were a destiny of aviation. In 1912, he announced a array of races over land and sea to establish that nation done a best seaplane. The personality would accept a Schneider Trophy and a income esteem value around £1,000.

The initial competition took place in 1913. Although several countries voiced interest, usually 4 planes took part, all of them French. The races were time trials, so speed was a pivotal to victory. But a planes also had to cover a certain stretch in hit with a sea and lay in H2O for hours though holding on liquid.

The initial competition was successful, and another eventuality was scheduled in 1914. This time, several countries participated and England took home a trophy. The nation that won 3 years in a quarrel would keep a Schneider Trophy permanently, and their pilots would accept an additional esteem value 75,000 francs.

Over a subsequent 17 years, there were 10 some-more races, that were dominated by England, Italy, and a US. The Brits won a esteem henceforth in 1931. The normal speed of a planes softened from 75 kilometers per hour (45 mph) in 1913 to 550 kilometers per hour (340 mph).

6 Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Prize


The boll weevil is a beetle that is local to Central America. Sometime during a late 19th century, a weevil done a approach from Mexico to a US, where it became a vital harassment since of a affinity for string buds and flowers. By a start of a 20th century, a boll weevil was already one of a many harmful blights on American agriculture.

Texas was a initial state influenced by a weevil. By 1903, a whole eastern partial of Texas had suffered stand rubbish due to boll weevil infestations. People simply didn’t know how to fight a insect.

Recently introduced to a US, a weevil valid resistant to a insecticides and customary harassment expulsion practices of a day. In 1899, US farmers altered adult a stand report so that it wouldn’t coincide with a weevil tact season. However, low temperatures, complicated rainfall, and one of a misfortune hurricanes in US story derailed that plan.

In 1903, Texas Governor Samuel Lanham announced a Boll Weevil Eradication Prize—a $50,000 prerogative for a invention of a device or pill to exterminate a pest. The invention had to be unsentimental adequate to be practical on a vast scale.

This esteem was seen as a unfortunate act or a stalling tactic. The competition usually lasted a few weeks. Despite receiving hundreds of proposals from Texas farmers, nothing of a entries were severely considered. The thought was to hoard open courtesy and track it to a state’s solutions.

5 Chicago Times-Herald Motor Prize


In 1895, a Chicago Times-Herald journal had a good thought to boost sales: They would theatre a initial vehicle competition in America. The personality would not usually make it into a story books though would also accept a $5,000 prize.

The judgment of automobiles was so new to Americans that they weren’t even certain what to call them. Part of a Chicago Times-Herald’s debate concerned coining a word for this new invention.

Suggestions enclosed “horseless carriage,” “automobile,” and “vehicle motor.” But a journal staid on “moto cycle” as a winning term. Regardless of either this was a Times-Herald’s goal or not, a competition did a lot to foster a automobile in America and spurred an courtesy in a decline stages.

The competition was creatively scheduled for Oct and was ostensible to go from Chicago to Milwaukee. However, it was after deferred to November, and a track was altered to a shorter 90 kilometers (55 mi) from Chicago to Evanston and behind again. Even so, usually 11 cars took partial in a competition out of a 80 or so that sealed up, and usually dual of them indeed finished a race.

The personality was Frank Duryea, who raced in a automobile designed and built by him and his brother, Charles. The dual of them founded a Duryea Motor Wagon Company usually a few months before to a race.

Based on their success, a Duryea brothers became a initial to furnish and sell automobiles in a US. Their success was derailed usually by a personal adversary between them.

4 Scientific American Prize


At a start of a 20th century, aviation garnered some-more seductiveness than any other industry. Many people and organizations upheld aviation by charity outrageous rewards to pioneering pilots.

The $25,000 Orteig Prize went to Charles Lindbergh for a initial solo transatlantic flight. William Randolph Hearst offering $50,000 for a initial transcontinental moody in reduction than 30 days. Finally, a Daily Mail offering around $100,000 in prizes for countless aviation firsts.

Compared to them, a Scientific American Prize seems a bit modest. It was value $2,500 and went to a initial aeroplane in America to fly true for 1 kilometer (0.6 mi). Since it was determined in 1908, it has a eminence of being a initial aviation competition in US history.

Aviation colonize Glenn Curtiss won it a same year, piloting his iconic plane, a Jun Bug. He flew it over Pleasant Valley for a stretch of over 1,500 meters (5,000 ft). This was 550 meters (1,800 ft) some-more than necessary. Besides winning a prize, Curtiss also gave us a initial preannounced, publicly celebrated moody in America.

