CHARLOTTE, NC – If someone asked you to name the ten most important inventions in history, which ones would you choose? Choosing the first few should be relatively easy. But as with all things trivial, the water can quickly get muddy and that’s when the debate begins. So launch our Myth Trivia list of the ten greatest inventions in history, let’s clear out the most obvious selections first.
Most experts have little trouble agreeing that…
The WHEEL ranks number one.
Man found his mobility extremely limited before the wheel came into existence around 3500 B.C. Oddly enough, the biggest challenge was not the wheel itself so much as the task of connecting a non-moving platform to the rolling cylinder.
“The stroke of brilliance was the wheel-and-axle concept,” says David Anthony, a professor of anthropology at Hartwick College. “But then making it was also difficult.”
Once the riddle was solved, man has been on the move ever since. Depending upon your frame of reference,
The PRINTING PRESS
was either invented in China in 1045 by Bi Sheng or in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg sometime around 1440.
The primary difference in Gutenberg’s creation was the development of the hand mold. This new molding technique enabled the rapid creation of large quantities of metal movable type.
Gutenberg was also the first to develop a mechanized process that transferred ink from the movable type to paper. Using this process, printing presses exponentially increased the speed with which book copies could be made. This led to the rapid and widespread dissemination of knowledge for the first time in history
Among other things, the printing press permitted wider access to the Bible. That, in turn, led to alternative interpretations of that key volume, including that of Martin Luther, whose 95 Theses sparked the Protestant Reformation.
No less revolutionary than the printing press in modern day society is…
The INTERNET and, by extension, PERSONAL COMPUTERS.
Some folks justifiably classify this breakthrough as two inventions. They are, after all, most assuredly not the same thing even though they seem joined at the hip these days. That said, for our purposes, by combining the two, the debate at the end widens and that’s half the fun.
Billions of people worldwide now use the global system of interconnected computer networks known as the Internet. Countless people helped develop it, too. But the person we most often credit for its invention is computer scientist Lawrence Roberts. (Not Al Gore).
In the 1960s, computer scientists working for the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) built a communications network to connect the computers in the agency. They called it ARPANET. The predecessor to the modern Internet, ARPANET used a method of data transmission called “packet switching.” Roberts developed this method based on the prior work of other computer scientists.
Today, one undeniable benefit of the Internet was the elimination of the door-to-door World Book Encyclopedia salesman.
By the way, over time, ARPA became known as DARPA, which stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
One of the most famous discoveries in history now goes largely unnoticed. In fact, it’s a good bet that…
wasn’t a consideration for most of your top ten greatest invention lists.
In 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming noticed a bacteria-filled Petri dish sitting in his laboratory with its lid accidentally ajar. The sample had become contaminated with a mold. More interestingly, everywhere the mold appeared, the bacteria being tested was dead.
That “antibiotic” antibacterial mold turned out to be the fungus Penicillium. Over the next two decades, chemists built on Fleming’s discovery, purifying it and developing the the original antibiotic drug we now know as Penicillin. Penicillin, and its numerous successors today fight a huge number of bacterial infections in humans without harming the humans themselves.
Just as much as Penicillin likely ranks low in the minds of most people putting together their ten greatest inventions lists,
The INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE
most likely rates high. Given America’s century old love affair with the automobile, why shouldn’t it?
Decades of engineering by many scientists went into designing the internal combustion engine, which essentially took its modern form in the latter half of the 19th century. The engine ushered in the Industrial Age, as well as enabling the invention of a huge variety of machines, including modern cars and aircraft.
So we are just six inventions into our quest and already the challenge is growing. The next might just as easily get bumped as included when given a considerable amount of thought. For example, some might include…
The LIGHT BULB
while others might just as easily not. Light bulbs changed the world by allowing us to be active at night. Believe it not, historians claim some two dozen people were instrumental in inventing incandescent lamps throughout the 1800s.
But most today credit Thomas Edison as the primary inventor. In 1879, he created a completely functional lighting system including a generator and wiring as well as a carbon-filament bulb. In recent years however, strong opposition has developed against Edison by those favoring Nikola Tesla as making a greater impact on the invention.
One unanticipated consequence of electric lighting was a large scale change in American’s sleeping patterns. Rather than going to bed at nightfall and sleeping in segments throughout the night separated by periods of wakefulness, we now stay up continuously except for the those 7 to 8 hours allotted for sleep.
Though the TELEPHONE
might have been a great asset, it probably would not rank as highly in our developing top ten greatest inventions list as it does today, thanks to an abundance of recent, rapid technological advances.
The telephone truly revolutionized global business and global access. Its invention almost inevitably led to modern day applications through variations like texting, e-mail, Internet access, social networking and countless other means of communication. Like that original phone call, modern telephony and its relatives have made these functions a necessity for just about everyone.
When Alexander Graham Bell, the first man to be awarded a patent for inventing the electric telephone in 1876, died on Aug. 2, 1922, telephone service in the U.S. stopped for a full minute to honor him.
Rounding out our Top Ten Greatest Inventions list
And now, armed with the first 8 of our growing top ten greatest inventions list providing some fuel for thought, Myth Trivia offers you a list of other possible candidates to wrestle with to get to that magic number 10. Remember, you can only choose two more inventions to complete your list. Unless, of course, you delete one of the eight already listed above. We can almost guarantee you didn’t think of many of them. But you also must admit, each of them possesses merit in its own right.
So here for your consideration, we offer eight more possibilities to round out your Top Ten:
THE STEAM ENGINE, CONTRACEPTIVES, BROADCASTING, AVIATION, STEEL, FIREARMS, THE COMPASS and THE NAIL.
Let the debate begin!
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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