This is the second part of a chronological version of the “Best Inventions of All Time” list, covering the 19th Century. These lists are much longer than the one arranged by rank, which only includes inventions found on 4 or more of the 21 original source lists. The chronological lists contain every invention that was on at least two of the “Best Inventions” lists I found. This version of the list also contains much more information about the invention, including precursors, improvements and further developments. Most inventions are not the product of one human mind but many and the person named “inventor” is usually one link in a chain that extends backwards and forwards in time.
ELECTRIC BATTERY – 1800 – Alessandro Volta – Italy
Although there is some evidence of primitive batteries from the first centuries of the Common Era in Mesopotamia and India, the modern precursor to the electric battery was the Leyden jar, which was invented independently in 1745-1746 by German cleric Ewald Georg von Kleist and Dutch scientist Pieter van Musschenbroek. Benjamin Franklin coined the term ‘battery’ to describe a set of linked Leyden Jars he used for experiments. Then, in 1791, Italian scientist Alessandro Volta published the results of experiments showing that two metals joined by a moist intermediary could create electric energy. In 1800, Volta used this principle to create the first true battery, called a voltaic pile. Over the next century many scientists developed Volta’s invention further: William Cruickshank (UK) invented the trough battery in 1800; William Sturgeon (UK), improved upon the design in 1835; John Daniell (UK), invented the Daneill cell in 1836; Golding Bird (UK) invented the Bird cell in 1837; John Dancer (UK) invented the porous pot Daniell cell in 1838; William Grove (Wales) invented the Grove cell in 1844; Gaston Planté (France) invented the lead-acid battery in 1859; Callaud (France) created the gravity cell in the 1860s; Johann Poggendorff (Germany) created the Poggendorff cell; Georges Leclanché (France) invented the Lelanché cell in 1866; and the first dry cells were invented independently by Carl Gassner (Germany), Frederick Hellesen (Denmark) and Yai Sakizo (Japan) in 1886-1887.
One of Allessandro Volta’s early voltaic piles on display at his museum in Como, Italy.
LOCOMOTIVE – 1804 – Richard Trevithick – UK
In 1804, Richard Trevithick’s first steam locomotive pulled a train containing 10 tons of iron and 70 passengers in five cars approximately nine miles near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. The first commercially successful steam locomotives were built by Matthew Murray (UK) in 1812 (Salamanca); and Christopher Blackett & William Hedley (UK) in 1813 (Puffing Billy). George Stephenson (UK) improved on Trevithick’s and Hedley’s designs in 1814 with the Blücher and again in 1825 with the Locomotion and in 1929 with The Rocket. Steam locomotives were gradually phased out in the first half of the 20th Century, to be replaced by diesel and electric locomotives.
An 1862 photo of the Blackett & Hedley’s 1813 steam locomotive, Puffing Billy.
STETHOSCOPE – 1816 – René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec – France
Invented in 1816, Laënnec’s (France) first stethoscope was made of a wooden tube with a single earpiece. The first flexible-tube design for which there is solid evidence was made by British physician Golding Bird in 1840. The binaural stethoscope was invented by Irish physician Arthur Leared in 1851. George Cammann (US) improved on Leared’s design in 1872, creating the standard that continues today.
This Cammann-design binaural stethoscope was made between 1890 and 1900.
BICYCLE – 1817 – Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun – Germany
Karl von Drais (Germany) created a two-wheeled, human steered vehicle (the draisine or velocipede) that some claim is the first bicycle in 1817. Instead of pedals, the rider propelled himself by running his feet along the ground. Denis Johnson (UK) developed an improved model in 1818. There is some evidence that the next leap was taken by Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scottish blacksmith, who reportedly built the first pedal-powered bicycle in 1839. A similar design may have been built by Gavin Dalzell in 1845. A much simpler design was developed by Pierre Marchaux & Pierre Lallement (France) in 1861, using pedals on the front wheels. The high-wheeled bicycle came next, developed by Eugene Meyer (France) and further developed by James Starley (UK). The safety bicycle followed, made by James Starley’s nephew John Starley in 1885, with pedals in the middle, a rear wheel chain drive and equal sized wheels.
A draisine, also known as a hobby horse, from the 1820s.
CONCRETE – 1824 – Joseph Aspdin – UK
Concrete is a composite material composed of coarse granular aggregate embedded in a matrix of cement or other binder that fills the space among the aggregate particles and glues them together. There is evidence that ancient humans used forms of concrete as long ago as 1800 BCE. The Ancient Romans, in particular, built extensively with concrete. The Pantheon contains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. The next advance in concrete technology didn’t arrive until 1793, when John Smeaton (UK) developed a new more effective way to produce lime for cement. But it wasn’t until 1824, when Joseph Aspdin (UK) ushered in the world of modern concrete when he developed Portland cement, which is still the cement used in today’s concrete. The next step was taken in 1867, when Joseph Monier, a French gardener, invented reinforced concrete.
The major ingredient in Portland cement is limestone.
GAS STOVE – 1826 – James Sharp – UK
James Sharp (UK) patented a gas stove in 1826 and opened a gas stove factory in 1836. A gas stove was featured at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. But the invention did not succeed commercially until the 1880s due to the slow growth of the gas pipe infrastructure.
A 1934 gas stove from the UK.