Curtiss achieved many aviation firsts and warranted many rewards in a process. In 1909, he won a Bennett Cup offering by New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett for environment a new speed record of 75 kilometers per hour (47 mph).

In 1910, Curtiss won another Scientific American Prize as good as a $10,000 prerogative offering by New York World for completing a moody from New York City to Albany.

3 Phylloxera Prize


During a mid-19th century, France was cheerless by a Great French Wine Blight. A North American aphid famous as a grape phylloxera had been incorrectly brought into Europe, and it started wreaking massacre on vineyards. Although a name suggests that France was a usually nation influenced by a blight, vineyards all over Europe were ravaged by a aphids.

In 1873, a French supervision offering a esteem of 300,000 francs for a pill to a grape phylloxera infestation. Hundreds of suggestions poured in. Since they indispensable to be accurate by a Ministry of Agriculture, it took years to exam them. By 1876, over 1,000 ideas had been tested, though few showed any promise.

Initially, people didn’t even know what was causing a blight. Although a aphid was introduced to Europe someday in a early 1860s, it wasn’t until years after that botanist Jules-Emile Planchon identified it as a source of a problem.

American entomologist Charles Valentine Riley after reliable Planchon’s theory. Riley also valid that a European aphid and a one in North America were a same.

Eventually, this fulfilment led to a solution. Over a years, American rootstock had grown resistant to grape phylloxera. Two winegrowers named Leo Laliman and Gaston Bazille due that European vines grafted to American rootstock would be means to withstand a aphids.

Laliman attempted to explain a prize. But a supervision denied his explain since many people blamed him for being among those who had brought grape phylloxera to Europe in a initial place.

2 Sugar Beet Prize


Until a mid-19th century, sugarine was deliberate a cherished apparatus that was permitted usually to a wealthy. But in a comparatively brief time, sugarine became some-more permitted on a European marketplace mostly since of Napoleon.

During a Napoleonic Wars, a French personality was faced with a problem. France indispensable sugar, though England tranquil a sugarine trade by importing a profitable commodity from sugarcane plantations in a South Pacific.

Eager to minimize France’s coherence on English goods, Napoleon announced a esteem of 200,000 francs for an swap sugarine source. The esteem indeed focused on enlightening sugarine from grapes, that didn’t work well. However, a French did incidentally event on a suitable candidate: a sugarine beet.

As a story goes, French scientists brought Napoleon dual loaves done with sugarine beet in 1811. The czar was so tender that he immediately systematic 39,000 hectares of beets to be planted. By 1815, France had 79,000 acres of beets and hundreds of factories to labour a sugar.

Since a esteem was for sugarine from grapes, it was never awarded to anyone. Instead, Napoleon used a income to incentivize French farmers to grow sugarine beets.

Tobacco farmers were swayed to change their crops. Cattle farmers were shown how to use sugarine beet rubbish products as cattle feed. Finally, schools that taught a beliefs of beet cultivation were non-stop opposite France. By 1850, sugarine became an affordable commodity that was permitted to many of Europe.

1 The Magellanic Premium


The Magellanic Premium is a esteem that rewards poignant contributions to a fields of navigation, astronomy, or healthy philosophy. It can be seen as a useful messenger to a Nobel Prize since a latter doesn’t cover these areas. But there are some differences.

For starters, a Magellanic Premium is 100 years older. Moreover, winners of this esteem don’t accept a income prerogative though rather a good bullion medal. Lastly, a Magellanic Premium has no despotic schedule. Prizes are awarded usually when a need arises. In fact, there have usually been 33 recipients of a Magellanic Premium during a 230-year life span.

Despite rewarding exploration, a esteem is not named in respect of Ferdinand Magellan. It is indeed named after 18th-century healthy philosopher Jean-Hyacinthe Magellan who donated 200 guineas to a American Philosophical Society in 1786 to set adult a award. The “nuts bolts” of a esteem were afterwards determined by Benjamin Franklin, a boss of a American Philosophical Society during a time.

In 1790, a initial esteem was awarded to Francis Hopkinson. This also done a Magellanic Premium a oldest endowment in America that was awarded for systematic achievement. A signer of a Declaration of Independence, Hopkinson won a esteem for describing a new open retard to support in sailing.

In 2014, Alar Toomre, an Ethiopian-American astronomer, won a esteem for his simulations of a interactions of galaxies.

Radu is into scholarship and uncanny history. Share a believe on Twitter, or check out his website.


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