The satisfaction of human needs rests fundamentally on labor. Consequently, the more labor procurable at the lower cost in human energy, the greater is the human energy set free for other purposes such as enjoyment of leisure, progress and civilization.
Past civilizations were built up and supported largely on the backs of slaves maintained at a subsistence level. Modern civilization rests on the utilization of mechanical power, which, in an ever increasing degree, is made to do work formally done by human beings.
Revolutionary changes in the development and use of power have done more than any other factor to increase mankinds standard of living.
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The adoption of draft animals as a substitute for human labor was an extraordinary advance in the economy of primitive man. This change dates from prehistoric times. Draft animals performed heavy work on the farms, as well as providing power for transportation throughout the world during the entire period of recorded history. They were also employed by the Romans and later peoples in turning mills for grinding grain.
Comparatively little additional progress in the utilization of non-human power was made until the invention of steam-driven appliances for pumping water in the late 17th century. The Romans, however, are credited with the first use of the water wheel to turn grinding mills.
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