Amazing, and occasionally unconventional, innovations have been conceived and made by humans. From the time when someone pounded a rock to create the first sharp-edged tool, to the invention of the wheel, to the development of Mars rovers and the Internet, several significant innovations stand out as exceptionally revolutionary. Here are our top recommendations for the most significant innovations of all time, as well as the science and history behind them.
Around 3,500 B.C., wheels were invented and rapidly spread over the Eastern Hemisphere. Before the creation of the wheel in 3500 BCE, humans were severely constrained in terms of how much and how far they could travel over land.
The wheel was not the most challenging aspect of “creating the wheel.” According to David Anthony, an anthropology professor at Hartwick College, when it came time to attach a stationary platform to the rolling cylinder, things got complicated.
Anthony previously told Live Science that the wheel-and-axle concept was a stroke of genius. However, producing it was similarly challenging. Specifically, he stated that the holes in the middle of the wheels and the ends of the fixed axles had to be approximately spherical and smooth.
The size of the axle and its fit into the hole were other crucial factors (not too tight, but not too loose, either).
The effort paid off handsomely. Wheeled carts improved agriculture and commerce by facilitating the transfer of commodities to and from markets and reducing the difficulties of long-distance travelers. Now, wheels are indispensable to our way of life, appearing in everything from clocks to automobiles to wind turbines.
This important invention dates back more than 2,000 years to the time of the Ancient Romans and was only conceivable when humanity learned to cast and shape metal. Previously, wood buildings were constructed by geometrically connecting adjacent boards, a far more laborious procedure.
According to the University of Vermont, before the 1790s and early 1800s, square iron rods were heated by a blacksmith and then hammered on all four sides to form a point (opens in new tab). The first nail-making machines appeared between the 1790s and the early 1800s.
In 1886, ten percent of U.S. nails were made from soft steel wire, according to the University of Vermont. This occurred after Henry Bessemer devised a method to mass-produce steel from iron. In 1913, 90 percent of nails produced in the United States were made from steel wire.
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According to David Blockley's book “Engineering: A Very Short Introduction,” the screw – a stronger but more difficult-to-insert fastener – was likely devised by the Pythagorean philosopher Archytas of Tarentum during the third century B.C. (Oxford University Press, 2012).
Ancient seafarers utilized the stars for navigating, but this approach was ineffective during the day and on overcast nights, making long-distance journeys hazardous.
The first compass was created in China during the Han dynasty between the 2nd century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. It was made of lodestone, a naturally-magnetized iron ore whose magnetic properties had been studied for years. Nevertheless, it was originally employed for navigation during the Song Dynasty, between the 11th and 12th centuries.
Soon after, the technology reached the West via maritime contact. The compass allowed mariners to safely navigate far from land, paving the way for global discovery and the eventual growth of global trade. The compass, an instrument that is still commonly used today, has profoundly altered our knowledge and comprehension of the Earth.
THE PRINTING PRESS
Between 1440 and 1450, German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The hand mold, a revolutionary molding process that enabled the rapid production of vast numbers of metal moveable types, was crucial to its development.
Gutenberg was the first to create a mechanized process for transferring the ink (which he made from linseed oil and soot) from the metal movable type to paper. Before him, inventors in China and Korea had created metal movable types, but Gutenberg was the first to create a mechanized process for transferring the ink (which he made from linseed oil and soot) from the metal movable type to paper.
With this process of movable type, printing presses dramatically improved the rate at which book copies could be produced, resulting in the first-ever rapid and extensive diffusion of knowledge. By 1500, the late historian Elizabeth L.
Eisenstein stated in her book “The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe” (Cambridge University Press, 2012), “printers' workshops could be found in every major urban center.” It has been estimated that as many as twenty million books had been printed in Western Europe by the year 1500, whereas Eisenstein argues that the number was closer to eight million.
The printing machine facilitated, among other things, greater access to the Bible, which led to alternative interpretations, including that of Martin Luther, whose “95 Theses,” a text printed by the thousand, ignited the Protestant Reformation.
THE INTERNAL COMPRESSION MOTOR
A type of internal combustion engine with four strokes. 1) Intake stroke – air and gasoline vapor are sucked into the engine. 2) Compression stroke – the compression and ignition of fuel vapor and air. 3) Power stroke – combustion of gasoline and piston compression. 4) Exhaust stroke – ex
In these engines, the burning of fuel produces a high-temperature gas that, upon expanding, exerts a force on the piston, causing it to move. Consequently, combustion engines transform chemical energy into mechanical labor. In the latter half of the 19th century, decades of engineering by a large number of scientists culminated in the development of the modern internal combustion engine.
The engine ushered in the Industrial Age and enabled the construction of numerous machines, such as contemporary automobiles and aircraft.
The steps of operation for a four-stroke internal combustion engine are depicted. The following are the strokes: 1) Intake stroke — air and gasoline vapor are sucked into the engine. 2) Compression stroke – the compression and ignition of fuel vapor and air. 3) Power stroke – the fuel is combusted and the piston is pushed downwards to generate power for the machine. 4) Exhaust stroke — exhaust is propelled out.
