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Friday, February 29, 2008

50 inventions that changed the world

Abacus- 190 AD:Use of the abacus, with its beads in a rack, was first documented in China in about 190 AD. The Chinese version was the speediest way to do sums for centuries and, in the right hands, can still outpace electronic calculators.

Aspirin- 1899:Little tablets of acetylsalicylic acid have probably cured more minor ills than any other medicine. Hippocrates was the first to realise the healing power of the substance. At the turn-of-the-century, German chemist Felix Hoffman perfected the remedy.

Barbed wire- 1873:The world's most divisive invention was conceived not to keep people in or out, but cows.

Barcode- 1973:Barcodes were conceived as a kind of visual Morse code by a Philadelphia student in 1952. Now, black stripes have appeared on almost everything we buy.

Battery- 1800:In 1780s, Italian physicist Luigi Galvani discovered that a dead frog's leg would twitch when he touched it with two pieces of metal. His friend, professor Alessandro Volta made the first battery which were voltaic cells stacked in a Voltaic pile.

Bicycle- 1861:First devised as a gentleman’s plaything in the 1820s, the push-powered hobby-horse quickly evolved to become the most classless form of transport.

Button- 1235:Ancient Greeks fastened tunics using crude buttons and loops, but it took the buttonhole to popularise the little discs of perforated plastic that adorn our clothes today.

Camera- 1826:Though British polymath William Talbot was the inventor of one of the earliest cameras, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced the earliest surviving photograph on a pewter plate in 1826.

Compass- 1190:Sailors in China and Europe independently discovered lodestone - a magnetic mineral that aligned with the North Pole - in the 12th century. By 1190, Italian navigators were using lodestone to magnetise needles floating in bowls water.

Condom- 1640:Egyptians donned them 3,000 years ago and the 16th-century Italian gynaecologist Gabriele Falloppio first advocated their use to prevent the spread of disease.

Fridge- 1834:Jacob Perkins was the first to describe how pipes filled with volatile chemicals whose molecules evaporated very easily could keep food cool.

Gun- 14th century:Gunpowder led to the creation of the cannon in the 13th century. The biggest step that led to the modern gun was Smith and Wesson’s metal-cased cartridge, first fired in 1857.

Internal combustion engine- 1859:Credit for the first working internal combustion engine goes to the Belgian inventor Étienne Lenoir, who converted a steam engine in 1859. It spawned the billions of engines that have been built since.

Laser- 1960:Physicist Theodore Maiman built the first working laser in 1960. His device was based around a ruby crystal that emitted light "brighter than the centre of the sun".

Light bulb- 1848:Joseph Swan in fact developed a bulb before Edison, but the pair later joined forces and today share credit for creating the gadget we perhaps take for granted more than any other.

Locks- 2000 BC:Egyptians were the first to put things under lock and key about 4,000 years ago .

Microchip- 1958:US engineer Jack Kilby built the world's first monolithic integrated circuit, or microchip that changed the world of computing.

Mobile phone- 1947:The first mobile phone service was introduced by Bell Laboratories in Missouri in 1947.

Paper- 105 AD:The Chinese began using bark, bamboo fibres, hemp and flax to mill the first reams almost 2,000 years ago, but it took centuries for paper to envelop the world.

PC- 1977:Steve Jobs, whose Apple II, launched in 1977, was the first consumer PC to resemble the machines that went on to transform our lives.

Printing press- 1454:The Chinese were the world's first printers – they practised block printing as early as 500 AD – but a German goldsmith called Johannes Gutenberg was the first to construct a press.

Radio- 1895:Alexander Popov, a Russian, and the Italian-Irish inventor Guglielmo Marconi, separately sent and received the first radio waves. Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio message (three dots for the letter 'S') in 1901.

Telephone- 1876:Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell raced to make the first working phone in the 1870s, Bell winning in a photo-finish.

Television- 1925:Scotsman John Logie Baird first demonstrated TV to the public in 1925.

The internet- 1969:Conceived by the US Department of Defense in the 1960s, the internet, together with the World Wide Web, invented in 1989 by Brit techie, Tim Berners-Lee, has shrunk the world like no other invention.

The Match- 1826:The Stockholm-based chemist John Walker was the first to discover that when a stick coated in potassium chlorate and antimony sulphide was brushed across stone, it created a flame.

The Pill- 1951:The contraceptive pill was developed by a team headed by Carl Djerassi, a chemist, in 1951, but wasn't marketed in the UK until 1962.

Wheel- 3500 BC:The wheel surely deserves a place near the top of any "greatest inventions" list. The earliest evidence of a wheel – a pictograph from Sumeria (modern day Iraq) – dates back to 3500 BC; the device rolled West soon after that.

Zip- 1913:Credit for the device's invention goes to Gideon Sundback. In 1913, the Swedish engineer made the first modern zip to fasten high boots.

Honourable mentions:

Bow and arrow- 30,000 BC, CD- 1965, Cardiac pacemaker- 1958, Credit card- 1950, Drum- 12,000 BC, Dynamite- 1867, Fish hook- 30,000 BC, GPS- 1978, iPod- 2001, Kettle- 1891, Microscope- 1590, Plough- AD 100, Rubber band- 1845, Sewing machine- 1830, Spectacles- 1451, Syringe- 1844, Telescope- 1608, Umbrell- 2400 BC, Walkman- 1979, Weighing scales- 5000 BC.

P.S: Courtesy Times of India.


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