If you think that the world’s greatest inventions came from the fevered minds of solitary geniuses, think again. As you scan this list of the 10 inventions that changed the world, note how many of them perfected workable designs.
When you imagine inventors, you probably picture a lone genius in a laboratory concocting brilliant devices, experimenting and redesigning until some concept or contraption works perfectly. At that point, the new invention is unveiled to the world, a stunning piece of new technology that instantly changes everything.
As you’ll see when you read about these 10 world-changing inventions, no invention is created in a vacuum. Every single one was built on previous inventions created by other inventors years, decades or even centuries before. Every invention has problems, and it might not be until some other inventor comes along that they get solved. To confuse things further, it usually isn’t the original inventor who gets all the credit, but rather the inventor who made the one crucial improvement that makes us all want one.
It’s a simple cutting tool used to carve a furrow into the soil, churning it up to expose nutrients and prepare it for planting. Yet the plow is probably the one invention that made all others possible.
We immediately think of Thomas Edison as the electric light bulb’s inventor, but dozens of people were working on similar ideas in the 1870s, when Edison developed his incandescent bulb. Joseph Swan did similar work in Britain at the time, and eventually the two merged their ideas into a single company, Ediswan.
You might think the light bulb changed the world by allowing people to work at night or in dark places (it did, to some extent), but we already had relatively cheap and efficient gas lamps and other light sources at the time. But it was actually the infrastructure that was built to provide electricity to every home and business that changed the world.
Computers let us store vast amounts of information and retrieve a given piece of it almost instantly. Many of the things we take for granted in the world wouldn’t function without computers, from cars to power plants to phones.
No explanation needed. We all know how it changed the world and people.
The Internet, a network of computers covering the entire planet, allows people to access almost any information located anywhere in the world at any time. Its effects on business, communication, economy, entertainment and even politics are profound. The Internet may not have changed the world as much as the plow, but it’s probably on par with the steam engine or automobile.