100 Best Books for an Education

A Revision and Update of Will Durant's 100 Best Books for an Education

Note 16

 

MILESTONES IN INVENTION/TECHNOLOGY

 

YEAR

INVENTION

WHO OR WHERE/WHAT IT IS

5,000,000 B.C.E.

Spear

Probably Ardipithecus kadabba in East Africa creates the spear as humankind’s first tool/weapon, and this perhaps gives the idea to chimpanzees who quickly imitate it. They create the first ones from perishable materials such as wood or bone, and sharpen them to form a wedge (an adaptation of the inclined plane).

    The inclined plane embodies the first law of machines: force and distance can trade-off with one another. Probably shortly thereafter, someone discovers that the lever embodies a disguised form of the inclined plane principle, and begins to use sticks to alter force/distance in a similar trade-off.

2,600,000

Stone tool

Man, said Benjamin Franklin, is a tool-making animal; but this, too, like the other distinctions on which we plume ourselves, is only a difference of degree. In any case, our genus commences when Homo erectus in East Africa leaves behind the earliest stone tools. They used some of these tools as hammers, a form of third-class lever.

1,500,000

Controlled fire

Fire made humans independent of climate, gave them a greater compass on the earth, tempered their tools to hardness and durability, and offered them as food a thousand things inedible before. Not least of all it made them master of the night, and shed an animating brilliance over the hours of evening and dawn. Picture the dark before humans conquered it; even now, the terrors of that primitive abyss survive in our traditions and perhaps in our blood. Once every twilight was a tragedy, and people crept into their caves at sunset trembling with fear. Now we do not creep into our caves until sunrise; and though it is folly to miss the sun, how good it is to be liberated from our ancient fears! This overspreading of the night with a billion man-made stars has brightened the human spirit, and made for a vivacious jollity in modern life. We shall never be grateful enough for light.

500,000

Clothing

Homo erectus in Africa primarily designed clothes to keep the wearer comfortable in all weathers.

70,000

Bow and arrow

African hunters

40,000

Needle and thread

In the cold climates of Europe, Stone Age peoples sew together skins with tendon threads or leather thongs. Previously, for every stitch they had to bore a hole and separately hook a thread through it. The invention of a bone/ivory needle with an eye hastened the procedure immensely. The same tool that bored the hole now pulled the thread through in a virtually uninterrupted movement.

38,000

Boat

New Guineans/Aboriginal Australians

35,000

Drill

Present-day Pakistan

34,000

 Woven flax fiber cloth

Prior to plant fiber weaving, man clothed himself in leather hides, but ancient Georgians develop this method.

29,000

Ceramic art

The oldest known ceramic work is the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, a statuette of a nude female figure found at a Paleolithic site in the Moravian basin south of present-day Brno, Czech Republic.

26,000

Basket weaving

 

 

 

 

Rope

Almost certainly, basket weaving was established prior to the practice of creating pottery; however, the earliest extant examples were unearthed at Faiyum in Upper Egypt and date to about 10,000 B.C.E.

 

Europeans leave behind cord impressions on ceramics that offers confirmation of both string/rope-making technology.

18,000

Ceramic pottery

Apparently the ancient Chinese invent this first, then the practice spreads to the rest of Asia before reaching the “West” about 10,000 B.C.E.

9500

Copper

 

 

Agriculture

 

 

Wheel

Peoples of the Near East (Urfa?) discover the uses of this metal in craftwork.

 

The earliest settlers of Urfa in ancient Turkey develop agriculture and perhaps create the legendary primeval Garden of Eden.

 

“While the exact time and place of the invention of the wheel is anyone’s guess,” writes Tom Philbin “it’s widely held that the wheel started as a rolling log” perhaps somewhere in Eurasia.

8th millennium

Bricks

Southern Turkey/Upper Mesopotamia

7th millennium

Mortise and Tenon joint

 

Concrete

 

Lead

 

Gold

Europe

 

Nabataeans in present-day Jordan

 

The people of ancient Turkey discover and smelt this metal,

People probably first discovered this metal along the eastern Mediterranean.