FRICTION MATCHES – 1826 – John Walker – England
There are references in China to early matches (sulfur at the end of a small stick of pinewood) as far back as 950 CE. The first modern match was invented in 1805 by Jean Chancel, of France, but it was ignited by dipping the tip in an asbestos bottle filled with sulfuric acid, making it expensive, dangerous and inconvenient. A crude friction match invented by François Derosne (France) in 1816 required the user to scrape the head inside a phosphorus-coated tube. John Walker, an English chemist, invented the first true friction match in 1826. It was lit by pulling it through a folded piece of sandpaper. Unfortunately, his design was liable to create flaming balls that lit clothing and carpets on fire. Improvements were made by Scottish inventor Isaac Holden in 1829 and a version of Holden’s match was patented by Samuel Jones (UK). Charles Sauria (France) improved the chemical formula in 1830 by adding white phosphorus, which turned out to be poisonous. Henri Savene and Emile David Cahen, two French chemists, found a safe substitute in 1898.
The first friction matches, made by John Walker.
PHOTOGRAPHY – 1826 – Joseph Nicéphore Niépce – France
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (France) made the first photograph in 1826. His photographic method was very impractical, requiring an exposure of eight hours or more, and the final image was only viewable when held at an angle. In 1837, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (France) created a much improved process with a much shorter exposure time and much clearer images. Unfortunately, there was no way to make multiple copies of the images, called daguerrotypes. Also in the 1830s, William Talbot (UK) created a method using a negative that allowed for multiple copies from the same exposure.
The first photograph, from 1826, “View from the Window at Le Gras.”
William Henry Fox Talbot’s photograph of a latticed window at Lacock Abbey, from 1835. This print may be from the oldest negative in existence.
LAWN MOWER – 1827 – Edwin Budding – UK
Edwin Budding (UK) built the first manual lawn mower in 1827 as an alternative to the scythe. The first chain driven mower was invented by Thomas Green (UK) in 1859. A steam-powered version was introduced by James Sumner (UK) in 1893. Gasoline mowers were first made by Ransomes (UK) in 1902. Rotary blade mowers did not become commercially available until the 1950s.
One of Edwin Budding’s original mowers, from the early 1800s.
THERMOSTAT – 1830 – Andrew Ure – Scotland
Cornelis Drebbel (The Netherlands) invented a mercury thermostat in 1620, but it was Andrew Ure who invented the modern bi-metallic thermostat in the 1830s, which would bend as one of the metals expanded from the heat and cut off the energy supply. Electric thermostats were invented independently by Warren Johnson (US) in 1885 and Albert Butz (US) in 1886. Butz’s model had a ‘damper flap’, which he patented and eventually sold to Honeywell.
This is a Honeywell thermostat from the early 20th Century.
ELECTRIC POWER – 1831 – Michael Faraday – UK
Humans have experimented with electricity since antiquity, but it was Michael Faraday (UK) who in 1831 first discovered a reliable method of generating electricity by moving a loop of wire or disc of copper between the poles of a magnet. In 1866, Werner von Siemens (Germany) invented an industrial generator that didn’t need external magnetic power. In 1882, Thomas Edison (US) built the first electrical supply network, which provided 110 volts of direct current to 59 homes in Manhattan. In the late 1880s, George Westinghouse (US) set up a rival system using alternating current, using an induction motor and transformer invented by Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US). AC eventually prevailed over DC. Another key invention was Sir Charles Parsons’ steam turbine, from 1884, which provides the mechanical power for most of the world’s electric power.
An 1884 drawing of a disk generator based on Faraday’s original.
ELECTRIC MOTOR – 1834 – Thomas Davenport – US
American Thomas Davenport invented an electric motor in 1834, but he was a link in a long chain of scientific discoveries and inventions regarding electric machines. Among those preceding him were: André-Marie Ampère (France, 1820, the solenoid); Peter Barlow (UK, 1822, Barlow’s wheel); Ányos István Jedlik (Hungary; 1828, first commutated rotary electromagnetical engine); Michael Faraday (UK, 1831, disk generator); William Sturgeon (UK, 1833, commutated rotating electric machine); Hippolyte Pixii (France, 1832, first AC generating machine, 1833, oscillating DC generator); Joseph Saxton (US, 1833, magneto-electric machine). Among those following Davenport were: Solomon Stimpson (US, 1838, 12-pole electric motor with segmental commutator); Moritz von Jacobi (Russia, 1834, 15-watt motor; 1839, first useful rotary electrical motor); Truman Cook (US, 1840, first electric motor with PM armature); Paul-Gustave Froment (France, 1845, first motor translated linear electromagnetic piston’s energy to wheel’s rotary motion); Werner von Siemens (Germany, 1856, generator with double-T armature and slots windings); Zénobe Gramme (Belgium, 1871, anchor ring motor); Galileo Ferraris (Italy, 1885, first AC commutatorless induction motor with two-phase AC windings in space quadrature); and Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US, 1886-1889, three different two-phase four-stator-pole motors, including a synchronous motor with separately excited DC supply to rotor winding).
A depiction of Davenport’s first electric motor, from 1834.
