Famous Inventions

An invention is a device, process, or method that is novel and/or unique. Its design is an improvement of an existing device or product. It can also be a new process for producing a result or object. An invention could be a radical breakthrough or a unique function not apparent to others in the same field. Inventions are important to design and artistic creativity or innovation. They often expand the limits of human capability, experience, and knowledge.

Inventions of Prehistory

fire Egypt-Tomb-Oarboat Pyramids
Fire (1 million years ago)
Inventor: Homo erectus
The first human use of controlled fire is believed to have been one million years ago. Its widespread use began about 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Fire allowed for warmth and protection from predators at night, as well as increased the availability and variety of nutrients to be found in cooking food.
Boat (c. 8000 BC)
Country: Netherlands
Inventor: Unknown
A boat is a craft that is designed to plane or float across water. Since early times boats have been used as short-distance transports. The earliest found boat was dug out in the Netherlands. It was said to have been built around 8200 to 7600 BC.
Concrete (6500 BC)
Country: Southern Syria and northern Jordan
Inventor: Unknown
The earliest use of a form of concrete dates back to 6500 B.C. It was found in a ruin near northern Jordan and southern Syria.
Ur_chariot abacus Longbow
Wheel (about 3500 BC)
Country: Russia/Kazakhstan or Mesopotamia
Inventor: Proto-Aryan people or Sumerians
The wheel is a round simple machine that is made to rotate on an axial bearing. The wheel made it possible to move heavy loads and to be easily transported while supporting a load. It is also used to transfer energy or produce labor in machines. The history of the invention of the wheel is unclear.
Abacus (c. 3000 BC)
Country: China
Inventor: Unknown
An abacus is a small mechanical device designed to count and make calculations. It consisted of a frame with rods that held slidable beads used as counters. The abacus was made in China around 3000 BC.
Longbow (c. 2665 B.C.)
Country: England
Inventor: Unknown
Longbows are long-range weapons distinguishable from shorter composite bows and crossbows. They shoot quietly, are lighter to carry, and are easier to prepare a shot with. The earliest longbow was found in England as early as 2665 B.C.
Iron-ore Toothbrush_1899
Iron Processing (c. 2000 BC)
Country: Southwest or south-central Asia, maybe the Caucasus region
Inventor: Unknown
Human production of iron began sometime around 2000 B.C. near southwest or south-central Asia or the Caucasus region. The discovery of processing iron began the Iron Age, where iron replaced bronze as the preferred metal in weapons and implements.
Toothbrush (c. 1600 B.C.)
Country: India and Africa
Inventor: Unknown
The toothbrush is a small instrument of bristles mounted on a handle; it is used in oral hygiene. The earliest uses of toothbrushes may have been in Africa and India. A toothbrush dating as early as 1600 B.C. was discovered.

Inventions of Ancient History

Zographensis_alphabet Roman_scale_armour_detail chinese-wheelbarrow
Alphabet (c. 11th century BC)
Country: Eastern coast of Mediterranean Sea
Inventor: Pre-classical Greeks. Finished by Phoenicians
Before the invention of the alphabet, people had written with symbolic pictures, or heiroglyphs. Before the alphabet, writing lacked the full expression of speech. The alphabet system was started by the pre-classical Greeks and polished by the Phoenicians in the 11th century B.C.
Armor (c. 300 BC)
Country: N/A
Inventor: Celts
Personal armor was used throughout history for warfare. The first mail armor, consisting of iron rings bound together, is thought to have been made by the Celts.
Wheelbarrow (c. 206 BC – 220 AD)
Country: China
Inventor: Unknown
The wheelbarrow is based on a single wheel and is used to carry loads. Being based on one wheel gives it agility, maneuverability, and handiness. It is said to have been invented during the Chinese Han Dynasty around 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.
Paper (c. 105)
Country: China
Inventor: Ts’ai Lun
Historical records show that papermaking was invented in China around 105 A.D. by Ts’ai Lun, an Imperial Court official. There is a little bit of controversy, however, since archeological records show paper found from the 2nd century B.C. in China.