6th millennium

Silver

 

 

Iron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sails

 

Beer

 

Wine

Shortly after the discovery of gold, people find silver, again, probably along the eastern Mediterranean/ancient Turkey.

 

People may have begun the art of ironworking by making weapons out of meteoric iron as the “Mound-Builders” seem to have done, and as some primitive peoples do to this day. Archaeologists have found fragments of apparently meteoric iron in pre-dynastic Egyptian tombs (4000 B.C.E.?); then, perhaps, they melted it from the ore by fire, and hammered it into wrought iron. Babylonian inscriptions mention iron as a costly rarity in Hammurabi’s capital (1700 B.C.E.?). An iron foundry perhaps four thousand years old has been discovered in Northern Zimbabwe; mining in South Africa is no modern invention.

 

Mesopotamians/Egyptians

 

Mesopotamians

 

Iran

5th millennium

Weighing scales

 

 

Potter’s wheel

Scholars think that the Egyptians conceived of it as an equal-arm balance, which facilitated ancient trade—the first ones weighed gold dust.

 

Near East

4th millennium

Lock and key

 

 

Horse domestication

 

Dam

Egyptians/Mesopotamians develop these; prior to this, ingenious knots secured possessions.

 

Kazakhstan

 

The Egyptians create the first dam for irrigation

3700

Cultivation of silk

The ancient Chinese begin this practice and it is not till the 6th century C.E. before the West develops the ability to cultivate the silkworm.

3500

Coal as a fuel

The ancient Chinese discover that coal can be used as a fuel and the West either adopts it from China or rediscovers it independently about 3000 B.C.E.

3300

Carbon

 

 

 

Bronze

 

 

The Egyptians and Mesopotamians begin using charcoal to reduce copper, zinc, and tin (which they probably discover at about this time) from their respective ores.

 

Both the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians alloy copper with tin and occasionally other metals to form bronze. Perhaps even earlier people used zinc to form brass.

3100

Antimony

Perhaps about this time peoples of the Near East discover this metalloid.

3000

Candle

 

Cotton

 

Lathe

 

 

Sulfur 

 

Mercury

 

Arsenic

Egyptians/Cretans

 

Hindus of the Indus Valley

 

The ancient Egyptians develop this tool subsequently used in Assyria and ancient Greece.

 

Hindus

 

Hindus

 

Peoples of the Near East use it to produce new alloys of bronze

2800

Soap

 

Button

 

Sewage system

 

 

 

 

Tea

Mesopotamians

 

Hindus of the Indus Valley

 

Early civilizations (Crete, India, Pakistan, and Scotland) invent toilets and sewers—and recognize their role in preventing disease; lavatories have been found on the Orkney islands and in homes in present-day Pakistan about the same time.

 

The ancient Chinese discover the benefits of brewing this leaf; coffee doesn’t make its appearance until the medieval Arabs import it from Africa.

2500

Glass

Egyptians

2000

Iron smelting

 

The peoples of ancient Turkey first discover how to separate iron from its ore.

1800

Steel

The first documented examples of steel come from ironware unearthed at a site in Kaman-Kalehöyük, Turkey.

1600

Clepsydra (water clock)

Egyptians

1300

Lacquer

China

1100

Iron plow

Mesopotamians

1000

Nimrud lens

Unearthed in Assyria, this rock crystal possibly found a use as a magnifying glass or in starting fires. Assyrian craftsmen made complex carvings, and possibly used this in their work. Giovanni Pettinato of the University of Rome suggested that Assyrian astronomers used it as a component of a telescope, which would explain why they gathered so much astronomical lore.

750

Dentures

Etruscans of Italy

700

“Archimedean”

Screw

These screws, which are able to channel water uphill, were utilized by the Assyrians under Sennacherib. It is so efficient a device that it is still in use.

6th century

Steel, “Wootz”

 

 

 

 

Crossbow

The Hindus invent these crucible steels and widely export them. Craftsmen in Damascus during the Islamic Golden Age make “damascened” swords of this highly tempered steel, adorned with reliefs or inlaid with arabesques, scripts, or other patterns in gold or silver threads.