COMBINE HARVESTER – 1834 – Hiram Moore – US
The combine harvester harvests grain by combining the tasks of reaping, threshing and winnowing into one process. Hiram Moore (US) built the first full-size model in 1835. Hugh Victor McKay (Australia) created a combine harvester in 1885 and sold it as the Sunshine Harvester. The first versions were pulled by horses or mules. George Stockton Berry (US) created the steam-powered combine harvester in 1886. Later, it became common to use a tractor to pull the machine.
An 1836 patent application for Hiram Moore’s combine harvester.
REVOLVER – 1835 –Samuel Colt – US
A revolver is a repeating handgun with a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first guns with multichambered cylinders that revolved to feed one barrel were made in Europe in the late 16th Century. The first flintlock revolver was made by Elisha Collier (US) in 1814. The first percussion cap revolver was invented by Francesco Antonio Broccu (Italy) in 1833. Samuel Colt (US) made a similar revolver in 1835 but, unlike Broccu, he patented it. The first cartridge revolvers were made by Smith & Wesson (US) in 1856.
This is one of the few remaining Colt Paterson revolvers, the first model produced by Samuel Colt in 1836.
STEEL PLOW – 1836 – John Deere – US
The traditional moldboard plow was no match for the American prairie, even when metal strips were fixed to the edges. The share couldn’t get through the sod and the roots, while the sticky soil clung to the moldboard, slowing down the job. American John Deere’s 1836 plow used a steel share and a polished iron moldboard and the results were magnificent. Over the years, he modified the design somewhat, particularly the shape of the moldboard.
This partial 1838 John Deere plow, seen from the right, or moldboard side, is in the Smithsonian Institution.
BRAILLE READING SYSTEM – 1837 – Louis Braille – France
When Louis Braille (France), who was blinded in an accident when very young, first attended the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris, he learned to read with special books with raised letters. The books were expensive to make and the complex process used made it impossible for the average person to write even one letter. Then, in 1821, Charles Barbier (France) visited the school where Braille was a student in Paris. At Napoleon’s request, Barbier had invented night writing, a silent tactile code for military communication in which fingers “read” raised dots. Braille learned the night writing system, and then made significant changes to it, eventually producing the Braille Reading System: he created the Braille alphabet in 1824; published a book announcing his new system in 1829; and made a significant revision to the system in 1837. The original Braille was for French speakers, but it was soon adapted for many different languages. To write in Braille, one used the same slate and stylus used by Barbier. In 1951, the first Braille typewriter, known as the Perkins Brailler, was invented by David Abraham (US) at the Perkins School for the Blind.
A page from The Geography of France, by Henry Hayter, one of the first Braille books, published in France in 1835.
TELEGRAPH – 1837 – Samuel F.B. Morse – US
The first step towards an electrical telegraph was taken by Benjamin Franklin (US) in 1750, when he created a device that sent an electrical signal across a conductive wire that was registered at a remote location. An electrochemical telegraph was created by Spanish scientist Francisco Salva Campillo in 1804; an improved version was made by Samuel von Sömmering (Germany) in 1809. The messages could be transmitted a few kilometers and would release a stream of bubbles in a tube of acid, which had to be read to determine the letter or number. Pavel Schilling (Estonia) created an electromagnetic telegraph in 1832, but it was Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber (Germany) who built the first electromagnetic telegraph used for regular communication, in 1833. David Alter (US) invented the first American electric telegraph in 1836. The first commercial electrical telegraph was created by William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone (UK) was patented and demonstrated in 1837 and put in operation in 1839. Edward Davy (UK) built his own telegraph system in 1837. Samuel Morse (US) independently invented his own electrical telegraph in 1837, along with Morse code. Morse’s system quickly spread throughout the U.S.
A telegraph key designed by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail, from 1844-1845.
MORSE CODE – 1837 – Samuel F.B. Morse and Alfred Vail – US
In 1837, Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail (US) devised a system of short pulses (dots) and long pulses (dashes) to represent letters and numbers for transmission along telegraph wires. The incoming dots and dashes made distinctive long and short clicking sounds, and at the same time an imprint was made on a paper tape. The Code came into regular use about 1844. Telegraph operators soon became adept at ‘reading’ the incoming dots and dashes by sound alone. The original Morse Code used the standard English 26-letter alphabet, but it was adapted for non-English languages.
After the development of Continental (later International) Morse Code in the mid-1800s, the original version became known as American Morse Code, which was used in the U.S. until the middle of the 20th Century.
ANESTHESIA – 1842 – Crawford Long – US
Ancient physicians used various herbs, including Solanum, opium and coca to induce unconsciousness and/or relieve pain in their patients. Alcohol was also used. There is some evidence that the Arabs used an inhaled anesthetic. In the late 12th Century, in Salerno, physicians used a ‘sleep sponge’ soaked in a solution of opium and various herbs, which was held under the patient’s nose. The sleep sponge was used by Ugo Borgognoni and his son Theodoric (Italy) in the 13th Century. In 1275, Spanish physician Raymond Lullus invented what would later be called ether. He and Swiss physician Paracelsus experimented with animals but not humans. In 1772, Joseph Priestley, the British scientist, discovered nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, and in 1799, British chemist Humphry Davy discovered the gas’s anesthetic properties by experimenting on himself. Morphine was discovered in 1804 by Friedrich Sertürner (Germany) but it was only widely used as an anesthetic after the invention of the hypodermic syringe. In 1842, American physician Crawford Long became the first to use ether as an anesthetic for human surgery – he removed two small tumors from James Venable, one of his students, in a painless procedure. The operation was not publicized until 1849. In the mean time, Boston dentist William Morton administered inhaled ether to a patient in Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846, after which a surgeon painlessly removed a tumor. Ether was eventually replaced by other chemicals due to its flammability. Cocaine, which was first identified in 1859, became the first effective local anesthetic in 1884 when Austrian physician Karl Koller used it during eye surgery.
