7 inventions that changed the world

July 22, 2015

“That’s one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind” Neil Armstrong’s words on first setting foot on the moon, in 1969.


Most inventions are not the result of a single person’s stroke of genius, they are a culmination of the work of many. The one thing that we know for sure is that the world was never the same again.  From small inventions that changed the way that we do things to medical advances that save lives and empower women, here are 8 inventions that changed the world:

1. Penicillin saves lives

Discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate, Alexander Fleming. He showed that, if Penicillium rubens were grown in the appropriate substrate, it would exude a substance with antibiotic properties.

2. The personal car

Karl Benz’s 1885 Motorwagen, powered by an internal combustion engine of his own design, is widely considered the first automobile. Henry Ford’s improvements in the production process and effective marketing brought the price and the desire for owning a car into the reach of most Americans.

3. The telephone revolutionised global business and communication

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was the first to be awarded a patent for the electric telephone. The first successful bi-directional transmission of clear speech by Bell and his assistant Thomas Watson was made in March 1876.

4. Birth control changed the world for women

Gregory Pincus and John Rock, with help from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, developed the first birth control pills in the 1950s which became publicly available in the 1960s. Since then, the world has seen a dramatic increase in women’s education and their participation in the global workforce.  Not to mention the positive effect it has had on the health and well being of women around the world.

5. Light bulb sparked the implementation of electricity infrastructure

Thomas Edison is credited as the primary inventor of the light bulb because he created a completely functional lighting system, including a generator and wiring as well as a carbon-filament bulb. After its invention, the implementation of electricity infrastructure paved the way for the roll out of electricity powered devices that fill our homes and offices today.

6. The wheel is everywhere

The wheel was invented in 3500 BC and facilitated agriculture and commerce by enabling the transportation of goods to and from markets. Wheels have transformed our lives, and are used in everything from clocks to vehicles.

7. The computer

Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer and polymath, originated the concept of a programmable computer. Considered the “grandfather of the computer”, he conceptualised and invented the first mechanical computer in the early 19th century.

Computer scientist Alan Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. He is famed for playing a pivotal role in cracking the Enigma machine, that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis. It has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by as many as two to four years.

The saddest part is that Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, when such behaviour was still a criminal act in the UK. He is thought to have committed suicide. In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”. Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013.


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