 

China

5th century

Spinning wheel

 

Kite

 

Blast furnace producing cast iron

India

 

China

 

The ancient Chinese create this method of manufacturing iron; not till the 13th century does it appear in the West.

4th century

Petroleum and natural gas as fuel

 

Oil well

 

Magnetic compass

China

 

 China

 

 China; by the 12th century it reaches Europe via Islam

3rd century

Efficient horse harness collar

 

Double acting piston bellows—air and water

 

Churn drill

 

Piston

China; by the 8th century it made its way to Europe

 

China

 

China

 

Ctesibius of Alexandria

250

Electric battery

Parthians in ancient Iraq invent the “Baghdad Battery” for use in electroplating.

2nd century

Astrolabe/

Quadrant, improved

 

 

Rotary winnowing fan

 

Multi-tube seed drill

 

Manufacture of steel from cast iron

Probably on Mesopotamian models, Hipparchus of Nicaea improves the astrolabes and quadrants that are the chief astronomical instruments of his time.

 

China

 

China

 

China

1st century

Astronomical computer

 

 

Screw press

 

Glassblowing

 

Deep drilling for natural gas

 

Paper

 

 

Hydraulic-powered trip hammer

Known as the Antikythera device, this Greek mechanical computer was used to calculate and present information about astronomical movements.

Greece

 

Syria

 

China

 

 

First invented in China it reached the West in the 12th century via Islam.

 

China

1st century C.E.

Suspension bridge

 

Seismometer

 

Sternpost-mounted rudder

 

Wheelbarrow

 

 

Steam engine

China

 

China

 

China; this invention made its way to the West in the 12th century most likely through Islam.

 

China; it was introduced to the West through Islam in the 12th century.

 

Hero of Alexandria invents the aeolipile, which uses a thrust of steam from a nozzle to turn a pressure vessel about an axle.

2nd century

Watertight compartments in ships

China

3rd century

Porcelain

 

Fishing reel

 

Stirrup

 

Crankshaft and connecting rod

China; another product brought westward by Islam

 

China

 

China

 

Romans

 

4th century

Umbrella

 

Hydrometer

China

 

Tradition credits Hypatia with this invention

5th century

“Siemens” steel process

China; in the 19th century it is rediscovered by the West

644

Windmill

Persians

8th century

Woodblock printing

 

 

Liquid driven clockwork escapement

This Chinese invention reaches Europe in the 14th century and prepares the way for Gutenberg’s belated discovery.

 

Chinese inventors Yi Xing and Liang Lingzan

9th century

Gunpowder

 

 

 

Playing cards

The invention in China of gunpowder cannot be overestimated. Though the Chinese are not the first to exploit its military uses (probably the Arabs/Muslims are the first to do this) the Chinese eventually exploit its military benefits.

 

China; Islam carries these recreational amusements westward

852

Parachute

“A Muslim engineer named Abbas ibn Firnas,” writes Paul Vallely “attempted several times to construct a flying machine. In 852, he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. He hoped to glide like a bird. He didn’t. But the cloak slowed his fall, creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and leaving him with only minor injuries.” André-Jacques Garnerin perfected it in 1797.

875

Flying machine

“In 875, aged 70,” writes Paul Vallely Abbas Ibn Firnas “having perfected a [flying] machine of silk and eagles’ feathers . . . tried . . . jumping from a mountain. He flew to a significant height and stayed aloft for ten minutes but crashed on landing—concluding, correctly, that it was because he had not given his device a tail so it would stall on landing. . . .” So old is manned flight.

10th century

Phosphorescent paint

 

Fireworks

China

 

 China

11th century

Printing (movable type)

 

 

Paper money

 

Mechanical flywheel applied to a water-raising machine

In China, the lack of an alphabet made it difficult to adapt this wondrous invention to the Chinese language, but Gutenberg in Europe finds that it works magnificently with an alphabet.