An artist’s rendering of William Morton’s 1846 use of general anesthesia, an event that became much more well known than Crawford’s 1842 breakthrough.
FACSIMILE (FAX) – 1842 – Alexander Bain – Scotland
Scottish inventor Alexander Bain created a chemical mechanical facsimile device in 1842; by 1846, he could reproduce graphic signs. Frederick Bakewell (UK) improved on Bain’s design in 1848 with his ‘image telegraph’, which he displayed at the 1851 World’s Fair. Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli invented the Pantelegraph in 1861, and ran the first commercial telefax service between Paris and Lyon in 1865. In 1881, Shelford Bidwell (UK) invented the scanning fax. In 1888, American Elisha Grey invented the telautograph, which allowed transmission of signatures. Developments continued in the 20th Century: German physicist Arthur Korn invented the Bildtelegraph in 1900; Édouard Belin (France) invented the Bélinographe in 1907; and German inventor Rudolf Hell introduced the Hellschreiber in 1929. In 1924, Richard Ranger (US) at RCA invented the wireless radiofax, a huge leap forward. In 1964, Xerox Corp. (US) invented the first telephone fax, the LDX, although the Xerox Magnavox Telecopier, which came out in 1966, was much more successful.
A drawing of Alexander Bain’s original fax machine, from 1842.
HYPODERMIC SYRINGE – 1844 – Francis Rynd – Ireland
Early experiments on intravenous injection were conducted by Christopher Wren (UK) in 1656 and by J.D. Major and J.S. Elsholz (Germany) in the 1660s, with little success. In 1844, Irish physician Francis Rynd invented a hollow needle and used it to make the first subcutaneous injections. Scottish physician Alexander Wood introduced the all-glass syringe and a much finer needle in 1853. Charles Pravaz (France) designed a silver syringe and a very fine needle at about that same time. London surgeon Charles Hunter, who coined the term ‘hypodermic’ in 1858, also claimed to have a part in the invention. In 1946, Chance Brothers (UK) created the first all-glass syringe with interchangeable barrel and plunger. The first disposable syringe was invented by Becton Dickinson (US) in 1954.
Three early syringes: at the bottom of the photo is a Pravaz syringe made of silver. The plunger (shown removed) is made of fabric and was difficult to sterilize. The top syringe dates from 1891 and has a leather plunger and a glass barrel. The middle syringe is an intermediate stage with a fabric plunger. The latter two have a screw stop mechanism on the graduated plunger stem to permit measured doses.
RUBBER BAND – 1845 – Stephen Perry – UK
The invention of vulcanization of rubber by Charles Goodyear in 1839 made possible the rubber band, which was invented by Stephen Perry (UK) in 1845.
SAFETY PIN – 1849 – Walter Hunt – US
The Myceaneans invented the fibula, a precursor to the safety pin, between 1400 and 1300 BCE, but it had no clasp or spring at the end to keep it together. American mechanic Walter Hunt invented the first true safety pin in 1849 using an eight-inch piece of brass wire. He sold the patent to W.R. Grace for $400.
An illustration from Walter Hunt’s 1849 patent – Figure 2 shows the first safety pin.
CAN OPENER – 1855 – Robert Yeates – UK
Canned food has existed since the late 18th Century, but no one invented a can opener until the 1850s. Early cans advised consumers to use a chisel and hammer. The first true can opener was invented by Robert Yeates (UK) in 1855. It was claw-shaped with a hand-operated tool that moved around the top of the can. In 1858, Ezra Warner (US) patented an opener with a sharp sickle that stuck into the can and sawed along the edge. Beginning in 1865, a U.S. company that made canned beef supplied a can opener with the product similar to Yeates’s design but more aesthetically pleasing. The year 1870 heralded a major development in can opener design – William Lyman (US) was the first to include a sharp-edged rotating wheel to cut the can. In 1925, the Star Can Opener Company (US) added a second, serrated wheel to allow a firm grip on the can edge. Finally, in 1931, the Bunker Clancey Company (US) placed two pliers-type handles on the opener, so that one hand would not have to hold the can while opening it.
Ezra Warner’s 1858 patent for a can opener.
MASS STEEL PRODUCTION – 1856 – Henry Bessemer – UK
Before the 19th Century, manufacturing steel was a slow, expensive process that required carbon-free wrought iron as the main ingredient – it was impossible to produce mass quantities of steel. In 1740, Benjamin Hunstman (UK) developed the crucible technique, which increased the cost and duration of the process but increased quality. In 1856, Henry Bessemer (UK) developed a new method that removed impurities from impure, or pig iron on a mass production level. Shortly afterwards, Robert Mushet (UK) improved Bessemer’s process, creating a more malleable final product. In 1878, Sidney Thomas (UK) designed a way to reduce phosphorus residue in the Bessemer process, increasing the quality of the steel. By the late 20th Century, the Bessemer process had been replaced by the basic oxygen process, which allowed better control of the chemistry.
