The Industrial Revolution was a transformation of human life circumstances that occurred in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (roughly 1760 to 1840) in Britain, the United States, and Western Europe due in large measure to advances in the technologies of industry. The Industrial Revolution was characterized by a complex interplay of changes in technology, society, medicine, economy, education, and culture in which multiple technological innovations replaced human labor with mechanical work, replaced vegetablesources like wood with mineral sources like coal and iron, freed mechanical power from being tied to a fixed running water source, and supported the injection of capitalist practices, methods, and principles into what had been an agrarian society.

The Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in human history, comparable to the invention of farming or the rise of the first city-states—almost every aspect of daily life and human society was, eventually, in some way altered. As with most examples of change in complex systems, the transformation referenced by “Industrial Revolution” was really a whole system effect wrought through multiple causes, of which the technological advances are only the most apparent.

The First Industrial Revolution merged into the Second Industrial Revolution around 1850, when technological and economic progress gained momentum with the development of steam-powered ships and railways, and later in the nineteenth century with the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation. The torrent of technological innovation and subsequent social transformation continued throughout the twentieth century, contributing to further disruption of human life circumstances. Today, different parts of the world are at different stages in the industrial revolution with some of the countries most behind in terms of industrial development being in a position, through adopting the latest technologies, to leapfrog over even some more advanced countries that are now locked into the infrastructure of an earlier technology.