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Top Five World Changing Inventions

Updated on May 29, 2012

Throughout history, humans have been a highly inventive species. By living on our wits, inventing tools as we need them, and constantly innovating in response to environmental challenges, humans have risen to become one of the most successful and widespread species on planet Earth. But which inventions have made the most difference to our everyday lives?

1. The Wheel

It might have been around a long time, but the wheel is still incredibly useful. Thought to have been invented in around 3500 BCE, the wheel allowed our ancient ancestors to move heavy building materials and food stores from place to place. This allowed them to spread across the continents and construct buildings to shelter their communities. Today, the wheel is still indispensable to our way of life: where would we be without cars, buses, bicycles, and trains, all of which run on wheels?

2. The Steam Engine

The invention and development of the steam engine during the 18th century drove the Industrial Revolution, which revolutionized the way of life in the developed world. Steam engines were used to power mines, factories, and steam trains. The principle behind the steam engine - that of using the energy released by burning fuel to drive a motor - was developed further to invent the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine, which is what sits beneath the hood of most cars, changed the world by allowing people to quickly get from one place to another.

3. Penicillin

Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. It was quickly realized that the antibiotic properties of penicillin, a substance produced by bread mold, could be used to treat diseases that at the time regularly killed hundreds of thousands of people. Scientists have refined and modified penicillin to produce a broad spectrum of modern antibiotics, which doctors use to treat infections, saving thousands of lives every year.

4. The Printing Press

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, it is not clear whether he knew how much of an effect it would have on the world. Books, which had previously been written by hand, could be quickly produced thanks to the printing press. This increased availability of books helped to improve literacy throughout Europe. Mass-produced pamphlets, newspapers, and other printed materials helped to spread information and ideas to the masses. People became more aware of the world outside their immediate community, and more politically engaged.

5. The Internet

The world's second revolution in communications came with the invention of the Internet. Thanks to this worldwide network of computers, people from all areas of the globe can instantly share information and keep in contact with each other. Our world is still reeling from the shock of having so much information available at the click of a mouse. The Internet is only a few decades old, and it is not clear how it will continue to change our lives, but one thing is for sure: it is an incredibly powerful invention. The wealth of information that the Internet puts at our fingertips makes us more aware than ever before of global events, encouraging people from all nations to work together to address the world's problems on a global scale.


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    • happyturtle profile image

      happyturtle 5 years ago from UK

      That's a very good point Matt. It's very subject coming up with a top five list like this.

    • Matt Weeks profile image

      Matt Weeks 5 years ago from Burlington, NJ

      A thought-provoking read. I would have thought agriculture would have made the list. Organized human societies would have never existed without it.