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Five inventions that changed the world

Created date

October 22nd, 2013
Light bulb

In the September issue of the Tribune, we put a question to our readers: What are the top five inventions that changed the world? While the responses represented a broad spectrum of innovations, here are the inventions in descending order on which most of you agreed. 1. Electrical generator and the lightbulb As early as 600 B.C., Greek philosopher Thales made observations on static electricity, demonstrating that friction gave amber magnetic properties. Throughout the centuries, people continued to experiment with electricity, most notably Benjamin Franklin, who tied a key to a dampened kite string during a thunderstorm to prove that lightning was electrical in nature. By 1800, scientists had made great strides. Alessandro Volta, for one, created an early battery out of alternating layers of zinc and copper. Such experiments led to the crowning moment in electrical innovation the creation of electric generators such as Thomas Edison s Dynamo, and the subsequent advent of electric light. 2. The wheel The wheel is without a doubt among the most important inventions ever conceived. Chances are there is some variation of the wheel within a few feet of where you sit. It could be on the bottom of a table or a chair, or maybe the circular blade on a pizza cutter. While scholars believe that the wheel dates back as far as 4500 B.C., the earliest depiction of a wheeled vehicle appeared on a piece of pottery from 3500 B.C., which archaeologists discovered in southern Poland. 3. Writing/printing press From politics and revolutions to arts and entertainment, we use the written word to record our ideas and to express our emotions. The oldest writing system roughly dates from 3200 B.C. in what is today Iran. What started out as crude symbols gradually evolved into a phonetic system of letters that, together, formed words. Before long, many a monk had sacrificed his finger joints and eyesight to create elaborate handwritten books. And by the mid 1400s, an unknown goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg gave the world its first movable type printing press. The rest is history. 4. The computer Once the stuff of science fiction, computers are now in every household indeed, in every pocket. But computers of various sorts date back more than 200 years. In 1801, Joseph Marie Jacquard created a series of punched paper cards that, when used with special textile looms, enabled the machines to weave complex patterns automatically. In fact, it was this invention that inspired Charles Babbage (widely credited as the father of the computer ) to create a punch card based mechanical computer in 1822. He designed his difference machine, as he called it, to compute polynomial functions. Today, computers run virtually every aspect of our lives and have literally placed an entire world of information at our fingertips with the Internet. 5. Internal combustion engine The internal combustion engine is at the heart of arguably the most important transportation innovation in history: the automobile. Though the use of such engines wasn t commonplace until the advent of commercial oil drilling, early models appeared over 150 years ago. In 1860, innovators like Jean Lenoir produced internal combustion engines and paved the way for subsequent variations by Karl Benz (of Mercedes-Benz), Gottlieb Daimler, and Rudolf Diesel.