Top 10: Greatest Inventions Of All Time

Inventions are pretty useful things, in fact, inventions are very useful things. People are inventing new things all the time - unfortunately, the vast majority of inventions tend to be utterly useless; but every now and then someone comes up with something that completely changes the world and it is these few ideas that this hub is about. Now, there are, undoubtedly many equally great inventions as those on this list, but unfortunately it's had to be cut down to just 10. Things such as language have been omitted from this list for, while they are, indeed, quite useful, they were more developed out of necessity than invented; the same applies to fire - it has always been present on this earth, all we did was work out how to create it on a whim!

So what are they? Read on....

10 - The Wheel: I know what you're thinking: "what, those round things?" well, the short answer is "yes", the long answer: "yes it is". Point is, the wheel is the simplest invention in the universe - you need only scoop up a handful of mud, pat it into a circle and leave it in the sun to dry! So what's so great about it? Well, almost every land vehicle in existence uses wheels as do many many other things like anything with a belt drive (car engines, conveyor belts etc.) In fact, life would be pretty hard without it - but not impossible. The Incas and Aztecs, for example, despite coming up with fully working calendars and a vast knowledge of astronomy, didn't use wheels whatsoever - or at least, not for anything other than children's toys. Some say that it was due to the mountainous terrain many lived in; personally I'm more of the opinion that it was to allow for the creation of designated stone carriers to relieve the soaring rates of unemployment in their societies.


9 - Plumbing: Not exactly the first thing that springs to mind, nor really attributed to a single person (Although the Romans did come up with many advances in this area), but nevertheless, plumbing has been instrumental in the reduction of the spread of disease throughout society. Readily available running water in many western countries has meant that we can wash our clothes and ourselves regularly and, more importantly, has allowed for a sewage system to be created so raw human waste is no longer thrown into the street. You only need look as far as certain parts of Africa to see just how complicated life is when all your water has to come from a well several miles away.


8 - Anesthetic: In the past, many operations were too painful to actually perform, and many that were done lead to the patient dying from the shock. Anesthetics have been used for thousands of years but were often unreliable and very dangerous in their own right. However, the creation of a safe and reliable anesthetic has allowed for far more complicated and dangerous procedures to be carried out on people in need. Local anesthetics, too, have enabled small-scale procedures to be carried out without any of the risks of rendering the person fully unconscious.


7 - Plastic: If you cannot see something plastic right now then I can't begin where you are! First created by Alexander Parkes in 1855, plastics are now seen all over the world and used in millions and millions of everyday objects. The chances are you're even wearing plastic right now; for plastic is not just the hard substance we all associate it with, but the term 'plastics' incorporates everything from rubber to materials like nylon and polyester. Plastics have also been instrumental in the creating affordable electronic products - despite their sometimes rather dodgy construction.


6 - The Telephone: We have a certain Alexander Graham Bell to thank for this one after he was awarded the first patent for the telephone in 1876. Since then telephones have come a long way and are getting smaller by the minute. Having truly connected the world, telephones come in all shapes and sizes and are found everywhere! Prior to the internet, telephones were crucial for staying connected: previously things were done face to face or via telegram but would take much longer either way due to the distances travelled. It could almost be said that the invention of the telephone allowed for television and the internet to follow.


5 - Antibiotics: Much experimentation was done with antibiotics in the late 19th century in Germany; however, it was only really the discovery of Penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming that made the breakthrough. Due to their ability to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, antibiotics have been created to treat thousands of different diseases and forms of infection. Without antibiotics, countless millions would have died from what is now easily averted; and is because of this that they deserve to be on this list despite not being so much of an 'invention' as such.


4 - The Printing Press: The fact you're able to read this now is testament to the work of our good friend Johannes Gutenberg who, in 1439, invented the first printing press. Prior to Gutenberg's invention, all books were hand written and hence very expensive so the ability to read such books was generally confined to the upper classes. With the printing press, however, books became much cheaper and more readily available - allowing for most people to get hold of them and was a huge step in the spread of information and meant that the same works were universally identical as well as identical in layout.


3 - Electricity: The harnessing of electrical power cannot really be attributed to one person, however, several - namely Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Alexander Graham Bell - did much in terms of experimentation and invention that lead to the understanding of it today. Electricity is crucial to the running of society today; without it we would simply grind to a halt: no internet, no phones, no starter motors in vehicles and no lighting. The ability to manipulate electricity is, in many senses, one of the most powerful and useful tools in man's possession. As Thomas Edison himself put it when seeing a friend lighting a gas lamp: "Oh my gosh guys, fire is sooo last century" (citation most definitely unavailable) and he was right, electricity totally is the new fire.


2 - The Internet: The development of the technology that enabled the internet to be created was designed as a result of several US-funded projects; it was, however, only in 1989 did Tim Berners-Lee actually harness the technology and use it to create the World Wide Web. Since its creation 20 years ago there are now an estimated 1.5 billion users of the internet worldwide - and the reason for it being listed as the second greatest invention of all time is fairly evident: it has completely revolutionised the way we do business, handle money, shop and communicate as well as affecting many more aspects of our daily lives.


1 - The Transistor: "What?" I hear many of you say. Well, a transistor is a device made from a semi-conductive material with three or more terminals to which it is connected to a circuit; their main uses are to amplify and switch electrical signals. Well, that's all great and sounds fairly pointless to someone who's only just learnt that they exist, however, they are key to every digital circuit today - just to give you an idea, the processor in the computer you're using right now - assuming it's fairly new - has somewhere in the region of 100 - 300 million transistors in it (and that's just the processor!). Roughly 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one billion billion - or, a 'quintillion') transistors are produced each year - that means that more transistors are made each year than raindrops fall on California. Anyway, the invention of these little things is usually credited to William Shockley and a few others who produced the first ones in the 1950s. Without transistors, computers, radios, mobile phones, TVs, industrial machinery, digital cameras and anything that uses a microchip of any kind in the world today would not be possible.

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Comments 2 comments

Stuart 6 years ago

Just like fire, antibiotics and electricity are not inventions, they are discoveries. I would also argue that plastics are a discovery, but that is somewhat debatable.


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clark farley 5 years ago

yo, Stuart who asked you to argue?

..sorry for butting in on your Comments section, but this Hub writing is tough enough without someone lacking in anything of their own to contribute, writing negative stuff.

I for one found your Hub interesting. I just recently tried writing a 'real hub' (as opposed to my other hubs, lol) about what science fiction writers got wrong. I agree with the internet being one of the top 10 inventions in human history, on the basis of allowing a totally amazing medium of communication like these hubs and blogs and things.

(feel free to delete my reference to 'stewie' there, of course. just kinda pissed me off lol)

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