From ancient tools to the latest digital advances, human inventions and technologies have shaped civilizations and transformed life on the Earth. As expectations and capabilities evolve, each new generation possesses its own set of innovative thinkers. Right from the invention of the wheel to the development of Mars rover, several inventions are revolutionary. Here are our top picks of important inventions:
The wheel stands out as the OG of engineering marvels. This primitive technology made it easier for all of us to travel. From the archeological excavations, the oldest known wheel is from Mesopotamia, around 3500 B.C. As a result of advancement in the new and innovative design of wheels, industrialization could take root. The wheel serves a vital purpose in our lives, and we couldn’t imagine the world without them.
Although the foundation to the modern car year was laid in 1886 by German inventor Karl Benz, Cars did not become widely available until the early 20th century. Henry Ford innovated mass-production techniques that became standard, with Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. However, he certainly wasn’t the only person to develop the horseless carriage. The history of the automobile reflects a worldwide evolution. Dozens of spin-off industries blossomed creating thousands of new jobs. Oil and steel became two well-established industries. Vehicle production and sales are one of the major indicators of the economic status. Moreover, it influenced the technological advances in petroleum refining, steel making, paint and plate-glass manufacturing, and other industrial processes.
The usage of tools started 2.6 million years back in Ethiopia. Anthropologists believe the use of tools became an important step in the evolution of mankind. Earlier materials such as sticks and stones made tools. The invention of machine tools advanced the industrial revolution. Imagine how would we build or maintain previous innovations without a handy hammer.
The energy we use today at home and office is a bright idea from more than 150 years ago. Pioneered in early 19th century by Humphry Davy, electric lights developed throughout the 1800s. Edison and Swan patented the first light bulb in 1879 and 1880. In the mid-1980s, CFLs hit the market. But the drawbacks such as high cost, bulky, low light output, and inconsistent performance made them less prominent. Currently, LEDs offer the best energy savings on the market. However, the invention of the bulb electrified new businesses. It also led to new energy breakthroughs such as power plants, electric transmission lines, home appliances etc.
Morse Code and Telegraph
The telegraph was developed around 1830 – 1840 by Samuel Morse and other inventors, which revolutionized long-distance communication. The electrical signals were transmitted by a wire laid between stations. In addition, Samuel Morse developed a code, called Morse code, for the simple transmission of messages across telegraph lines. Based on the frequency of usage, the code assigned a set of dots (short marks) and dashes (long marks) to English alphabet and numbers. The telegraph laid major foundations for modern conveniences like telephones and (some scholars argue) coding for the Internet.
Created for spiritual and navigational purposes, the earliest compasses were most likely invented by the Chinese in around 1050 BC. It was made of lodestones, which is a naturally magnetized iron ore. The invention of the electromagnet in 1825 lead to the development of the modern compass. The invention of the compass certainly helped modern navigation more than our GPS-needing culture could understand.
On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane. While flying machines had been dreamt up since da Vinci’s time, the Wright Brothers became the biggest successes. Beginning with gliders, the duo laid the foundation for modern aeronautical engineering. Additionally, new business boomed along with a number of people being trained to fly planes. The possibility to fly over thousands of miles in less time would not have been made possible if the aircraft were not invented.
Thomas Savery patented the first practical steam engine in 1698. Later in 1781, James Watt patented an improved steam engine and went on to fuel one of the most momentous technological leaps in human history during the Industrial Revolution. During the 1800s these engines lead through an improvement in transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing industries. Later, the steam engine’s basic principle set the stage for innovations like internal combustion engines and jet turbines, which prompted the rise of cars and aircraft during the 20th century.
Before the Internet’s ability to spread information, the printing press helped information travel throughout the globe. Developed around 1440 in Mainz, Germany, Johannes Gutenberg’s machine improved on already existing presses. By 1500 Gutenberg presses were operating throughout Western Europe with a production of 20 million copies. By 1600, they had created over 200 million new books.
From materials like livestock to precious metals and coins, currency took various forms throughout the history. Due to frequent shortages of coins, banks issued paper notes as a promise against payment of precious metals in future. The idea of using a light-weight substance as money originated in China during the Han Dynasty in 118 BC. Through travelers, Europe was introduced to this system in the 13th century. The switch to paper money relieved governments during crisis time. Thus, it changed the face of the global economy with a vital step in a new monetary system.
