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Robert Stokke, age 12, of Otis Orchards

How did early man discover fire?

For a long time, mankind was terrified of fire: He knew only the fireslit by nature, Whenever nature lights a fire she does it on a grand scale. Erupting volcanoes spew forth sparks and molten lava. Lightning strikes a tree and starts a forest fire which destroys all before it dies out.  Many times, the human family must have fled before such terrifying fires.

But people were always curious. They went back to look over the charred forests. There they found roasted meat: Some bold fellows tasted it. Others copied them. Why, this is much better than raw meat, they thought, Those terrible flames are good for something ‑ they can cook.

Later the climate changed and the bitter Ice Ages came.  Human beings remembered something else about the terrible fires. They gave off heat, certainly  some of that heat would be welcomed in the bitter weather. If only nature would start a little fire ‑ a small volcano, a small forest fire,

Well, mankind has never been one to sit around waiting for what he wants to happen. Early men figured out that fire fed on wood. Without food it died. They know then that if they had a little fire they could control it. All they had to do was to give it just enough food to keep it alive.

This same idea came to groups of early men in far scattered places, Some solved it one way, some another. Around the Mediterranean there were smouldering volcanoes. In. this region, early man most likely got his first fire from such a place. Some hero scaled the volcano and let himself down into the hot crater. He lighted a stick and came forth with the great gift of fire.

Other peoples noticed that sparks flew from certain stones, They struck flint stones together until a spark started a little blaze. Once he had it controlled, early man made the best of his precious fire. It was never allowed to go out. It was carefully carried from place to place.

The use of fire was discovered before the dawn of history.  There were no reporters to write up the famous events But the story of the great gift was handed down from parent to child. Each group of people had their own account of who discovered the use of fire for mankind. The Greek children were told that Prometheus stole it for them from heaven. The Norse and even the American Indians have tales of their own fire‑giving heroes.

The tales may be exaggerated. Prometheus was probably the ancient hero who went down the volcano. But could you ask for a great hero? Or could you ask for a greater genius than the ancient fellow who first made a fire by striking flint?

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