The human species has lived on Earth for thousands upon thousands of years, a length of time that is quite insignificant when considering the world itself is over four billion years old. That reality however, does not take away from the fact that the world has seen a multitude of innovations at the hands of our species. Humans have always been inventors and innovators, ever since the time of our earliest ancestors, who created the world’s first invention when they took sharp-edged rock fragments and used them as cutting and hunting tools. Since that time, humans have gone on to create some truly revolutionary things, things like the car, the microscope, photography, the space shuttle, and the Mars rover.
Those inventions just mentioned, are just a handful of the inventions that humans have created, inventions which not only drastically changed our way of life, but also changed the world itself on a global scale. Here is a list of 18 inventions that changed the world.
The idea of humans using a machine to fly, existed since before and after the time of Leonardo Da Vinci, with many inventors attempting to achieve the feat. It was not until 1903 however, that the first airplane was invented and flown by the Wright brothers. Since 1903, the airplane has been modified numerous times to give us the aircrafts we are accustomed to today. The invention of the airplane did indeed change an aspect of warfare, but more importantly, it changed transportation forever. It allowed large numbers of people to resettle all around the world, and it made it much easier to travel to other countries or cities for business and vacations; it also greatly influenced the expansion and strengthening of world trade.
In 2016, we take a lot of things for granted, and indoor plumbing is one them. For most of human history, people in large populated areas would simply relieve themselves in some sort of pot or medieval porta-potty and toss their excrement out a window, or they would simply just do it right there in streets. The Romans were the first real civilization to introduce a form of plumbing with their aqueducts, which delivered drinking and bathing water to its citizens. Modern day indoor plumbing is a vast improvement on Rome's aqueducts, and it is without a doubt one of the world’s most under-appreciated saviors; as its ability to carry off fecal matter and provide running water, has caused a dramatic decrease in diseases associated with poor sanitation conditions, such as cholera, diphtheria, typhoid and polio.
16 Hydraulic Power Networks
In 1812, Joseph Bramah created the first ever hydraulic power network, an invention that has been improved upon many times over the past two hundred years. A hydraulic power network is a system of high pressure water mains which allows machines to operate other machinery with a lot more strength while also requiring a lot less effort than machines that are manually operated by people. This invention helped to totally transform the manufacturing sector, by making the production of goods faster and more efficient.
15 The Nail
Go to any hardware store, and you will find one of the oldest and most commonly used inventions that mankind has ever created. The nail, is actually quite the revolutionary invention, as it helped change the way that things, primarily households, were constructed. It was invented over 2000 years ago in Ancient Rome, after people were capable of casting and shaping metal. Prior to the existence of the nail, structures made of wood were harder, and took more time to construct, as the process required “interlocking adjacent boards geometrically.” The nail may have changed visually over the centuries, with different sizes and grooves, but its widespread usage and importance has remained the same since Ancient Rome.
14 The Compass
The compass was invented between the 9th and 11th century somewhere in China, and it revolutionized navigational travel. The first compasses were made from a naturally-magnetized iron ore called lodestone, and they were passed on to Europeans and Middle Easterners shortly after its creation via interactions at or around sea. Prior to the invention of the compass, ancient sailors had to use the stars to navigate, a method that was dangerous during the day and cloudy nights. After being invented, sailors were able to navigate the sea much safer than before, and this increased security led to a large increase in sea trade and helped to fuel the European expansion into North and South America.
13 The Gun
The gun is one of the most dangerous and deadly things to have ever been invented. The first identified “gun” came in the form of a bamboo tube which used gunpowder in 10th century China, and since then, guns have changed dramatically, from muskets, to revolvers, to machine guns, and semi-automatics. Guns are the most used weapon in the world, because of how easy they are to use, and their availability, making it a very profitable product for those who manufacture it. This invention completely revolutionized warfare, as it was, and still is, capable of inflicting massive damage to enemy numbers in a short amount of time.
For a long time, people needed to heavily salt or pickle their food in order to keep it from going bad or growing some kind of mold. Thankfully, someone came along and had the good idea of placing food into a confined space near a river or lake, and packing that space full of winter ice and snow. Those spaces would go on to become the refrigerators we use today. Refrigeration has had quite the impact on our society, as it not only allows supermarkets to keep the produce we buy chilled and fresh longer, but it also allows food to be exported to other countries in trucks or planes, which also greatly promotes trade.
11 The Printing Press
The written word has been around for a long time, but for a significant portion of that time, many of the people who were actually capable of reading literature were religious officials and members of the society’s wealthy upper-class. The invention of the printing press changed all of that though, as it would go on to help spread literacy to all the social classes throughout the world. Thanks to the printing press, large amounts of books were able to be produced with great rapidity, bringing down their prices to more affordable levels, it also helped to spread religion with the mass production of bibles; and it allowed people to become more educated and informed in regards to things like voting decisions and revolutionary independence.
10 The Steam Engine
A steam engine is a heat engine which uses steam in order to make machines work. The steam engine came into being sometime in the 1700s, and it was truly revolutionary in its day; its very existence in fact helped lead to another invention that changed the world, but more on that later. World trade and and tourism were the things that benefited the most from this invention, as it was heavily used in both trains and ships, and ultimately made travel between regions easier and faster.
