Humans are an ingenious species. Inventions and discoveries have changed the primitive way of living for humans and have brought a significant change in the world we see today from what the world used to be. Thanks to certain inventions, we have been able to reach the moon, travel in airplanes, cook food using electricity and send messages to people living oceans apart.
Out of the hundreds of inventions of all times, there are a few which are definitely more significant than the others. So here’s a look at the 10 best inventions of all times:
Paper was invented in ancient China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and spread slowly to the west via the Silk Road. Papermaking and manufacturing in Europe was started by Muslims living on the Iberian Peninsula, (today's Portugal and Spain) and Sicily in the 10th century, and slowly spread to Italy and Southern France reaching Germany by 1400. Earlier, other paper-like materials were in use including papyrus, parchment, palm leaves and vellum, but all of these were derived from raw materials which were expensive or in limited supply, or required extensive hand-processing to produce a satisfactory finish. Paper, being made from wood or rags, could be produced anywhere, and once large scale production techniques had been developed it could be manufactured in almost any quantity at moderate cost.
#9. The compass
Ancient mariners navigated by the stars, but that method didn't work during the day or on cloudy nights, and so it was unsafe to voyage far from land.
The Chinese invented the first compass sometime between the 9th and 11th century; it was made of lodestone, a naturally-magnetized iron ore, the attractive properties of which they had been studying for centuries. (Pictured is a model of an ancient Chinese compass from the Han Dynasty; it is a south-indicating ladle, or sinan, made of polished lodestone.) Soon after, the technology passed to Europeans and Arabs through nautical contact. The compass enabled mariners to navigate safely far from land, increasing sea trade and contributing to the Age of Discovery.
#8. printing press
We believe that the man who invented the printing press was Johann Gutenberg in the 1430s, actually he improved pre-existing technologies and made them useful and efficient enough to become popular. The world already had paper and block printing -- the Chinese had them as early as the 11th century -- but the complexity of their language limited popularity. Marco Polo brought the idea to Europe in 1295.
Gutenberg combined the idea of block printing with a screw press (used for olive oil and wine production). He also developed metal printing blocks that were far more durable and easier to make than the hand-carved wooden letters in use previously. Finally, his advances in ink and paper production helped revolutionize the whole process of mass printing.
The printing press allowed enormous quantities of information to be recorded and spread throughout the world. Books had previously been items only the extremely rich could afford, but mass production brought the price down tremendously. The printing press is probably responsible for many other inventions, but in a more subtle way than the wheel. The diffusion of knowledge it created gave billions of humans the education they needed to create their own inventions in the centuries since.
Prior to the invention of the steam engine, most products were made by hand. Water wheels and draft animals provided the only 'industrial' power available, which clearly had its limits. The Industrial Revolution, which is perhaps the greatest change over the shortest period of time in the history of civilization, was carried forward by the steam engine.
The concept of using steam to power machines had been around for thousands of years, but Thomas Newcomen's creation in 1712 was the first to harness that power for useful work (pumping water out of mines, for the most part). In 1769, James Watt modified a Newcomen engine by adding a separate condenser, which vastly increased the steam engine's power and made it a far more practical way to do work. He also developed a way for the engine to produce rotary motion, which may be just as important as the efficiency gains. Thus, Watt is often considered the inventor of the steam engine.
Newcomen's and Watt's engines actually used the vacuum of condensing steam to drive the pistons, not the pressure of steam expansion. This made the engines bulky. It was the high-pressure steam engine developed by Richard Trevithick and others that allowed for steam engines small enough to power a train. Not only did steam engines power factories that made the rapid production of goods possible, they powered the trains and steamships that carried those goods across the globe.
While the steam engine has been eclipsed by electric and internal combustion engines in the areas of transport and factory power, they're still incredibly important. Most power plants in the world actually generate electricity using steam turbines, whether the steam is heated by burning coal, natural gas or a nuclear reactor.
#6. The telephone
Though several inventors did pioneering work on electronic voice transmission (many of whom later filed intellectual property lawsuits when telephone use exploded), Alexander Graham Bell was the first to be awarded a patent for the electric telephone in 1876. The invention quickly took off, and revolutionize global business and communication.
It's one of the most famous discovery stories in history. In 1928, the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming noticed a bacteria-filled Petri dish in his laboratory with its lid accidentally ajar. The sample had become contaminated with a mold, and everywhere the mold was, the bacteria was dead. That antibiotic mold turned out to be the fungus Penicillium, and over the next two decades, chemists purified it and developed the drug Penicillin, which fights a huge number of bacterial infections in humans without harming the humans themselves.
Penicillin was being mass produced and advertised by 1944. This poster attached to a curbside mailbox advised World War II servicemen to take the drug to rid themselves of venereal disease.
#4. The light bulb
If there's a common theme to this list, it's that no major invention came from a single stroke of genius from a single inventor. Every invention is built by incrementally improving earlier designs, and the person usually associated with an invention is the first person to make it commercially viable. Such is the case with the light bulb. We immediately think of Thomas Edison as the electric light bulb's inventor, but dozens of people were working on similar ideas in the 1870s, when Edison developed his incandescent bulb. Joseph Swan did similar work in Britain at the time, and eventually the two merged their ideas into a single company, Ediswan.
The bulb itself works by transmitting electricity through a wire with high resistance known as a filament. The waste energy created by the resistance is expelled as heat and light. The glass bulb encases the filament in a vacuum or in inert gas, preventing combustion.
You might think the light bulb changed the world by allowing people to work at night or in dark places (it did, to some extent), but we already had relatively cheap and efficient gas lamps and other light sources at the time. It was actually the infrastructure that was built to provide electricity to every home and business that changed the world. Today, our world is filled with powered devices than we can plug in pretty much anywhere. We have the light bulb to thank for it.
Traveling by ship was okay. But traveling by air has proved to be much better. To get to other foreign destinations faster, the best way today is by plane and we owe it to the Wright brothers who had invented it back in 1903 when they had successfully made the first sustained flight. Abbas Ibn Firnas back in the 9th century had made his own attempts but they weren’t able to last. Only the Wright brothers were able to give way to the birth of the modern winged aircrafts.
A computer is a machine that takes information in, is able to manipulate it in some way, and outputs new information. There is no single inventor of the modern computer, although the ideas of British mathematician Alan Turing are considered eminently influential in the field of computing. Mechanical computing devices were in existence in the 1800s (there were even rare devices that could be considered computers in ancient eras), but electronic computers were invented in the 20th century.
Computers are able to make complicated mathematical calculations at an incredible rate of speed. When they operate under the instructions of skilled programmers, computers can accomplish amazing feats. Some high-performance military aircraft wouldn't be able to fly without constant computerized adjustments to flight control surfaces. Computers performed the sequencing of the human genome, let us put spacecraft into orbit, control medical testing equipment, and create the complex visual imagery used in films and video games.
If we only examine these grandiose uses of computers, we overlook how much we rely on them from day to day. Computers let us store vast amounts of information and retrieve a given piece of it almost instantly. Many of the things we take for granted in the world wouldn't function without computers, from cars to power plants to phones.
#1. The Internet
It really needs no introduction: The global system of interconnected computer networks known as the Internet is used by billions of people worldwide. Countless people helped develop it, but the person most often credited with its invention is the computer scientist Lawrence Roberts. In the 1960s, a team of computer scientists working for the U.S. Defense Department's ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) built a communications network to connect the computers in the agency, called ARPANET. It used a method of data transmission called "packet switching" which Roberts, a member of the team, developed based on prior work of other computer scientists. ARPANET was the predecessor of the Internet.