A History of the Transportation Revolution
Chapter title – Walking
Unlike many of the other revolutions in travel, walking cannot have a precise date attached to it as to when the first hominid stood upon its legs and walked upright. Scientists have not determined exactly when this occurred, or even an exact geographic location. This will probably never be known, as fossil records are incomplete, and the tremendous amount of time which has passed since it occurred. The oldest hominid fossil found to date which walked upright is the famous ‘Lucy’, discovered by American paleontologist Donald Johnson in East Africa, near the Red Sea. Lucy has been dated to about 3.1 million years old, and her species may not be the first hominids which walked upright.
Fundamental to Being Human
Most scientists agree that walking is fundamental to our development into the beings we are today. Scientists tell us the ability to walk has to do more with the curvature of the spine than any other physical characteristic. The human spine has a distinct ‘S’ curve to it that makes walking upright comfortable and natural to the human. No other animal has this physical feature. Apes can walk upright, but not for long periods, and are not comfortable doing so, scientists tell us. So walking upright is a uniquely human achievement among Earth’s creatures.
Science has not figured out how humans walk, let alone run. Studies on the interaction between the ankle, knee, muscles and tendons have resulted in increased understanding of how the leg works with such efficiency that produces the smooth stride that marks modern humans. Engineers are using the knowledge they accumulate to produce better prosthetics for amputees and to provide a smoother walking motion to robots.
Babies Learn to Walk
Regardless of how complex the operation of walking is, human babies begin experimenting with walking early and take their first steps sometime between nine and twelve months of age. The time can vary greatly, but children have mostly mastered the ability to walk by the time they are fourteen or fifteen months old. Babies learn to walk slowly, beginning by pushing their feet against a hard surface while an adult holds them upright under their arms. Over time, the child builds strength in their legs and can support themselves by standing. Bouncing the baby on their feet helps them build strength until finally, they take those first steps.
Primary Means of Transportation
Walking remained the primary mode of transportation for millions of years. Travel was slow, limited to the distance a person could walk. While walking, close watch had to be kept for predators seeking a meal. Walking remained an important means of transportation into relatively modern times. My grandfather often told about his teen years in the early 1900’s, walking behind a horse all day plowing or planting crops. Wanting to go to a dance on Saturday night, he would ask his father if he could borrow the horse to ride. He was always told, “The horse worked all day pulling a plow. It needs to rest. If you want to go to a dance, you can walk”. This, I was told, was a pretty common response. If you wanted to go somewhere, you walked.
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