This Bessemer converter, now located at Kelham Island Museum, UK, stopped operating in 1978.
INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE – 1859 – Jean-Joseph Étienne Lenoir – Belgium/France
The history of the internal combustion engine (ICE) is long and complex. Components of the system were invented as long ago as the 3rd Century CE. Some of the major developments are as follows: In the 17th Century, Christiaan Huygens (The Netherlands) created a rudimentary ICE piston engine when he used gunpowder to drive water pumps for the Versailles palace gardens. In the 1780s, Alessandro Volta (Italy) built a toy pistol, in which an electric spark exploded a mix of air and hydrogen, firing a cork. In 1791, John Barber (UK) received a patent for a turbine. In 1794, Robert Street (UK) built the first compressionless engine. In 1807, Nicéphore Niépce (France) powered a boat with an ICE, the Pyréolophore, fueled by moss, coal dust and resin. In 1807, Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz built an ICE powered by a mix of hydrogen and oxygen, and ignited by an electric spark. In 1823, Samuel Brown patented the first industrial ICE, a compressionless model. In 1826, Samuel Morey (US) received a patent for a compressionless ICE. In 1833, Lemuel Wellman Wright (UK) invented a table-type gas engine with a double acting gas engine and, for the first time, a water-jacketed cylinder. In 1838, William Barnett (UK) received a patent for the first machine with in-cylinder compression. Between 1853 and 1857, Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci (Italy) invented and patented an engine using the free-piston principle that was possibly the first 4-cycle engine. In 1856, Pietro Benini (Italy) built an engine that supplied five horsepower. Later, he developed more powerful engines with one or two pistons. In 1860, Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir (Belgium) produced and sold the first gas-fired ICE with cylinders, pistons, connecting rods, and flywheel – he is recognized as the inventor of the ICE. In 1861, Alphonse Beau de Rochas (France) received the first patent for a four-cycle engine. In 1862, German inventor Nikolaus Otto built and sold a four-cycle free-piston engine that was indirect-acting and compressionless. In 1865, Pierre Hugon (France) created the Hugon engine, similar to the Lenoir engine, but with better economy, and more reliable flame ignition. In 1867, Nikolaus Otto and Eugen Langen (Germany) introduced a free piston engine at with less than half the gas consumption of the Lenoir or Hugon engines. In 1870, Siegfried Marcus (Austria) put the first mobile gasoline engine on a handcart. In 1872, American George Brayton invented Brayton’s Ready Motor, which used constant pressure combustion, and was the first commercial liquid fueled ICE. In 1876, Nikolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach (Germany), began developing and patenting the four-cycle engine. In 1878, Dugald Clerk (UK) designed the first two-stroke engine with in-cylinder compression. In 1879, Karl Benz (Germany), working independently, received a patent for a two-stroke gas ICE using De Rochas’s four-stroke design. In 1885, Benz designed and built a four-stroke engine to use in an automobile. In 1882 James Atkinson (UK) invented the Atkinson cycle engine, which had one power phase per revolution together with different intake and expansion volumes. In 1884, British engineer Edward Butler constructed the first gasoline ICE. Butler also invented the spark plug, ignition magneto, coil ignition and spray jet carburetor. Numerous additional developments followed.
Internal combustion engine invented by Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir in 1860.
OIL WELL DRILLING – 1859 – Edwin Laurentine Drake – US
Digging or drilling for underground oil dates back to the 4th Century CE in China, where drill bits were attached to bamboo poles to dig wells of up to 800 feet deep. People in Arabian countries and Persia dug for oil as far back as the 9th Century. Also from the 9th to the 16th centuries, those living near Baku, in modern-day Azerbaijan, hand dug holes of up to 115 feet. Also in Baku, the first offshore drilling began in 1846. The first recorded land-based commercial oil well was begun in Oil Springs, Ontario in 1858. But it was American Edwin Drake’s drilling operation in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859 that was the first oil well using modern principles. One of Drake’s key innovations was the drive pipe – he drove a cast iron pipe into the ground and then lowered the drill through the pipe, thus preventing the hole from collapsing.
A replica of the engine house and derrick at the site of Drake’s Well in Titusville, PA.
MACHINE GUN – 1862 – Richard Jordan Gatling – US
In 1718, James Puckle (UK) designed and patented a weapon that could fire nine rounds before reloading, but it was not a true machine gun. In 1777, Joseph Belton (US) created a gun that could fire 20 shots in five seconds, automatically, but it was too expensive to be commercially viable. In the 19th Century, a number of multi-shot weapons appeared, including volley guns, double barreled pistols and pepperbox pistols, but all were only semiautomatic. In 1861, Wilson Agar (US) invented the Agar Gun, an automatic loading single barrel gun that used a hand crank for firing. Also in 1861, Richard Jordan Gatling (US) invented the Gatling Gun, the first weapon with controlled, sequential fire with automatic loading. It had prepared cartridges and a hand-operated crank and was used widely into the early 20th Century. The next development was the Nordenfelt Gun, which was designed by Helge Palmcrantz (Sweden) in 1873. William Gardner (US) invented the Gardner Gun in 1874. A major design improvement came from Hiram Maxim (US/UK), who built the Maxim Gun, the first self-powered machine gun, in 1884. After Vickers Ltd. (UK) bought Maxim, it revised the gun to create the Vickers machine gun in the early 20th Century. Numerous developments continued through the 20th Century.
