a large number of inventions

By Larry Gormley

This article was written in the year 2000.

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During the technology-feeding frenzy of the late 1990s, many experts declared the Internet one of the most important inventions since the Industrial Revolution. However, after the happenings of the past few years that perspective has changed. While the Internet and the World Wide Web have certainly impacted the lives of many millions of people it is certainly not the greatest invention of the past millennium, it might not even make the top ten. 

As Robert J. Gordon writes, "Internet surfing may be fun, but it represents a far smaller increment in the standard of living than thở what was achieved by the extension of the day into night achieved by electric light. The revolution in factory efficiency achieved by the electric motor, the flexibility and freedom achieved by the automobile, the saving of time and shrinking of the globe achieved by the airplane, the new materials achieved by the chemical industry, the first sense of live two-way communication achieved by the telephone, the arrival of live news and entertainment into the family parlor achieved by radio and then television, and the enormous improvements in life expectancy, health, and comfort achieved by urban sanitation and indoor plumbing."  

What are the greatest inventions of the past 1000 years? 

The author considers the improvement of the living standard as the prime criterion and presents (with temerity) the following top ten list:

The Greatest Inventions In The Past 1000 Years

 

Invention

Year

Inventor

Notes

1

Printing Press

1450

Johannes Gutenberg

allowed literacy lớn greatly expand

2

Electric Light

1879

Thomas Edison

powered countless social changes

3

Automobile

1885

Karl Benz

increased personal mobility and freedom

4

Telephone

1876

Alexander Graham Bell

spread communication across wide areas

5

Radio and Television

1895 & 1926

Guglielmo Marconi & John Baird

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made the world smaller

6

Vaccination

1796

Edward Jenner

protected people from disease

7

Computer

1939

John Atanasoff, et al.

transformed business world; predecessor lớn the Internet

8

Airplane

1903

Orville and Wilbur Wright

allowed people and products lớn quickly move

9

Gas powered tractor

1892

John Froelich 

started agricultural mechanization

10

Anesthesia

1844

Horace Wells

provided a great leap forward for medicine

The National Archives has a podcast episode about the history of inventions. Listen here. 


Sources:

Edge Foundation, Inc., "What Is The Most Important Invention In The Past Two Thousand Years?"

Gordon, Robert J. Does the "New Economy" Measure up lớn the Great Inventions of the Past? NBER Working Paper No.w7833 Issued in August 2000

Greatest Engineering Achievements of the Twentieth Century National Academy of Engineering http://www.greatachievements.org/

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Platt, Richard. Smithsonian Visual Timeline of Inventions. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.
 

(Edited by Hannah Holbert 2023)
 

This item was created by a contributor lớn eHistory prior lớn its affiliation with The Ohio State University. As such, it has not been reviewed for accuracy by the University and does not necessarily adhere lớn the University's scholarly standards.