The Advertiser Mirror asked a dozen scientists, historians and members of the tech industry to rank the most important innovations in history since the wheel. Here are the results:
1. The printing press, 1430
It was mentioned by 10 of our 12 experts, five of whom ranked it among the three most important inventions in history. Dyson writes his invention as the tipping point at which “knowledge began to replicate freely and rapidly, and took on a life of its own.”
2. Electricity, 19th century
And there was light and most of the rest of modern life.
3. Penicillin, 1928
It was discovered accidentally in 1928, although antibiotics were not widely distributed until after World War II, when they became the silver bullet for a large number of previously deadly diseases.
4. Semiconductor electronics, mid-20th century
It is the physical basis of the virtual world.
5. Optical lenses, 13th century
The refraction of light through glass is one of those simple ideas that inexplicably took a long time to catch on. The Romans had a glass industry. Even a passage from Seneca talks about the optical effects of a glass bowl of water. But it was centuries later that the invention of glasses dramatically raised the collective human intelligence index, eventually leading to the creation of the microscope and telescope.
6. Paper, 2nd century
Previously stamped images were common, but until the invention of paper, they were financially unaffordable.
7. The internal combustion engine, in the late 19th century
The air-fuel mixture would replace the steam engine in the future.
British physician Edward Jenner used the smallpox virus vaccine to protect against the disease itself in 1796, but it was not until Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine against rabies in 1885 that medicine and governments did not begin to accept the idea of that making someone sick could prevent disease.
9. Internet, 1960
The infrastructure of the digital age.
10 The Steam Engine of 1712
They supplied power to factories, trains and ships which led to the Industrial Revolution.
11. Nitrogen fixation, 1918
German chemist Fritz Haber won the Nobel Prize for his development of the ammonia synthesis process, which was used to create a new class of fertilizers that sparked the green revolution.
12. Sanitation systems, mid-19th century
One of the main reasons we live 40 years longer than we did in 1880.
13. Refrigeration, 1850
Discovering how cold weather was going to change the way we eat and live almost as profoundly as the discovery of how to cook.
14. Gunpowder, 10th century
15. The plane, 1903
It transformed travel, war and our worldview
16. The personal computer, 1970
It greatly increased human capabilities.
17. The compass, 12th century
He guided us, even at sea.
18. The automobile, at the end of the 19th century
It transformed everyday life, our culture and our landscape.
19. The manufacture of industrial steel, 1850
Mass-produced steel became the foundation of modern industry
20. The Pill, 1960
Launched a social revolution
21. Nuclear fission, 1939
He gave humans a new power for destruction and creation
22. The green revolution, mid-20th century
The combination of technologies such as synthetic fertilizers and scientific plant breeding vastly increased food production around the world. Norman Borlang, the agricultural economist who devised this approach, has prevented more than 1 billion people from starving worldwide.
23. The Sextant, 1757
He drew a path in the stars.
24. The Telephone, 1876
25. Literacy, first millennium BC
Made knowledge accessible. It contributed to the increase of the societies that used the phonetic letters over those that used the ideographic ones.
26. The telegraph, 1837
As Joel Mokyr stated: “Before the invention of the telegraph, information could not move faster than a man on horseback”
27. The mechanized clock, 15th century
28. Radio, 1906
29. Photograph, early 19th century
30. The moldboard plow, 18th century
The first plow that not only dug the ground but turned it over, allowing cultivation in more difficult terrain. Without it, agriculture as we know it would not exist in Northern Europe or the American Midwest.
31. The Archimedean screw, in the third century BC
32. The Cotton Gin of 1793
Institutionalized the cotton industry and slavery in South America
33. Pasteurization in 1863
One of the first practical applications of Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs. This method uses heat to sterilize wine, beer, and milk, and is widely regarded as one of the most effective public health interventions in history.
34. The Gregorian calendar, 1582
He refined the Julian calendar, skipping 10 days to synchronize the world with the seasons of the year.
35. Oil refining, mid-19th century
Without it, oil extraction would be meaningless.
36. The steam turbine of 1884
Turbines are the backbone of today’s energy infrastructure – they generate 80 percent of the world’s electricity.
37. Cement, 1st millennium BC
The foundation of civilization. Literally.
38. Plant breeding, 1920
Humans have been manipulating plant species for almost as long as we’ve grown them, but it wasn’t until scientists in the early 20th century discovered a forgotten 1866 paper by Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel, that we didn’t realize how. plant breeding, and later human genetics, works.
39. Oil drilling of 1859
It boosted the modern economy, established its geopolitics, and changed the climate.
40. The sailboat, fourth millennium BC
Transformed travel, war, and our view of the world.
41. Rockets of 1926
“The only way to get off the planet – until now.” – George Dyson.
42. Paper money, 11th century
Abstraction at the core of the modern economy.
43. The abacus, the third millennium BC
One of the first devices to increase human intelligence.
44. Air conditioning, 1902
45. Television, early 20th century
46. Anesthesia, 1846
In response to the first public demonstration of the ether, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “The fierce extreme of suffering has been plunged into the waters of oblivion, and the deep furrows in the forehead by agony have been forever smoothed.”
47. The nail, second millennium BC
48. The lever, the third millennium BC
The Egyptians had not yet discovered the wheel when they built their pyramids, which are believed to have relied heavily on levers.
49. The 1913 assembly line
It changed an economy based on crafts to a mass market.
50. The combine, 1930
It mechanized the farm, freeing people to new kinds of work.
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