Fire was used for numerous purposes. The first humans to control it
found it had applications for maintaining warmth, for cooking, for light,
for hunting (where it was used to drive prey) and to kill insects. Fire
was used to clear forests of shrubbery so that game could be more easily
hunted. It was also found that fire could be used to control the surrounding
vegetation, allowing the development of agriculture: brush and trees were
burned to provide field areas, and the ash produced served as a fertilizer.
This is known as slash-and-burn cultivation, it is still used today in
many temperate and tropical regions.
Fire was instrumental in the transition of Man's culture from hunter-gatherer to village dwelling farmer. Further uses of fire were developed to make pottery, to form copper and tin from their respective ores and their combination to form bronze (c.3000 BC), and later to form iron from iron III oxide (c.1000 BC).
Further technological development was enabled through greater control of fire and the application of its energy.
In western society today, direct contact with naked flames is no longer necessary for many individuals. Heat, warmth and light are commonly provided by electricity. Of course electricity is, mostly, generated from the combustion of fossil fuels. Combustion reactions also provide the energy to drive vehicles and for industrial processes. Combustion is, therefore, still central to Man's day-to-day activities. The provision of energy does not necessarily have to come from naked flames; there are numerous alternatives such as hydroelectric power, nuclear energy or geothermal energy. Throughout the world combustion is still the most widely used method of harnessing chemical energy for purposes of work - fossil fuels provide almost 90% of all the energy consumed today. Removed from the accoutrements of modern society, however, an individual still requires warmth and light and thus the ability to make fire is still important.
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