It is widely believed that vaccination began in 1798, when physician and scientist Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids (women who milked dairy cows) who had been infected with Cowpox, were immune to Smallpox. Jenner discovered that if a small amount of a virus was injected into the body, then the body would produce antibodies which would cause the body to become immune to a specific disease; this discovery led to the creation of the Smallpox vaccine and the entire field of immunology. This invention was literally a lifesaver, as vaccination is directly responsible for drastically lowering death rates by making most people around the world immune to other common deadly diseases such as tuberculosis, tetanus, and polio.
8 The Internal Combustion Engine
The invention of the steam engine eventually led to the creation of the internal combustion engine in the 1858. This invention is a heat engine which requires a small combustion between a fuel (gasoline or diesel) and an oxidizer (generally air) which produces a direct force to a part of the engine which then causes the engine to move a certain distance. It took multiple scientists many years to finally create the internal combustion engine, and it has undergone many modifications since then, with the result being that it helped create other more varied machine based inventions, including all modern day cars and aircrafts.
7 The Lightbulb
Many inventors were in fact trying to create incandescent lightbulbs during the 1800s, but thanks to his creating a fully operational lighting system complete with a generator, wiring, and carbon-filament bulb, Thomas Edison takes most of the credit. The lightbulb is an invention that is literally used daily by nearly everyone on the planet, and it has had a major impact in people’s daily lives since its creation. It allows people to work at night, whereas pre-1800 most productivity ended when the sun went down; it has also saved many lives on the roads as they provide extra visibility for drivers. Lightbulbs have even changed our sleeping patterns, because instead of people going to bed when the sun goes down, people now usually go to sleep for a determined amount of time only after turning off the lights.
For many of you, this is probably the most important invention in all of human history, and it may very well be, but one thing is for sure, it is one of the most important. Contraception has existed for over a thousand years in the form of herbal and other natural methods, while more modern contraceptives like condoms came into being in the 18th century, and the pill in the late 1930s. The impact that this invention has had on the world is pretty simple, yet very significant, as it has greatly reduced the population growth of our species and prevented many unwanted pregnancies. It has also allowed modern families to reach higher living standards as fewer of their economic resources are spent on multiple children. Contraception methods such as condoms have also helped in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
5 The Telephone
Much like the lightbulb, there were many inventors working on electronic voice transmission, but it was Alexander Graham Bell who ended up being awarded the patent for the electronic telephone in 1876. The telephone revolutionized communication as we know it, and contributed heavily to the growth of global business, as prior to its existence, the main forms of communication were mostly letters and telegraphs. The telephone has drastically changed since 1876, and now nearly every person has one in the palm of their hand in the form of a cell phone, and it is important to consider the fact that if the telephone had not been invented, our precious cell phones may have never been born.
4 The Computer
You can find the modern day computer in nearly every home in the world, even our phones operate as miniature computers now. It did not use to be like that though, as computers used to be very expensive, and were mostly used by businesses, government offices, and wealthier individuals. In today’s world, many major systems are dependent on computers, with security, banking, and even medical systems being some examples. The computer, and the field of computer programming, have has also led to advancements in gaming consoles and robotics.
In 1928, a scientist named Alexander Fleming came upon one of the world’s greatest inventions completely by accident. While in his lab, Fleming noticed that a petri dish which had accidentally been left open, had become contaminated with a a type of mold that killed off all other bacteria around it. That mold was known as Penicillium, and for 20 years after this discovery was made, chemists purified the mold and turned it into the drug we now know as penicillin. Penicillin is quite possibly the medical field’s most important invention of all time, as many modern day drugs are based on it, making it responsible for saving countless people from dying from disease.
2 The Wheel
The invention of the wheel marked a turning point for the human race, as it completely revolutionized transportation. It is believed that the wheel was invented sometime around 3500 B.C., and before that, people were only able to travel by foot or by boat, methods that limited travel time, and which also limited the amount of things people could carry over land. The wheel, once it was combined with the axle, led to a multitude of breakthroughs in regards to transportation, starting with carts, then horse drawn chariots and carriages, and eventually automobiles. The wheel has also changed our lives in other ways, as versions of it (gears) allow clocks and modern day turbines to function.
The invention that has changed the entire world the most, is undoubtedly the internet. Many people helped to create the internet, but computer scientist Lawrence Roberts gets most of the credit. He and his team were tasked by the U.S. Defense Department in the 1960s to develop a communications network that would connect all of the department’s computers; this network was called ARPANET, and it was what that network that the internet was based off of. Now, the internet is everywhere and used by billions of people across the globe, and its ability to rapidly share information over multiple platforms and countries has completely changed the world. It has become a quintessential educational tool, and it has changed how businesses, governments, and even entire societies operate. If it were not for the internet, there would be no Facebook, no Twitter, no Snapchat, no easily accessible adult entertainment, and it would have been far more difficult for you to read this list.