China

 

 

Ibn Bassal

12th

Rockets

 

 

Sunglasses

China; once again this reaches the West in the 14th century via Islam.

 

 

China

13th century

Mechanical escapement

An unknown European inventor creates this and it sets off a clock making revolution that prepares the way for an outburst in mechanical invention.

1206

Water raising machine, improved

“One of the most important mechanical inventions in the history of humankind,” writes Paul Vallely the crankshaft was applied “by an ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari to raise water for irrigation. His 1206 Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices shows he . . . invented or refined the use of valves and pistons, devised some of the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and was the father of robotics. Among his 50 other inventions was the combination lock.”

1286

Eyeglasses

Magnifying glasses had been known to Greek antiquity, but the construction of such glasses to focus properly when near the eye seems to have awaited research—particularly Alhazen’s—in the geometry of refraction. A Chinese document of uncertain date between 1260 and 1300 speaks of glasses called ai tai, which enabled old people to read fine script. A Dominican friar, preaching at Piacenza in 1305, remarked: “It is not twenty years since there was discovered the art of making eyeglasses [occhiali], which enable one to see well. . . . I myself have spoken to the man who first discovered and made them.” A letter dated 1289 says: “I am so heavy with years that without the glasses called okiali, recently invented, I should not be able to read or write.” The invention is usually credited to Salvino d’Amarto, whose tombstone, dated 1317, read: “the inventor of spectacles.”

14th century

Firearms

 

 

 

 

Purification of zinc

“Though the Chinese invented saltpeter gunpowder” writes Paul Vallely “and used it in their fireworks, it was the Arabs who worked out that it could be purified [and used the] potassium nitrate for military use. Muslim incendiary devices terrified the Crusaders.”

 

India

1360

Mechanical clock

Henry De Vick of Württemberg

15th century

Torpedo

 

 

“By the 15th century,” writes Paul Vallely the Arabs “had invented . . . a torpedo—a self-propelled pear-shaped bomb with a spear at the front which impaled itself in enemy ships and then blew up.”

1438

Printing press, movable type

Johannes Gutenberg

1500

Pocket watch

Peter Henlein

1565

Pencil

Konrad Gesner sticks graphite into a wooden handle; Nicolas Conté improves it in 1795 by mixing clay with graphite and encasing it in wood. Hymen Lipman patents one with an attached eraser in 1858 and it becomes the world’s most widely used writing implement.

1592

Thermometer

Galileo Galilei

1600

Microscope, compound optical

Hans and Zacharias Janssen

 

1608

Telescope, optical

Hans Lippershey

1612

Flintlock musket

Marin de Bourgeoys

1620

Submarine

Cornelis Drebbel

1643

Barometer

Evangelista Torricelli

1654

Vacuum pump

Otto von Guericke

1656

Pendulum clock

Christiaan Huygens

1698

Steam Engine

Thomas Savery

1746

Leyden jar

E. Georg von Kleist or Pieter van Musschenbroek independently discovers how to store an electric charge.

1762

Chronometer

John Harrison

1769

Steam Engine, improved

This event inaugurates the Industrial Revolution. Hero of Alexandria had made a steam engine in the first century; Giambattista della Porta, Thomas Savery, and Thomas Newcomen had made better ones in 1601, 1698, and 1705; but James Watt’s stone caps the arch and changes the world.

1772

Carbonated beverage

Joseph Priestley, by dissolving “fixed air” in water, invents carbonated water.

1778

Threshing machine

Andrew Meikle

1783

Balloon, hot-air

Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier

1784

Bifocal lens

 

Oil lamp

Benjamin Franklin

 

Aimé Argand

1787

Centrifugal governor

 

Steam ship

James Watt

 

 John Fitch

1792

Gas lighting

William Murdock

1793

Cotton gin

Eli Whitney

1794

Ball bearing

Philip Vaughan

1795

Battery, electric storage

In 1791, at the University of Bologna, Luigi Galvani showed that if the muscle of a frog’s leg is connected with a piece of iron, and its nerve is connected with a piece of copper, an electric current will be generated and will cause the muscle to contract. In 1795, at the University of Pavia, Alessandro Volta invents the “Voltaic pile” or storage battery by replacing the iron with zinc. This so astonished Europe that he was called to Paris in 1801 to demonstrate it at the Institute of France. On November 7, before an audience that included Napoleon, he read a paper On the Identity of the Electric Fluid with the Galvanic Fluid.

