Technology develops at a dizzying pace. What may be considered state-of-the-art today may be cast aside as obsolete in just a few years. The wheel, however, has withstood the test of time. It has been in use for many centuries, revolutionizing human civilization and hastening the development of other life-improving tools.
Of course, today’s wheels look appreciably different than the oldest iterations. Historical evidence suggests that the first wheel was developed in 3500 BC in the Bronze Age. By this period, humans had already mastered domestication of animals and plants and were living within social hierarchies.
Evidence shows that the wheel and wheel axle were likely conceived before this, but its production was delayed due to the lack of metal tools required for fashioning the wheel. The first wheel was believed to be used in pot-making, instead of as a tool for transportation. The application of the wheel for transportation purposes came about 300 years after its invention.
While the people of Mesopotamia have been credited with inventing the wheel, the first images of the wheels being used in transportation have been traced to Poland and other places in Eurasia. There are conflicting theories about how the wheel spread to other parts of the world. The first theory was that the wheel was invented in Mesopotamia and brought by travelers to other parts of the globe. The other theory was that the wheel was invented simultaneously in various locations on Earth, with each inventor using the wheel for unique purposes. With time, these different civilizations found their way to the application of the wheel for transportation.
Wheels used for transportation were made of either wood or metal. It was only after the invention of the automobile that people began using rubber for tires. The first pneumatic tire was developed by Benz in 1888. The car used a unique metal tire covered with rubber and filled with air. Pneumatic tires became popular after they were featured in an automobile race from Paris to Bordeaux.
The development of the pneumatic tire was followed by numerous iterations of the rubber tire. The world today has a seemingly unlimited variety of tires. They come in different sizes, weights, and component materials and are used for a broad range of purposes. While the wheel has survived centuries of development, its features and capabilities continue to improve at breakneck speed.