Drawing of Alexander Graham Bell's Telephone patent from 1876. The telephone was the first machine capable of transmitting the human voice.
Several inventors performed pioneering work on electrical voice transmission; several of whom later filed intellectual property cases when telephone use exploded; but, on March 7, 1876, the first patent for the electric telephone was granted to Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell (his patent drawing is pictured above).
According to historian A. Edward Evenson's book “The Telephone Patent Conspiracy of 1876: The Elisha Gray-Alexander Bell Controversy and Its Many Players,” three days later, Bell placed the first telephone call to his helper Thomas Watson, stating “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you” (McFarland, 2015).
The inspiration for the telephone came from Bell's family. According to Evenson, his father taught spoken elocution and specialized in teaching the deaf to talk, his mother, an outstanding pianist, lost her hearing later in life, and his wife Mabel, whom he married in 1877, was deaf since the age of five.
The invention spread rapidly and transformed worldwide business and communication. When Alexander Graham Bell passed away on August 2, 1922, telephone service in the United States and Canada was halted for one minute in his honor.
THE LIGHT BULB
The light bulb eliminated our dependency on natural light, allowing us to be productive at all hours of the day and night. Throughout the 1800s, other innovators contributed to the development of this breakthrough technology; but, Thomas Edison is acknowledged as the principal inventor because he built a fully functional lighting system, comprising a generator, wiring, and the carbon-filament bulb, in 1879.
In addition to launching the introduction of electricity in homes throughout the Western world, this invention had the fairly unforeseen effect of altering people's sleeping patterns. Instead of going to bed at nightfall (having nothing better to do) and sleeping in segments throughout the night, we now remain awake for the 7 to 8 hours allocated for sleep and, ideally, sleep all at once.
It is one of the most well-known discoveries in human history. In 1928, the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming observed an open Petri dish with bacteria in his laboratory. The sample had become contaminated with a fungus, and wherever the fungus was present, bacteria had died.
This antibiotic mold turned out to be the fungus Penicillium, and over the next two decades, chemists refined it and developed the medicine penicillin, which tackles a vast array of bacterial illnesses without harming people.
In 1944, penicillin was mass-produced and commercialized. Attached to a curbside mailbox, this poster instructed World War II servicemen to use the medicine to eliminate venereal disease.
According to a 2003 study published in the journal Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, approximately one in ten people suffer an allergic reaction to the antibiotic; however, the majority of these individuals can tolerate the medication.
Not only have birth control pills, condoms, and other forms of contraception sparked a sexual revolution in the developed world by allowing men and women to engage in sex for pleasure rather than reproduction, but they have also drastically reduced the average number of children per woman in countries where they are used.
With fewer mouths to feed, modern families have reached greater living standards and can provide for each child more adequately. Meanwhile, on a worldwide basis, contraceptives are helping to stabilize the human population, which will likely reach a steady state by the end of the century. Certain contraceptives, including condoms, also prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted illnesses.
Herbal and natural contraception have been used for centuries. Condoms or sheaths have existed in one form or another since ancient times, according to Jessica Borge's book “Protective Practices: A History of the London Rubber Company and the Condom Business” (McGill-University Queen's Press, 2020), while the rubber condom was invented in the 19th century.
In the meanwhile, the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive pill in the United States in 1960, and by 1965, over 6.5 million American women were using the pill, according to author Jonathan Eig's book “The Birth of the Pill: How Four Pioneers Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015).
Some laboratories are even researching a male form of “the pill” as scientists continue to make advances in contraception. Essure, a permanent birth control implant, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002; however, in 2016, the FDA warned that stronger warnings would be required to inform users of the implant's serious dangers.
A map of the Internet based on data available on opte.org on January 15, 2005. Each line connecting two nodes represents a pair of IP addresses. The length of the lines indicates the amount of time between two nodes. Creative Commons Credit |
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks used by billions of people around the world. In the 1960s, a group of computer scientists working for the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) created ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet, to connect the agency's computers.
It utilized “packet switching,” a method of data transport invented by computer scientist and team member Lawrence Roberts based on the work of other computer scientists.
According to computer scientist Harry R. Lewis's book “Ideas That Created the Future: Classic Papers of Computer Science,” this technology was advanced in the 1970s by scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, who developed the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which are essential communication protocols for the Internet (MIT Press, 2021). Consequently, Kahn and Cerf are frequently referred to as the “inventors of the Internet.”
Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist working at CERN, invented the World Wide Web in 1989, which contributed to the expansion of the Internet (The European Organization for Nuclear Research). According to CERN, “the fundamental concept behind the World Wide Web was to combine the growing technologies of computers, data networks, and hypertext into an effective and user-friendly worldwide information system.” The invention of the World Wide Web made the internet accessible to everyone and connected the world in a way that had never been possible before.
Throughout the previous two centuries, numerous individuals have utilized their information, talents, and experience to produce numerous innovations that have made the planet a much better place to dwell. These Discoveries and technologies have enhanced our level of living and allowed us to pursue personal and professional interests with more ease and success.