1796

Lithography

Aloys Senefelder, at Munich, stumbles upon the process later called lithography, by scratching his mother’s laundry list upon a stone; it occurred to him that words and pictures, in various colors, could be engraved or embossed (in reverse as in a mirror) upon a smooth stone or metal plate, from which innumerable copies could be printed. Hence rose an ocean of prints from Goya and Hiroshige to Currier and Ives and Picasso.

1799

Interchangeable parts manufacturing

Until the nineteenth century, manufacturers used the English System—a lone craftsman or team of craftsmen would make each part of a product independently and assemble them into a separate article making alterations in the pieces so that they would fit together. Eli Whitney creates the American System of manufacturing by applying the concepts of division of labor and engineering tolerances to produce assembled products using interchangeable parts.

1801

Jacquard loom

Joseph-Marie Jacquard exhibits his new apparatus for weaving; in 1806, the French government bought the invention and distributed it; French textile industry then became competitive with the British. Later, it played a part in the development of the computer.

1802

Steam Engine, high pressure

Richard Trevithick or Oliver Evans

1809

Canning, food

Nicolas Appert

1811

Compound steam engine

 

Cylinder printing press

Arthur Woolf

 

 

Friedrich König

1816

Stirling engine

Robert Stirling

1818

Bicycle

Karl de Drais de Sauerbrun

1819

Stethoscope

René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec

1820

Fresnel lens

Augustin-Jean Fresnel

1824

Portland cement

Joseph Aspdin

1825

Electromagnet

 

Steam locomotive

William Sturgeon

 

George Stephenson

1826

Stove, gas

James Sharp

1827

Matches, friction

 

Aluminum

John Walker

 

Friedrich Wöhler

1828

Electromagnet, improved

Joseph Henry

1829

Sewing machine

Barthélemy Thimonnier

1830

Thermostat

Andrew Ure

1831

Electromagnetic  induction

 

 

Reaper, mechanical

Michael Faraday initially discovers this principle, but Joseph Henry independently comes across it 1832. Faraday builds a dynamo that leads to the invention of electric generators and other devices.

 

Cyrus Hall McCormick

1832

Magneto

Hippolyte Pixii

1832–35

Telegraph, perfected

Samuel F.B. Morse

1836

Revolver

 

Plow, steel

Samuel Colt

 

John Deere

1837

Photography, perfected

Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre or

William Henry Fox Talbot

1838

Morse code

Alfred Vail

1839

Fuel cell

 

Rubber, vulcanized

William R. Grove

 

Charles Goodyear

1842

Facsimile machine

 

Refrigerator

Alexander Bain

 

John Gorrie

1845

Rotary printing press

Richard Hoe

1852

Airship

 

Gyroscope

 

Elevator, passenger

Henri Giffard

 

Jean Foucault

 

Elisha Graves Otis

1855

Dry cleaning

Jean Baptiste Jolly

1856

Steel, mass-produced

Sir Henry Bessemer or William Kelly

1859

Lead-acid storage battery

 

Spectroscope

Gaston Planté

 

 

Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchoff

1860

Internal-combustion engine

Étienne Lenoir builds one but it isn’t until January 16, 1862 that Alphonse Beau de Rochas gives the theoretical description of an ideal four-stroke internal-combustion engine and patents it. Nikolaus Otto and Eugen Langen build another based on this theoretical design. Otto’s assistant Gottlieb Daimler and independent engineer Karl Benz apply it to transportation and create an automobile.

1863

Underground subway

John Fowler

1867

Concrete, reinforced

 

Dynamite

 

Air brake

Joseph Monier

 

Alfred Nobel

 

George Westinghouse

1868

Typewriter

Christopher Latham Sholes

1869

Celluloid

John Wesley Hyatt invents this as a substitute for ivory in billiard balls.