Inventions of the Middle Ages

Rocket_warfare Ming-marine-compass Ming_matchlocks
Gunpowder (c. 808)
Country: China
Inventor: Unknown
The first mention of gunpowder in China was by Qing Xuzi, describing it as a mixtuer of saltpeter, birthwort herb, and sulfur. It was discovered by Taoist monks or alchemists who were looking to mix an elixir of immortality.
Magnetic Compass (c. 11th century)
Country: China
Inventor: Unknown
The magnetic compass was first used and invented in ancient China’s Han Dynasty around the 2nd century B.C. It was originally used for divination and was not used for navigation until around the Song Dynasty in the 11th century A.D.
Firearms (c. 13th century)
Country: China
Inventor: Unknown
The term “firearm” refers to a barreled weapon that fires projectiles by mechanism of an explosion. The first firearms, which were metal or bamboo tubes that launched various projectiles with ingited gunpowder, appeared in China in the 13th century.
Eyeglasses (1286)
Country: Italy
Inventor: Alessandro di Spina
The first eyeglasses were made in Italy around 1286, as documented by a sermon of Giordano da Pisa, a Dominican friar. Alessandro della Spina was credited for being willing to share the invention with everyone, although there had been someone else who first made the eyeglasses but was unwilling to share them.

Inventions of the Early Modern Period

Flush-Toilet pendulum-clock Newtons-Telescope-Replica
Flush toilet (c. 1591)
Country: England
Inventor: John Harington
The first incarnation of the modern flush toilet was invented by John Harington in Britain. The design included a wash-down mechanism to empty the bowl as well as a mechanism to refill the basin.
Pendulum clock (1656)
Country: Netherlands
Inventor: Christiaan Huygens
Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock in 1956. In 1957, he patented it. His idea came from Galileo Galilei’s observation of pendulums. Galilei discovered that pendulums make excellent keepers of time.
Reflecting telescope (1668)
Country: England
Inventor: Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton is regarded as the first builder of the reflecting telescope in 1668. A reflecting telescope forms images through the use of curved mirrors that reflect light.
Savery-engine bifocal-lens
Photo by: liz west Creative Commons
Steam engine (1698)
Country: England
Inventor: Thomas Savery
Thomas Savery invented the first crude steam engine. Thomas Newcomen improved on Savery’s design. James Watt improved Newcomen’s design, which produced the steam engine that would start the Industrial Revolution.
Bifocal lens (1784)
Country: US
Inventor: Benjamin Franklin
The first bifocal (an eyeglass with lenses of two optical strengths) was invented by Benjamin Franklin. This discovery is found to be controversial, however, since there were other inventors of the bifocal. Despite this, it has been confirmed in his correspondences that Franklin invented bifocals independently of the others and was the first one to do so.