A Gatling gun from the American civil war era, 1861-1865.
PASTEURIZATION – 1864 – Louis Pasteur – France
Heating food to preserve it was known in China since 1117 and in Japan since at least 1568. In 1768, Italian scientist Lazzaro Spallanzani showed that heating food killed bacteria, which did not return if the food was hermetically sealed. Nicolas Appert, a French chef, devised a method of safely canning food in 1795 by putting the food in glass jars, sealing them and putting them in boiling water. Peter Durand (UK) developed a similar method using tin cans in 1810. In 1812, Bryan Donkin and John Hall (UK) bought Durand’s patents and began producing canned food. In 1864, Louis Pasteur (France) determined that heating foods for too long or at too high a temperature could destroy the flavor. He learned that microorganisms would be killed or disabled at much lower temperatures and for less time than previous methods. He first used his method, eventually called pasteurization, on wine. Pasteurization of milk began after 1886.
An illustration from Louis Pasteur’s 1866 book Études sur le vin, showing pasteurization of wine.
DYNAMITE – 1867 – Alfred Nobel – Sweden
For many years, the most powerful explosive was gunpowder (black powder). In 1847, Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero synthesized nitroglycerine, which was more explosive than gunpowder, but dangerous to handle. Numerous explosions, deaths and bans created the need for an alternative. In 1867, Alfred Nobel (Sweden), whose German company sold a nitroglycerin-gunpowder mixture, invented dynamite, in which nitroglycerine was combined with inert absorbents such as diatomaceous earth, making it much safer to handle. Nobel packaged his dynamite in long, round cylinders so it could be inserted more easily into rock crevices.
A reconstruction of Alfred Nobel’s laboratory.
TYPEWRITER – 1867 – Christopher Latham Sholes – US
Henry Mill (UK) received a patent for a typewriter-like machine in 1714. Pellegrino Turri (Italy) invented a primitive typewriter (and carbon paper) in 1808. In 1829, William Austin Burt (US) patented the Typographer, which was too slow to be commercially viable. Charles Thurber invented the Chirographer in 1845. In 1855, Giuseppe Ravizza (Italy) created a prototype typewriter that let the user see the writing as it was typed. In 1861, Francisco João de Azevedo, a Brazilian priest, built a typewriter. John Pratt (US) made a typewriter he called the Pterotype in 1865 that was featured in Scientific American magazine. In the same year, Rasmus Malling-Hansen (Denmark) invented the Hansen Writing Ball, which in 1870 became the first commercially sold typewriter. Peter Mitterhofer (Austria) developed a fully functioning prototype typewriter in 1867. The first commercially successful typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes (US), with the help of Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule, in 1868. Its QWERTY keyboard layout was presumably created to avoid common letters from getting stuck together. Sholes sold the patent to Remington & Sons in 1873. Various other designs were patented and sold in the years following. While electric typewriters were invented as early as 1902 (arguably even earlier, with Thomas Edison’s 1870 Universal Stock Ticker), Remington began selling the first commercially viable electric typewriter, the Remington Rand, in 1925, based on a 1914 design by James Smathers (US). IBM introduced the first typewriter with proportional spacing in 1941. In 1961, IBM debuted the IBM Selectric, which replaced the typebars with a typeball. Electronic typewriters came into their own with Xerox’s model in 1981. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the computer gradually made typewriters obsolete.
A Sholes typewriter from 1873.
PAPER CLIP – 1870s – Gem Co. – UK
Samuel B. Fay (US) patented a simple paper clip, the Clinch Clip, in 1867, but there is no evidence that he had any sales prior to 1896. Experts believe that the standard paper clip in use today was invented by the Gem Manufacturing Company (UK) some time in the early 1870s, although the earliest known ad for the Gem is from 1893. Erlman J. Wright (US) patented a different type of paper clip in 1877. Many others patented various types of paper clips in the last years of the 19th Century, including Matthew Schooley (US), who invented the Perfection Paper Fastener and the Schooley Paper Fastener in 1898. The Clipper Clip and the Daisy Clip were both patented in 1899. Johann Vaaler (Norway) also invented a type of paper clip and patented it in 1900. The Ideal Paper Clip, still in use today, was patented in 1902. Others still in use: the Rinklip, patented in 1903; the Owl Clip, patented in 1905, Gem’s Perfected Paper Clip, patented in 1934.
An 1894 advertisement for Gem paper clips. Courtesy of the Early Office Museum.
BARBED WIRE – 1874 – Joseph Glidden – US
The earliest work on barbed wire fencing was done by Leonce Eugene Grassin-Baledans (France) in 1860; Louis François Janin (France) in 1865; and Michael Kelly (US). Six U.S. patents were issued for barbed wire in 1867, including that of Lucien B. Smith, whose design involved wires sticking out of a piece of wood. Henry Rose (US) had patented a wooden strip with metallic points in 1873. Joseph Glidden (US) took Rose’s idea and improved on it. Meanwhile, Jacob Haish and Isaac Ellwood (US) were working separately on their own designs. Glidden’s design ultimately won out over the competition in 1874. He and Ellwood joined forces with Charles Francis Washburn (US) to sell the new product. John Warne Gates (US) also promoted use of barbed wire in the 1870s. In 1882, William Edenborn (US), a German immigrant, invented a machine for making barbed wire more cheaply. In time, his company was producing 75% of the barbed wire in the U.S.