While the early ages used stone, bronze, and iron, it was steel that fired the industrial revolution. As per archaeological excavations, earliest known production of steel dates back to 4,000 years. The invention of Bessemer Process (a technique for creating steel using molten pig iron) paved the way for the mass production of steel, making it one of the biggest industries on the planet. Now steel is used in the creation of everything from bridges to skyscrapers.
The transistor is an essential component in nearly every modern electronic gadget. During 1926, Julius Lilienfeld patented a field-effect transistor, but the working device was not feasible. In 1947 John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley developed the first practical device at Bell Laboratories. It then won the trio 1956 Nobel Prize in physics. Transistors have become a fundamental piece of the circuitry in countless electronic devices including televisions, cell phones, and computers making a remarkable impact on technology.
Antibiotics saved millions of lives by killing and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch first described the Antibiosis (phenomena of antibiotic drug) in 1877. In 1928, Alexander Fleming set the first leap in antibiotics by identifying penicillin, the chemical compound with antibiotic properties. Throughout the 20th century, antibiotics spread rapidly and proved to be a major improvement, fighting nearly every known form of infection.
Major shoutout to the mechanical engineer Charles Babbage for laying the foundation to this remarkable and most reliable invention. In the early 19th century, the “father of the computer” conceptualized and invented the first mechanical computer. Although there’s no single inventor of the modern computer, the principle was proposed by Alan Turing in his seminal 1936 paper. Today, computers stand as the symbolic representation of the modern world.
Over the last 150 years, refrigeration offered us ways to preserve food, medicines, and other perishable substances. Before its conception, people cooled their food with ice and snow. James Harrison built the first practical vapor compression refrigeration system. However, the first widespread refrigerator was the General Electric “Monitor-Top” refrigerator of 1927. While it helped to rev up industrial processes, it became an industry itself.
The camera is undoubtedly one of the most cherished creations. Cameras have witnessed many phases of evolution – camera obscura, daguerreotypes, dry plates, calotypes, film to SLRs and DSLRs. In 1826, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a sliding wooden box camera made by Charles and Vincent Chevalier to click the first permanent photograph. With the technological advancements, Digital cameras were introduced to save pictures on the memory cards rather than using films.
The history of the digital camera began with Eugene F. Lally idea to take pictures of the planets and stars while traveling through space. Later, Steven Sasson a Kodak engineer invented and built the first digital camera in 1975. Though the digital camera ruled over the traditional camera, the most revolutionary aspect has been the advent of the camera phone. Now, every smartphone has an inbuilt camera. With the growing demand, video recording was also made a part of it. At present, the camera comes with inbuilt GPS system and real-time geotagging options. Freeze the great moments from your life in the form of photographs with better quality and superior handling digital camera.
During 1969, shortly after the creation of ARPANET, experimental email transfers between separate computer systems began. Before email, sending an important document overseas involves a chaotic process. Now communication is one click away. The first substantial use of email began in the 1960s. By mid-1970s, it had taken the recognized form. The present day most of the official business communication depends on email. Now, email is available on plenty friendly web interfaces by providers such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. This excellent medium of communication is well adopted by millions of people.
Unlike the bulb or the telephone, the Internet has no single “inventor” (sorry, Al Gore). Instead, it has evolved over time. It started in the United States around the 1950s, along with the development of computers. Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has had a revolutionary impact on technology, including the rise of electronic mail, instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls, and two-way interactive video calls. In 1991 Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web: a “web” of information that anyone on the Internet could retrieve.
During the dawn of 20th century, people paid for everything with cash. The idea of credit cards started around 1950 by Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara, founders of Diners Club, to consolidate multiple cards. While technology continues to advance, the idea of paying for everyday purchases with a card has now become the norm.
Telephone and Mobile Phones
“Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” On March 10, 1876, these were the first words spoken by telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell through his device to his assistant Thomas Watson. Telephone history conceivably started with the human desire to communicate far and wide. With the arrival of the mobile phone in the 1980s, communications were no longer restrained. The clever invention of cellular network supported the revolution of the telephone industry. Starting from bulky mobiles phones to ultrathin handsets, mobiles phones have covered a long way so far. John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper of Motorola demonstrated the first handheld device in 1973.