Inventions of the Industrial Revolution

singer-sewing-machine Cotton_gin vaccines
Sewing machine (1790)
Country: England
Inventor: Thomas Saint
The sewing machine is designed to sew stitches of fabrics with thread. This invention greatly reduced the amount of labor required to produce clothing goods. The first sewing machine was patented by Thomas Saint in 1790.
Cotton gin (1793)
Country: US
Inventor: Eli Whitney
The mechanical cotton gin, a machine used to remove cotton fibers from cotton seeds, was invented by an American named Eli Whitney. This automated cotton gin was much more productive than its hand-cranked predecessors.
Vaccines (1796)
Country: England
Inventor: Edward Jenner
A vaccine is a medical mixture of weakened or dead forms of a disease-causing microbe. These agents can stimulate the human body’s immune system to develop antibodies against the disease without first contracting it. Vaccines were first designed by Edward Jenner in 1796, when he used cow pox to innoculate people against smallpox.
Batteries railroad
Photo by: David R. Spencer, CC
Battery (1800)
Country: Italy
Inventor: Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta
The first battery (a series of electrochemical cells) was invented by Alessandro Volta (physicist in Italy) in 1792. The science behind the concept of a battery that inspired Volta was observed by Luigi Galvani, who found that frog legs would twitch when touched by a spark from an external source of electricity (a Leyden jar).
Railroad (1811)
Country: England
Inventor: John Blenkinsop
Railroad transportation involves wheeled vehicles that operate on railway tracks. Railroads were important factors in the rise of the Industrial Revolution since they are capable of high capacity cargo loads, passenger transportation, and energy efficiency. In 1811, John Blenkinsop designed the first fully functional railway locomotive.
Bicycle (1818)
Country: Germany
Inventor: Baron Karl de Drais de Sauerbrun
The Draisienne (dandy horse), or laufmaschine, was first invented by Baron Karl von Drais of Germany. The machine was the first means of transportation to utilize two wheels simultaneously.
electric-motor refrigerator Vulcanizer at Work
Electric motor (1821)
Country: US
Inventor: Michael Faraday
Electric motors produce mechanical energy by using an electric current and a magnetic field. In 1821, Michael Faraday discovered the conversion of eletrical energy into mechanical energy and made the first electric motor.
Refrigerator (1834)
Country: US
Inventor: Jacob Perkins
Refrigerators are appliances that keep food cool by moving heat from inside a thermally insulated compartment to its outside environment through the use of a heat pump. The first legally patented refrigerator was built and designed by Jacob Perkins.
Vulcanization (1844)
Country: US
Inventor: Charles Goodyear
Vulcanization is a chemical process which hardens rubber and similar polymers with sulphur or similar additives. It was patented in 1844 by Charles Goodyear.
airships-Brockhaus-Efron_Aeronavtika steel combustion-engine
Photo by: Andrew Taylor, Creative Commons
Airships (1852)
Country: France
Inventor: Jules Henri Giffard
Airships are lighter-than-air flying crafts that propel through the air with thrust mechanisms, such as propellers and rudders. The first passenger airship was built in 1852 and designed by Jules Henri Giffard.
Mass-production steel (1856)
Country: UK
Inventor: Henry Bessemer
While steel has always been a valuable metal produced in forges of blacksmiths for thousands of years, it first became an inexpensive mass-produced material when Henry Bessemer invented an industrial process to easily produce it.
Combustion engine (1858)
Country: France
Inventor: Étienne Lenoir
In 1858, Étienne Lenoir designed an internal combustion engine, a type of engine which produces mechanical energy through the combustion of a fuel. His design was the first to be able to be manufactured en masse.
vacuum-cleaner Gatling_gun_1865 dynamites
Vacuum cleaner (1860)
Country: US
Inventor: Daniel Hess
A vacuum cleaner is a home appliance which uses an air pump to remove dirt and dust from flat surfaces, where these contaminants tend to gather. In 1860, Daniel Hess invented a vacuum cleaner which he called a carpet sweeper.
Rapid fire firearm (1862)
Country: US
Inventor: Dr. Richard J. Gatling
Richard Gatling invented the first rapid-fire firearm, known as the Gatling gun. It was first used by the Union in the American Civil War. Ironically, Gatling wanted to show how futile war is. He wanted to reduce army sizes and reduce deaths caused by disease and combat.
Dynamite (1867)
Country: Sweden
Inventor: Alfred Nobel
Dynamite was first invented by Alfred Nobel in 1867. It was more manageable and powerful than black powder. Dynamite is based on nitroglycerin. It is used for many industrial purposes, including quarrying, demolition, construction, and mining.
Alexander_Graham_Telephone_in_Newyork light-bulb
Telephone (1876)
Country: US
Inventor: Alexander Graham Bell
The telephone allows at least two users to communicate from far away as though they were next to each other. It was first invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. Today it is an indispensible small appliance.
Incandescent light bulb (1879)
Country: US
Inventor: Thomas Alva Edison
An incandescent light bulb produces light by the use of a filament wire that is heated electrically until it glows. The first incandescent light bulb was made by Humphry Davy by passing current through a thin strip of platinum. It was not practical, however, and many modifications had to be made before the incandescent light bulb could become commercially viable.