1871

Cardboard, corrugated

Albert Jones

1872

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

 

Automatic engine lubricator

Eugen Baumann

 

Prior to Elijah McCoy’s “lubricator cup,” workers periodically had to fill a drip feed mechanism manually.

1873-83

Electric motor

Zénobe Gramme accidentally joins a spinning dynamo to a second similar unit and drives it, thereby creating the DC electric motor. Nikola Tesla discovers the rotating magnetic field principle in 1882 and uses it to construct a two-phase AC induction motor in 1883.

1874

Barbed wire

 

DDT

Joseph Glidden

 

Othmar Zeidler

1876

Telephone, wired-line

Alexander Graham Bell

1877

Carbon “button” telephone transmitter/microphone

 

 

Phonograph

This Thomas Edison invention not only led to the development of the microphone, which made early radio possible, but also led to the solid-state “diode”/transistor which allows much of today’s electronic devices to exist. In England, David E. Hughes creates a similar invention.

Thomas Edison

1878

Cream separator

 

Cathode ray tube

Carl Gustaf Patrik de Laval

 

Sir William Crookes

1879

Electric train

 

Light bulb, incandescent

Werner von Siemens

 

Thomas Edison

1882

Iron, electric

Henry W. Seely

1884

Bacteria filter

 

 

Film, photographic

 

Steam turbine, multistage

 

Skyscraper, steel-frame

 

Rayon

Charles Chamberland develops a filter capable of straining out bacteria, but not microbes that are even smaller!

 

George Eastman

 

Charles Parsons

 

 

William Le Baron Jenney

 

Louis-Marie-Hilaire Bernigaud, count de Chardonnet

1885

Motorcycle

 

Automobile

Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach

 

Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach or Karl Benz

1886

Aluminum smelting

 

Linotype

 

Dishwasher

Charles Martin Hall or Paul Lois Toussaint Héroult

 

Ottmar Mergenthaler

 

Josephine Cochrane

1887

Contact lenses

Adolf Fick

1888

Camera, portable photographic

 

Tire, pneumatic

George Eastman

 

 

John Boyd Dunlop

1891

Camera, motion picture

 

Tesla coil

 

Escalator

Thomas Edison and William K.L. Dickson

 

 

Nikola Tesla

 

Jesse W. Reno

1893

Zipper

 

Toaster, electric

Whitcomb L. Judson

 

Alan MacMasters

1895

Radiotelegraphy

 

Guglielmo Marconi combines many ideas with his own to develop his wireless telegraphy.

1896

Stove, electric

William Hadaway

1897

Cathode ray oscilloscope

 

Engine, diesel

Ferdinand Braun

 

 

Rudolf Diesel

1898

Recording, magnetic

Valdemar Poulsen

1899

Flashlight, battery-operated portable

Conrad Hubert

1901

Vacuum cleaner, electric

Herbert Cecil Booth

1902

Air conditioning

 

Spark plug

Willis Haviland Carrier

 

Prior to Robert Bosch and Gottlob Honold’s invention, internal- combustion engines ignite their fuel by passing electricity between moving contacts within the cylinder.

1903

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

 

Airplane, engine-powered

 

Multistage rocket

Willem Einthoven

 

 

Wilbur and Orville Wright

 

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

1904

Vacuum tube

 

 

 

 

Radar

 

Razor, safety

 

Silicone

When consulting for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in 1899, Sir John Ambrose Fleming finds a use for the “Edison effect” tube as a rectifier for radio signals. He patents his version this year.

 

Christian Hülsmeyer

 

King Camp Gillette

 

 

Frederic Stanley Kipping

1906

Vacuum tube amplifier

Lee De Forest

 

1907

Motor, outboard

 

Washing machine, electric

 

Bakelite

Ole Evinrude

 

A. J. Fisher

 

Leo Baekeland invents the first modern plastic

1908

Geiger counter

Hans Geiger

1909

Glass, safety

Edouard Bénédictus

1910

Neon lighting

Georges Claude

1911

Cellophane

Jacques E. Brandenberger

1912

Steel, stainless

Harry Brearley

1913

Moving assembly line

Henry Ford introduces the moving assembly line and finalizes the process of mass production manufacturing begun by Eli Whitney.

