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Top 10 Awesome Inventions We Take For Granted

Updated on September 12, 2019
CaitBooth profile image

Caitlyn has both experience and formal education in many different areas.

10. Gum

Who Invented It:

While gum itself has been chewed by people for centuries, the chewing gum we know today was invented by John Curtis, and then improved or altered over time by Thomas Adams (with help from Santa Anna), Frank Fleer with Walter Diemer, and William Wrigley Jr.

When it was invented:

John Curtis - 1840's (first commercialized chewing gum with spruce tree resin gum)

Thomas Adams (Santa Anna) - 1880's (Chicle as the main ingredient in gum, instead of the tree resin)

William Wrigley Jr. - 1893 (commercialized gum and made it as popular as it is today)

Frank Fleer & Walter Diemer - 1885 & 1928 (Fleer wanted to make gum that could be blown into a bubble; Diemer perfected Fleer's recipe)

How it was invented:

Gum originally came from the rubbery resin of trees. This process was then improved and changed as needed.

Impact on today:

People all over the world chew gum, and now there are many different flavors and types of gum out there for people to enjoy!

9. Pencil/Colored Pencil

Who Invented It:

Pencils - Nicholas-Jacques Conte (a scientist serving in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte)

Colored Pencil - Faber-Castell and Caran d'Ache (though oil and wax based colored writing utensils existed at the time of ancient Greeks)

When it was invented:

Pencil - 1795

Colored Pencil - 1924

How it was invented:

Pencil - Conte took a pure carbon substance eventually named Graphite - found in Europe at the start of the fifteenth century - and roasted a mixture of water, clay, and graphite. He then cased it in a wood shell.

Colored Pencil - The colored pencil, unlike the pencil, is made up of colored wax and binding materials

Impact on today:

Pencils opened the door to writing as we know it today and is now one of the more overlooked inventions we use today. Colored pencils gave people a way to color and draw without having to rely on thick oils and paints.

8. The Cardboard Box

Who Invented It:

M. Treverton & Son - first commercial paperboard (cereal boxes) box

Robert Gair - pre-cut cardboard or paperboard box

When it was invented:

Treverton - 1817

Gair - 1890

How it was invented:

The pre-cut cardboard box was invented accidentally by Gair when a machine used to crease bags shifted and cut them instead

Impact on today:

Boxes are used for nearly anything. Holding cereal, moving items from place to place, shipping products around the world, and pleasing cats everywhere.

7. Plastic

Who Invented It:

Alexander Parkes

When it was invented:

1862. Parkes took it to the Great International Exhibition in London.

How it was invented:

Plastic was originally made from Parkesine, an organic material derived from something called Cellulose. The material could be heated to mold the shape and then cooled to retain it.

Impact on today:

Platic is used in nearly every aspect of life in the 21st Century. From storage to packaging to photography, plastic is a major part of the lives of many people.

What is "Cellulose"

Cellulose is the material that makes up the cell wall in plants. It is a tough fibrous substance that aids in the protection of the cell.

6. Heating and Air Conditioning

Who Invented It:

Heating - William Siemens

Cooling - Willis Carrier

When it was invented:

Heating - 1861

Cooling - 1902

How it was invented:

Heated - Siemens learned how to heat coils using electricity and then installed a fan in the machine to blow out the hot air.

Cooling - Though there were tactics to aid in cooling (such as blowing air over ice or cold cloths, it wasn't until Carrier invented a machine with cooled coils that the steps towards the modern air conditioner began. His machine was incredibly dangerous, however, because of the amount of ammonia used to run it. The machine was only able to be used in larger buildings like hospitals or hotels.

Impact on today:

People are able to live in places they may not typically be able in comfort thanks to these inventions. Even the discomfort of a too-warm day can now be alleviated by turning on the air conditioner.

5. Toilet Paper

Who Invented It:

Toilet paper was first introduced in China. The commercialized rolls we know today, however, were invented by Joseph C. Gayetty and Seth Wheeler of Albany.

When it was invented:

China - 1391

Commercialized sanitary sheets (Gayetty) - 1857

Packaged toilet paper rolls (Wheeler) - 1871

How it was invented:

Toilet paper of a sort has existed for centuries, often used by the royalty, but the type we know was the product of a chain of modifications made after the invention of industrialized paper products in the 1700's and 1800's.

Impact on today:

Toilet paper is a common commodity in many countries.

4. Spray Nozzles

Who Invented It:

Dr. Jules Montenier

When it was invented:

1947. The trigger spray bottle appeared in the 1960s.

How it was invented:

Some of the earliest versions utilized rubber bulbs that created fast-moving air when squeezed. Then, a squeeze bottle was created to spray liquids through the nozzle. Finally, the trigger was invented.

Impact on today:

Spray nozzles are used for pretty much everything. From cleaning to cooling off.

3. Straws

Who Invented It:

Marvin Stone

When it was invented:

1888

How it was invented:

He wrapped some paper around a pencil an glued the pieces together. This was an early prototype of the paper drinking straw. Straws became bendable in the 1930s thanks to Joseph Friedman. Plastic straw came about during the boom of plastic production in the late 1800s.

Impact on today:

Though straws made of plastic are being banned across the world, they are still used by a majority of companies and places such as hospitals. They make drinking much easier and are far more durable than the paper ones first made, and cheaper than the steel ones used centuries before that.

2. Cement

Background Information:

Cement has been around for centuries. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all had cementing materials they used to build their massive cities with. The Romans implemented volcanic ash in their cement as it could set underwater, which led to them being able to build their harbors. The Egyptians used something called gypsum and the British used crushed brick or tile in place of the volcanic ash the Romans used.

Who Invented It:

The Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment were key eras where cement technology was improved. The British needed to build lighthouses to keep ships from wrecking onto rocky shores. A man called Smeaton built a lighthouse and found that mixing lime, clay, and crushed slag from iron-making made that could harden underwater.

Joseph Aspdin created the initial recipe for 'Portland Cement', which was improved by Isaac Johnson in 1845 by firing a mixture of chalk and clay.

When it was invented:

Cement has existed for centuries, but the modern cement was invented in 1845

How it was invented:

Joseph Aspdin created the modern-day Portland Cement, which was improved by Isaac Johnson.

Impact on today:

Cement and concrete are used in cities across the world.

1. Coiled Springs

Who Invented It:

Though springs of the non-coiled variety have existed for centuries, the coiled spring wasn't invented until R. Tradwell of England.

When it was invented:

1763. Steel coils in 1857.

How it was invented:

The spring called a 'leaf spring' laid the platform for the coiled spring to be invented as it needed to be oiled all the time. Coiled springs do not.

Impact on today:

Springs are used in everything from mattresses to cars

Sources:

  • History.com
  • Brainpickings.org
  • Historyofpencils.com
  • Wikipedia.com
  • ThoughtCo.com
  • Service and Champions Heating & Air Conditioning
  • toiletpaperhistory.net
  • Career Trend
  • Understanding Cement
  • Coiled Technologies Inc.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Caitlyn Booth

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