In this list, I will talk about the top ten inventions that were instrumental in changing the world to the one as we know it. I have excluded discoveries and focused solely on ten brilliant inventions.
10- Light Bulb
Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Alva Edison did not invent the light bulb. He only perfected and patented it in the USA. The first electric light bulb was made by Humphry Davis in 1800 in England. The harnessing of electricity for personal use changed the face of the world. Electricity is considered one of the necessities of modern day lives and all possible attempts are being made to make it available even in the remotest of villages in every nation. The artificial source of light made it possible for people to not depend on the light of the sun or that of fire, increased working hours, enhanced productivity and more.
Probably the key invention that lead to the world as we know it. There is still an ongoing debate about which culture originally invented the wheel. It could have been the Mesopotamian culture around 3500 BC or the Indus Valley civilization. The oldest known wooden wheel – Ljubljana Marshes Wheel – was discovered in 2002 and is approximately 5,150 years old. The first known use of the wheel was as a potter’s wheel, which made it possible for people to live at a distance from sources of water and carry water to their dwelling place with the help of pots. Then, of course, the most important use of the wheel was discovered- for transportation. The invention of the wheel changed the face of commerce and industry. It became easier for people, with the help of vehicles, to transport heavy items from one place to another. The invention of the spoked wheel also made these vehicles lighter and swifter. The use of wheel as a pulley made it easier to pull heavy loads, draw water from wells etc. It is almost impossible to imagine any machine today which does not use the principle idea behind the wheel.
Women call it the greatest thing since sliced bread. The invention of refrigerators transformed the task of cooking for women. It became possible to preserve food and eat it at a later date. The first known method of refrigeration was invented by William Cullen in 1756. The low temperatures in a refrigerator slow down enzyme action and bacterial processes inside food, making sure that it does not spoil. Refrigerators are also used commercially in shops for making confections last longer, transportation of certain medicines and drugs, during shipment of food products like eggs and dairy etc. The principle behind refrigeration is now commonly used in air conditioners as well.
Because we see it all around us now, we don’t realize the importance of paper. Paper was invented by the Han Dynasty in China in the 2nd century. Paper spread from China to Middle East and then to Europe. The first known use of paper in China was to wrap and protect mirrors and things like poisonous medicines. It was instrumental in transforming the flow of knowledge from oral to written. It is because of paper that we have tangible proof of some of the oldest recorded forms of knowledge. In this day and age, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without paper. We read the news every morning printed on a newspaper, we write our exams on paper, our books are made of paper, we use tea bags made of paper, the tags on the clothes we buy are paper, the invites we send for parties are paper, we use tissue papers for wiping our faces, disposable paper cups and plates and so on and so forth. From printing currency on to using it as toilet paper, paper is everywhere.
6- Steam Engine
The first steam engine was invented by Thomas Newcomen in England in 1712. The steam engine gave birth to the railway industry as we know it now. The railway is used for travelling, making contact between people much much easier. In today’s world, the railway is the backbone of the country. The railway office is, in fact, the most coveted office in the cabinet in India. Trains are used for short as well as long distance travel. Travelling within the country is almost always done through trains, especially with the high cost of air travel which a lot of people cannot afford. Special trains for transportation of goods are also run. During holidays, the government often runs special trains to popular tourist destinations. Doing business in other cities, studying and living away from home etc has become so convenient only because of the excellent rail network.
Like the steam engine before it, aeroplanes have changed the face of transportation around the world. People no longer have to depend upon water ships to transport them across continents in journeys that lasted months or even years. Now they can sit on an airplane, strap on a seatbelt and arrive at their destination a few hours later. The first model of a fully functioning, heavier than air airplane was made by the Wright brothers- Orville and Wilbur- in 1903. Now airlines use passenger airplanes are used to transport people from one city to another, one country to another, flying across oceans and forests. Airplanes are used to transport things for export to other countries, helping trade. The military uses fighter airplanes are used during wars in air raids to drop bombs. Flying machines and helicopters are used in rescue operations, agriculture, recreational sports etc.
4- The Computer
Without your computer or laptop, you would not be reading this right now. Stating the obvious. German inventor Konrad Zuse is regarded as inventor of the computer. They were first developed in USA and UK in between 1940 to 1945. The first computers were as big as entire rooms and consumed a lot of power to operate. Now we have computers that are small enough to fit in the palm of our hands. Computers are used for almost everything in every field of life – communication, calculation, research, marketing, painting, banking, shopping, games, entertainment, writing, typing, recording information, analyzing data, solving problems, controlling machines and aircrafts, in the field of education, from the most trivial to the most important tasks of the world.
3- Nuclear technology
Only two nuclear weapons have been used in history. USA dropped two atom bombs on Japan towards the end of World War II. The first one was dropped on 6th August 1945 on Hiroshima and the second three days later on Nagasaki. The atom bomb was invented over the course of six years, beginning from 1939, in the Manhattan Project. This project was presided over by Robert Oppenheimer. He is often called the father of the atomic bomb. The destruction caused by the atom bombs was go terrible, so great that it prompted Oppenheimer to remark “Now I am become death, the destroyer of the worlds.” However, the work on nuclear chemistry has brought about some positive changes as well. Scientists agree that nuclear energy could be the answer to the world energy crisis. In 2011, nuclear energy provided 10% of the world’s total electricity. Radiation treatment is now the standard procedure for treating cancer. Nuclear technology is also utilized in X-rays at hospitals, smoke detectors, food irradiation etc.
Can you imagine living one day without your phone? Do you experience a mini heart attack when you drop your phone or when you think you’ve lost it? We all have Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell to thank for this invention. Bell invented the telephone is 1876. It was the first device of its kind which enabled people to talk across large distances. The telephone as it was then was the predecessor of all forms of telecommunication. From the earliest fixed line or landline to portable handsets to mobile phones, telephones have certainly come a long way. Now they serve not only as devices of communication but so much more. They are used for texting, checking facebook updates, tracking movement through GPS, flashlights in the dark and more. Telephones are almost indispensible in modern day businesses.
Imagine living without internet. Imagine no facebook and no instagram. No emails and no Wikipedia (How would you write assignments then?) It is not clear when internet as we know it came into being, although the early 1980s seem to be the best estimate. Now the world without internet is unimaginable. People can communicate over a distance of thousands of kilometers through emails and social networking websites. The internet has made it possible for people to order everyday items from the convenience of their homes without stepping outside. A lot many entrance exams like those of BITS and the IITs are now conducted online. Online classes make it possible for students sitting in India to attend lectures happening in USA. One can download movies, documents, TV serials etc and watch them at one’s convenience. Various websites have made life infinitely easier for people. Assignments can be completed with the help of google search results, Jstor and Wikipedia. One can access any sort of information at the click of a mouse. The internet is definitely one of the greatest inventions ever