1915

Sonar

Paul Langevin

1918

Superheterodyne circuit

Edwin H. Armstrong

1919

Mobile home

Glenn H. Curtiss

1921

Bandage, adhesive

Earle Dickson

1922, 1923

Television, electronic

Philo Taylor Farnsworth or Vladimir Kosma Zworykin

1923

Traffic lights, automatic

Garrett A. Morgan

1924

Car radio

 

Loudspeaker

William P. Lear

 

Chester W. Rice and Edward W. Kellogg

1925

Foods, frozen

 

Metal detector

Clarence Birdseye

 

Gerhard Fisher

1926

Engine, liquid-fueled rocket

 

Aerosol can

Robert H. Goddard

 

 

Erik Rotheim

1927

Clock, Quartz

Warren A. Marrison

1928

Audiotape

Fritz Pfleumer

1929

Electro-encephalogram

(EEG)

Hans Berger

 

1930

Engine, jet

 

Scotch tape

Sir Frank Whittle or Hans von Ohain

 

Richard Drew (3M)

1931

Stereophonic sound recording

 

CRT television tube

Alan Dower Blumlein

 

By 1908 English inventor A. A. Campbell-Swinton and Russian inventor Boris Rosing had individually proposed that a cathode-ray tube (CRT) be utilized to duplicate a television picture on a phosphor-coated screen. However, it wasn’t till American electrical engineer Allen B. DuMont improved the CRT that it found a use in television.

1932

Fiberglass

Games Slayter

1933

Microscope, electron

Ernst Ruska

1934

Light bulb, fluorescent

 

FM radio

Arthur Compton

 

 

Edwin Armstrong

1935

Polyethylene

 

Richter scale

Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson

 

Charles Francis Richter and  Beno Gutenberg

1937

Nylon

Wallace H. Carothers

1938

Photocopying (xerography)

 

Teflon

Chester F. Carlson

 

 

Roy Plunkett

1939

Helicopter

Igor Sikorsky

1942

Missile, guided

 

Nuclear reactor

Werner von Braun

 

Enrico Fermi

1943

Scuba gear

Jacques Cousteau and Émile Gagnan

1945

Atomic bomb

 

Microwave oven

J. Robert Oppenheimer et al.

 

Percy L. Spencer

1946

Foods, freeze-dried

Earl W. Flosdorf

1947

Transistor

 

Polaroid camera

John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William B. Shockley

 

Edwin Herbert Land

1948

Holography

 

Velcro

Dennis Gabor

 

George de Mestral

1949

Computer, electronic digital

 

The inauguration of the “computer” started with the abacus, but “programming” started with Hero of Alexandria who created the first one to direct his mechanical devices in a pre-ordered sequence. Later the Banu Musa brothers invented the first programmable machine: an automaton flute that follows a program akin to a nineteenth century player piano.

    Meanwhile, Blaise Pascal, G. W. Leibniz, and Charles Babbage expanded the abacus into a mechanical calculator and then a “difference engine.” Joseph-Marie Jacquard developed a loom that used punched cards to control it, and Herman Hollerith adapted these punched cards to operate electromechanical relays in his calculating machine.

    The start of World War II created a necessity for an electronic computer particularly in the military. John P. Eckert, John W. Mauchly et al. at the Univ. of Pennsylvania construct a high speed one called ENIAC. John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry at Iowa State College make the ABC, or Atanasoff-Berry Computer, with a simpler vacuum tube array and the modern world is never the same again. At about the same time in Germany Konrad Zuse completes his Z3, the first programmable digital computer.

    John von Neumann enhances the programming of such machines by suggesting that they operate using a stored program. The first machine to so is the EDSAC computer operated by Maurice Wilkes et al at Cambridge University. As a result, the computer’s capability increases exponentially.