Inventions of the 20th Century

television_1958 early-automobile motion-picture-camera
Television (c. 19th century)
Country: N/A
Inventor: Many inventors
The television allows for the transmission of moving images. It is primarily used as a source for news and entertainment. It could be said that the invention of the television came about with the hard work and research of multiple scientists and innovators, therefore credit cannot be given to one individual.
Gas-powered Automobile (1888)
Country: Germany
Inventor: Karl Benz
While it should be said that the invention of the gas-powered automobile should be credited to multiple inventors working independently, Karl Benz built the first production-ready automobile.
Motion Picture Camera (1888)
Country: England
Inventor: Louis Le Prince
A motion picture camera is used to record a series of photographs on film strips. The recording can later be replayed as a movie. The first patented motion picture camera was designed by Louis Le Prince in 1888.
radio air-conditioner airplanes
Radio (1896)
Country: Italy
Inventor: Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi was the first to design a fully effective radio transmission. Information such as sound would be carried by radiated waves. In 1895, he built a wireless system that was able to trasmit signals at distances of 1.5 miles.
Modern air conditioning (1902)
Country: US
Inventor: Willis Carrier
Although the concept of basic air conditioning is not new in recent history, the invention of the modern air conditioning system was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier in 1902.
Airplanes (engine-powered) (1903)
Country: US
Inventor: Wilbur & Orville Wright
The airplane that was invented by the Wright brothers (Orville and Wilbur) was the first heavier-than-air aircraft that was engine-powered and could sustain flight. They were the first to invent controls for aircraft that made powered, fixed-wing flying possible.
radar washing-machine traffic-lights
Radar (1904)
Country: Germany
Inventor: Christian Hülsmeyer
In 1904, Christian Hülsmeyer of Germany designed the mechanism of using radio waves to detect faraway metal objects. It would later be the foundation for modern radars.
Electric washing machine (1907)
Country: US
Inventor: Alva J. Fisher
The first washing machine based on a motor was made by Alva J. Fisher while he was at the Hurley Washing Machine Company. The electric motor of his machine allowed for faster and heavier wash loads than in earlier washing machines.
First Electric Traffic Light (1912)
Country: US
Inventor: Lester Wire
Prior to electricity, the concept of a traffic signal was based on semaphore arms and gas lights for night driving. On October 4, 1912, Lester Wire invented the electric traffic light. It had red and green lights and a buzzer to warn of color shifts.
brassiere band-aid quartz-watches
Brassiere (bra) (1914)
Country: US
Inventor: Mary Phelps Jacob
In Western society, women wear bras for physical purposes, such as restricting the movement of breasts during strenuous activities, and for social purposes, such as concealment and modesty, or to improve perceived size and shape. In 1914, Mary Phelps Jacob received the U.S. patent for the brassiere.
Band Aid (1921)
Country: US
Inventor: Earle Dickson
In 1920, Earle Dickson designed the Band-Aid for his wife, Josephine, who often burned and cut herself when cooking. The design helped her cover her wounds by herself. The idea was passed to Dickson’s employer, Johnson & Johnson, who marketed and produced the product. After that, Dickson developed a successful career with the company.
Quartz Clock (1927)
Country: Canada/US
Inventor: Warren A. Marrison & J.W. Horton
Warren Marrison and J.W. Horton built the first quartz clock in 1927. Using quartz crystal oscillators improved the accuracy of time measurement as well as decreased the cost of production of clocks and watches based on quartz.
Staphylococcus_aureus_(AB_Test) seismic-graph computer-room
Antibiotics (1928)
Country: Scotland
Inventor: Alexander Fleming
While the concept of antibiotics was studied the century before, in 1928, Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist, observed antibiosis against bacteria by a fungus: Penicillium.
Richter magnitude scale (1935)
Country: US
Inventor: Charles Francis Richter, Beno Gutenberg
Based on a base-10 logarithmic scale, the Richter magnitude scale measures the amount of energy that is released in an earthquake. It was developed in 1935 by Charles Francis Richter.