A handmade piece of Joseph Glidden’s barbed wire, from the 1870s.
PESTICIDES – 1874 – Othmar Zeidler – Germany
Humans have used various substances to protect their crops from insects at least since 2500 BCE, when the Sumerians applied sulfur to their plants. By the 15th Century, farmers were using arsenic, mercury and lead. In the 17th Century, nicotine sulfate from tobacco leaves became another option. In the 19th Century, pyrethrum was obtained from chrysanthemums, and rotenone was derived from certain vegetable roots. The age of synthetic pesticides was born when Othmar Zeidler (Germany) synthesized dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, in 1874, although it wasn’t until 1939 that Swiss chemist Paul Hermann-Müller identified the insecticidal properties of the chemical. DDT and other organochlorines dominated until the 1970s. DDT was useful in reducing typhus during World War II and in eliminating malaria from Europe and North America and parts of Asia. Concerns about the negative impacts of DDT and other pesticides on human health and the environment generally reached a crescendo in 1962 with Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. This led to a nearly complete U.S. ban in 1972 and a similar ban worldwide in 2004. Post-DDT pesticides include organophosphates and carbamates, followed by pyrethrin compounds. It is estimated that 2.5 million tons of pesticides are applied to crops annually.
A container of DDT pesticide from the 1960s.
TELEPHONE – 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell – Scotland/Canada/US
The telephone evolved from the telegraph. Numerous inventors sought to develop acoustic telegraphy, to send sound waves over the electrical wires. Antonio Meucci (US), an Italian immigrant, created a voice communication device about 1854 which he described to the U.S. Patent Office in an 1871 caveat. A precursor to the telephone was created by Johann Philipp Reis (Germany) in 1860 – it could transmit music and speech, although usually indistinctly. There is some evidence that Innocenzo Manzetti (Italy) may have created a telephone in 1864. In 1870, Cromwell Varley (UK) created a machine that could transmit sounds, but not speech. Poul la Cour (Denmark) made a similar machine in 1874. In 1875, Elisha Gray (US) invented a tone telegraph that could transmit musical notes. Gray filed a patent caveat for a telephone with a water transmitter on the same day that Alexander Graham Bell (Scotland/Canada/US) filed a patent application for a similar device. In future models, however, Bell did not use the water transmitter. Thomas Edison’s invention of the carbon grain transmitter, or microphone, further improved the telephone.
Replica of the transmitter from Alexander Graham Bell’s original 1876 telephone.
PHONOGRAPH – 1877 – Thomas Edison – US
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville (France) invented the phonautograph in 1857 – it could record sound as lines on paper, but could not reproduce the sounds. Charles Cros (France) invented the paleophone in 1877, which had the capacity to both record and play sounds. Thomas Edison invented the first true phonograph in late 1877. The first model embossed sounds on a tin foil cylinder; a later device used a wax-covered cardboard cylinder. In 1886, Chichester Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter (US) invented the Graphophone, which engraved recordings on wax coated cylinders. German-born Emile Berliner (US) invented the Gramophone in 1887 – it traced a spiral on a zinc disc coated with beeswax. Discs were first offered to the public in 1892, and by 1908 had become the dominant format. Edison began producing discs in 1912 and ended cylinder production in 1929. The first discs were made of hard rubber; in 1895, Berliner switched to shellac; more flexible vinyl discs became the standard during World War II. Throughout the 20th Century, various improvements and changes occurred (e.g., 78 rpm led to 45 rpm singles and then 33 1/3 rpm long playing records, or LPs) until the 1980s, when the compact disc became the dominant format for listening to recorded music.
Thomas Edison with his phonograph in 1878. Photograph by Matthew Brady.
MICROPHONE – 1877 – Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner – US
The microphone evolved from the telephone transmitter. Both Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner invented carbon microphones in mid-1877, although Edison was eventually awarded the patent. David Hughes (UK/US) also invented a carbon microphone in 1878, possibly earlier. E.C. Wente (US) of Bell Labs invented the first condenser microphone in 1916 and in 1923, Captain H.J. Round (UK) invented the moving coil microphone. In 1930, Harry F. Olson (US) invented the ribbon microphone. The first shotgun microphone was produced in 1963 by Electro-Voice (US). James West and Gerhard Sessler (US), at Bell Labs, invented the electret microphone in 1964.
Emile Berliner’s 1877 carbon microphone.
INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB – 1879 – Thomas A. Edison – US
Humphry Davy (UK) invented the first incandescent light in 1802 but it was not very bright and did not last very long. James Bowman Lindsay (Scotland) invented an incandescent electric light in 1835 but failed to pursue it. Others who produced light bulbs were Warren de la Rue (UK) in 1840; Frederick de Moleyns (UK) in 1841; John W. Starr (US) in 1845; Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (France) in 1851; Joseph Swan (UK) in 1860; Alexander Lodygin (Russia) in 1872; and Henry Woodward and Mathew Evans (Canada) in 1874. In 1878, Joseph Swan and Charles Stearn (UK) developed a very effective light bulb using a carbon rod from an arc lamp, but it was not commercially viable due to the high current required and short lifetime. Swan switched to a carbon filament by 1880 and began installing light bulbs in British homes. Thomas Edison began experimenting with light bulbs in 1878 and tested a long-lasting carbon filament bulb in 1879. He began installing light bulbs in 1880. Lewis Latimer, an Edison employee, made further improvements between 1880 and 1882. Meanwhile Hiram Maxim and William Sawyer (US) set up a rival company to Edison. Further developments were made by Walther Nernst (Germany), who in 1897 made a bulb that didn’t require a vacuum; Carl Auer von Welsbach (Austria), who made the first commercial metal filament lamp in 1898; Frank Poor (US), in 1901; and Willis Whitney (US), who in 1903 made a metal-coated carbon filament that did not blacken the bulb.
