Fibres, Sutures and Surgical Dressings - History

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Fibres, Sutures and Surgical Dressings

The use of natural fibres for textile materials began before recorded history. The oldest indication of fibre use is probably the discovery of flax and wool fabrics at excavation sites of the Swiss lake dwellers (seventh and sixth centuries B.C.).


HISTORY

 

 

The use of natural fibres for textile materials began before recorded history. The oldest indication of fibre use is probably the discovery of flax and wool fabrics at excavation sites of the Swiss lake dwellers (seventh and sixth centuries B.C.). Several vegetable fibres were also used by prehistoric peoples. Hemp, presumably the oldest cultivated fibre plant, originated in Southeast Asia, then spread to China, where reports of cultivation date to 4500 B.C. The art of weaving and spinning linen was already well developed in Egypt by 3400 B.C., indicating that flax was cultivated sometime before that date. Reports of the spinning of cotton in India date back to 3000 B.C. The manufacture of silk and silk products originated in the highly developed Chinese culture; the invention and development of sericulture (cultivation of silkworms for raw-silk production) and of methods to spin silk date from 2640 B.C.

With improved transportation and communication, highly localized skills and arts connected with textile manufacture spread to other countries and were adapted to local needs and capabilities. New fibre plants were also discovered and their use explored. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution encouraged the further invention of machines for use in processing various natural fibres, resulting in a tremendous upsurge in fibre production. The introduction of regenerated cellulosic fibres (fibres formed of cellulose material that has been dissolved, purified, and extruded), such as rayon, followed by the invention of completely synthetic fibres, such as nylon, challenged the monopoly of natural fibres for textile and industrial use. A variety of synthetic fibres having specific desirable properties began to penetrate and dominate markets previously monopolized by natural fibres. Recognition of the competitive threat from synthetic fibres resulted in intensive research directed towards the breeding of new and better strains of natural-fibre sources with higher yields, improved production and processing methods, and modification of fibre yarn or fabric properties. The considerable improvements achieved have permitted increased total production, although natural fibres’ actual share of the market has decreased with the influx of the cheaper, synthetic fibres requiring fewer man hours for production.

 

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