1950

Remote control, television

Robert Adler

1952

Bar code

 

Hydrogen bomb

 

Airbag, automotive

 

Defibrillator and Cardiac pacemaker

Norman Joseph Woodland

 

Edward Teller et al

 

John Hetrick

 

Paul M. Zoll

1955

Respirator

 

Diamond, artificial

 

Fiber optics

Forrest M. Bird

 

Percy Bridgman or Tracy Hall (General Electric Co.)

 

Narinder S. Kapany

1956

Videotape

Charles Ginsburg and Ray Dolby

1957

Satellite, artificial earth

Sergey Korolyov et al

1958

Ultrasound imaging, obstetric

 

Optical recording technology

 

Integrated circuit

Ian Donald

 

 

David Paul Gregg and James Russell

 

Six months after Jack S. Kilby files his patent, Robert Noyce independently creates his own superior version in 1959.

1958-60

Laser

Charles H. Townes and Arthur L. Schawlow/Gordon Gould/Alexander M. Prokhorov and Nikolai G. Basov/Theodore H. Maiman/Ali Javan.

1959

Seat belt, automotive shoulder

Nils Bohlin (Volvo)

1960

Satellite, communications

 

Carbon-fiber

John Robinson Pierce

 

 

Richard Millington

1962

Light-emitting diode (LED)

Nick Holonyak, Jr.

 

1963

Liquid crystal display (LCD)

George Heilmeier

 

1964

Computer mouse

Douglas Engelbart

1967

Calculator, electronic hand-held

Jack S. Kilby

1969

Smoke detector, home

 

Internet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Videocassette recorder

Randolph Smith and Kenneth House

 

 

Paul Baran and Donald W. Davies independently conceive of “packet switching,” a communications methodology that increases computer network efficiency. From this, the Advanced Research Projects Agency network (ARPAnet) at the U.S. Dept. of Defense commences plans to have Defense Department computers in constant communications. The technology continues to develop during the 1970s once scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf develop Transmission Control Protocol over Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, a communications paradigm that establishes criteria for how data can be communicated between many networks. Eventually it becomes the internet—an interconnected network of communicating computers. 

 

Nobutoshi Kihara et al (Sony)

1970

Wristwatch, digital

 

Compact disc (CD)

John M. Bergey

 

James T. Russell

1971

Microprocessor

 

 

 

Electronic mail

 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

 

Food processor

Ted Hoff, working for Intel, incorporates all of the functions of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) on a single integrated circuit.

 

Ray Tomlinson                                                                              

 

Paul C. Lauterbur

 

 

Pierre Verdon

1972

Computed tomography (CT)

 

Video games

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield or Allan Cormack

 

 

Nolan Bushnell

1973

Telephone, mobile

Martin Cooper

1974

Computer, personal

 

 

PET scanner

MITS (Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems) Altair 8800

 

Michel Ter-Pogossian, Michael Phelps and Edward Hoffman

1975

Personal computer software

Bill Gates and Paul Allen create a corporation designed to provide software for the growing personal computer market.

1979

Personal stereo

Akio Morita, Masaru Ibuka (co-founders of Sony) and Kozo Ohsone

1980

Lithium ion battery

 

 

 

 

Camcorder

Experimentations with lithium batteries began early in the 20th century but it isn’t till John B. Goodenough creates the LiCoO2 cathode and Rachid Yazami creates the graphite anode that they become practical realities.

 

Jerome Lemelson receives a patent for this device but it awaits two years before JVC and Sony turn it into a practical reality.

1981

Computer, laptop

Adam Osborne

1983

3d Printing

Charles W. Hull

1989

Virtual reality

 

World Wide Web

Jaron Lanier

 

Tim Berners-Lee

2001-10

iPod, iPhone, and iPad

Steve Jobs of Apple, Inc. revolutionizes consumer electronics with releases of products intended to digitize the world. The iPod stores music digitally, the iPhone creates the smartphone market in 2007 as the iPad similarly creates the tablet computer market in 2010.

2002

Single-atom transistor

Paul McEuen and Dan Ralph