Modern computer (1941)
Country: Germany
Inventor: Konrad Zuse
In 1941, Konrad Zuse invented a series of computers of which the Z3 iteration was considered the earliest predecessor of the modern computer. The Z3 is regarded as the first functional, programmable, fully automatic computer.
nuclear-reactor hemodialysis microwave
Nuclear reactor (1942)
Country: US
Inventor: Enrico Fermi
A nuclear reactor is a device that is able to initiate as well as control a sustainable nuclear chain reaction in order to produce energy. The first nuclear reactor was manufactured by Enrico Fermi and his team at the University of Chicago.
Hemodialysis (1943)
Country: Netherlands
Inventor: Willem Johan Kolff
Willem Johan Kolff was the first person to design a working hemodialyzer in 1943. Hemodialysis is a medical process which extracts waste fluids and products from the human system when the kidneys cannot function properly.
Microwave oven (1945)
Country: US
Inventor: Percy LeBaron Spencer
The microwave oven is a cooking apparatus used to heat food by polarizing its molecules with electromagnetic radiation, known as dielectric heating. Percy Spencer invented the first microwave oven in 1945.
bikini airbag heart-pump
Bikini (1946)
Country: France
Inventor: Louis Reard, Jacques Heim
The bikini was introduced in 1946 in Paris by Louis Reard, a mechanical engineer, and Jacques Heim, a fashion designer. At the time, Reard was running his mom’s lingerie boutique in Paris, and Heim was trying to come up with a new type of beach suit.
Automotive airbag (1952)
Country: US
Inventor: John Hetrick
An airbag is a modern vehicle safety mechanism. It is an inflatable fabric bag designed to fill instantaneously during car collisions. American John Hetrick was the first to patent his design of the airbag on August 18, 1953.
Implant of artificial organs (1957)
Country: US
Inventor: Willem Johan Kolff, Tetsuzo Akutsu
The first successful implant of an artificial organ (a heart) was done on a dog by Willem Johan Kolff, Tetsuzo Akutsu, and their research team (Cleveland). The dog survived for 90 minutes.
Military_laser_experiment internet Dolly_clone
Laser (1958)
Country: US
Inventor: Gordon Gould and Charles Hard Townes, Arthur L. Schawlow (invented separately)
The invention of the laser was done by two parties: Charles Hard Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow, both at Bell Labs, and Gordon Gould, who was a graduate student at Columbia University.
Internet (1969)
Country: US
Inventor: Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) at the Dept. of Defense
An early form of the Internet was invented by the APRAnet when scientists and military experts were concerned that a Soviet attack could wipe out the nation’s system of telephones. They devised a global network of computers that could communicate with one another. This design eventually led to the creation of the Internet as we know it.
Cloning (1970)
Country: UK
Inventor: John B. Gurdon
John Gurdon discovered that nuclei from separate cells could grow a whole organism when they are transplanted into eggs with their original nuclei removed. This concept was used for a project to clone a sheep named Dolly.
email fingerprinting world-wide-web
Electronic mail (e-mail) (1971)
Country: US
Inventor: Ray Tomlinson
Electronic mail, or email, is a digital method for sending and receiving electronic documents and letters/messages. The first use of email across a network with the use of an “@” sign to distinguish users was credited to Ray Tomlinson.
Genetic fingerprinting (1984)
Country: UK
Inventor: Alec Jeffreys
Genetic fingerprinting, first reported by Alec Jeffreys of England, is a process in forensic science used to identify individuals according to their fingerprints. This process is part of DNA profiling, which assigns a set of identifiers to each individual based on their DNA makeup.
World Wide Web (1989)
Country: UK
Inventor: Sir Tim Berners-Lee
In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote about a software and database project he created which was designed to enable information sharing among international researchers. It became the platform for the World Wide Web, which allows users to browse and interact with various information.
Blood bank (1940s)
Country: US
Inventor: Charles Richard Drew
Charles Richard Drew, an African-American medical researcher, surgeon, and physician, developed the foundation of blood transfusion and storage which led to the establishment of the American Red Cross Blood Bank.