Bomb disposal has been critical for soldiers in wartime for hundreds of years, but the operation didn't get particularly scientific until the twentieth century. Here's a history of bomb disposal techniques since the dawn of World War II, right up into the present day.

Suit guard for a bomb opener, from Popular Science, January 1933

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

Dressed in his official costume, the German police officer charged with the responsibility of opening bombs found in the mail looks like an ancient warrior clad in armor. The mask and padding are designed to protect him if an explosion should occur, despite his delicate handling of an infernal machine. In the illustration above, a suspicious package is being opened.

(via Modermechanix)

A British army bomb disposal squad removing the detonator from an unexploded German bomb after an air raid during the Blitz, circa 1940

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A member of the bomb disposal squad investigating an unexploded bomb with the tip of a pickaxe, c. 1940

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Down 18 feet after a Japanese bomb, which dug into the air field of a New Guinea base shown Sept. 14, 1942, and didn't explode, went this member of an RAAF disposal crew.

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(Photo by AP/Edward Widdis)

A RAAF disposal crew winds a Japanese bomb on top of a winch to diffuse it and haul it away in a waiting truck after it struck an airfield at this New Guinea base in 1942 during World War II. The bomb dug itself 18 feet into the ground without exploding. The sign marks the spot where the bomb dug in, 12 feet headfirst, then six feet sideways.

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(AP Photo/Edward Widdis)

A bomb disposal party working on an enemy weapon dropped near Algiers, November 1942

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(via Wikimedia Commons/Imperial War Museums)

A British army bomb disposal squad digging round an unexploded 2000 pound German 'Hermann' bomb, which was found on the Shell Building site on the South Bank of the Thames, London, 7th April 1959

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

An anti-terrorist squad member investigates a report of a suspicious package, c. 1960

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(Photo by Sherman/Three Lions/Getty Images)

A Bosnian explosive disposal team practises land-mine clearance training in Sarajevo, Saturday October 26,1996

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(Photo by AP/Sava Radovanovic)

A Taiwanese soldier in a protective suit demonstrates bomb disposal technique during a military display for the media at an army base at Linkou, suburban Taipei, on May 30, 1997.

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(AP Photo/Eddie Shih)

Army Spc. Brian Morris takes a break in a military bomb detonation suit weighs 65 pounds, January 2002

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

New York Bomb Squad members leave a building on Varick Street near the Holland Tunnel after investigating a bomb scare on July 3, 2002

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Weber (right), an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron, assists Staff Sgt. Amber Goedde, an EOD technician with the 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron, in donning a bomb suit at Forward Operating Base Azizullah, Afghanistan, on May 6, 2011.

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(via Wikimedia Commons/Staff Sgt. Stephen Schester)

Secretary of the Army John McHugh tours Rapid Trident 2011, a multi-national airborne operation and field training exercise, Yavoriv, Ukraine, August 2011

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(via U.S. Army Europe Images)

An Afghan Army Counter IED (Improvised Explosive Device) specialist is pictured during a capabilities demonstration in Afghanistan, October 2011

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(via Wikimedia Commons/Sgt Steve Blake RLC)

Robots to disarm and defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs)

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

From Pickaxes to Robots: The Evolution of the Bomb Disposal Squad

(via Wikimedia Commons/Mate Airman Mandy McLaurin and defenseimagery)