10 Popular Innovations Caused By Human Suffering

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4. The Treadmill Was A Torture Device For Prisoners

Photo credit: blogs.harvard.edu

Following the destruction of the Napoleonic Wars, England was in desperate need of a workforce. Prisons supplied a large crop of new workers. In 1817, Sir William Cubitt came up with the first treadmill, which was more like the modern stair-climber.

Prisoners walked on spokes that turned a giant wheel. Their momentum crushed grain, churned water, or powered mills—hence the name treadmill. These devices were excruciatingly painful. People would have to walk for six hours straight and climb a total of 4,300 meters (14,000 ft). That is almost half of Mount Everest every day for five days in a row.

Worse, if you did not move the wheel, you would fall off and the wheel would keep spinning. Prisoners were injured daily. These treadmills were outlawed in England as cruel and unusual punishment in 1898.[7] The treadmills at the gym may feel like torture because they once were.

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