One of Thomas Edison’s original carbon filament light bulbs.
CASH REGISTER – 1879 – James Ritty – US
James Ritty, an American saloon owner, invented the cash register to cut down on employee theft in 1879. The bell was intended to alert the manager that a sale had been made. Ritty’s patent was acquired by the National Cash Register Company (NCR) in 1884. NCR president John H. Patterson added a paper roll to record sales, thus creating the receipt. In 1906, an NCR employee, Charles F. Kettering, added an electric motor to the design.
James Ritty’s original cash register, from 1879.
SAFETY RAZOR – 1880 – Fredrik & Otto Kampfe – US
There were numerous attempts to make the straight razor safer. Jean Jacques Perret (France) created a wooden sleeve, or guard, for the razor in 1762. A similar device was produced and sold in the UK after 1799. William S. Henson (US) designed a new type of safety razor in 1847, although there is no evidence that it was actually built. Various other individuals designed modified guard razors in the mid-19th Century. The Kampfe brothers (US) created the first true safety razor in 1880 using a design similar to that seen today. King Camp Gillette (US) produced the first safety razor with a disposable double-edge blade in 1901. Gillette’s success was guaranteed after he won the contract to supply razors to U.S. troops in World War I. Alternative designs included the single-edge safety razor, first patented in 1878. The injector-type single edge razor was invented by Schick in the 1920s. Wilkinson introduced the disposable cartridge razor in 1970. In response, Gillette created the twin-blade disposable cartridge in 1971. Since then, various companies have come out with three, four and five blade razors, and been the subject of numerous parodies as a result. Bic came up with the idea of making the entire razor disposable in 1974.
Star Safety Razors, invented by the Kampfe Brothers, from 1884.
ELECTRIC IRON – 1882 – Henry W. Seely – US
The first known device for smoothing the wrinkles in fabric was a metal pan filled with hot water, used in China sometime after 100 BCE. By the 17th Century, the first flat irons consisted of thick slabs of cast iron with a handle that were heated in a fire. Later, a hollow iron to be filled with hot charcoals was invented. By the late 19th Century, there were irons that were heated by liquid fuels (kerosene, e.g.) and gas. An electric iron using a carbon arc was invented in France in 1882, but was very dangerous. A much safer electric iron was created by Henry W. Seely (US) in 1882, although it had no thermostat to control the temperature. The first thermostatically controlled iron arrived in the 1920s. The first steam iron was also invented in the 1920s, by Thomas Sears (US).
A drawing of Seely’s 1882 electric iron.
ADHESIVE BANDAGE – 1882 – Paul Beiersdorf – Germany
In 1882, German pharmacist Paul Beiersdorf invented the first adhesive bandage. In 1920, Earl Dickson (US) devised the Band-Aid from pieces of adhesive tape and gauze, to help his wife, who often cut her fingers in the kitchen. He showed the invention to his employer, Johnson & Johnson, which marketed hand-made Band-Aids in sections 2 1/2 inches wide and 18 inches long beginning in 1921. The product did not sell very well until after the company gave thousands of free Band-Aids to Boy Scout troops. Sterilized, machine-made Band-Aids were introduced in 1924. Decorative Band-Aids arrived in 1951. Beginning in 1958, Band-Aids were made out of vinyl. Other adhesive bandages are made by Curad, Elastoplast and Nexcare.
Box of Band-Aids from 1921.
STEAM TURBINE – 1884 – Charles Parsons – UK
The first primitive steam turbine was the Aeolipile, described by Hero of Alexandria in the 1st Century. Other early steam turbines were described by Taqi al-Din in Egypt in 1551; Giovanni Branca in Italy in 1629; and John Wilkins in the UK in 1648. The modern reaction-type steam turbine was invented in 1884 by Sir Charles Parsons (UK). George Westinghouse (US) developed a much larger version. An impulse-type steam turbine was developed by Gustaf de Laval (Sweden) in 1887. Another impulse-type turbine was developed by John Brown & Co. with International Curtis Marine Turbine Co. (US) in the early 20th Century.
Charles Parsons’ experimental prototype steam turbine from 1884.
GASOLINE POWERED AUTOMOBILE – 1885 – Karl Benz – Germany
The first automobiles powered by internal combustion engines used gases instead of gasoline. Samuel Brown (UK) used hydrogen to fuel his vehicle in 1826. Etienne Lenoir (Belgium) also used hydrogen, then coal gas, to power his Hippomobile in 1860. In 1870, Siegfried Marcus (Austria) used liquid fuel to propel a handcart, known as “the Marcus car.” He developed a more sophisticated four-seat vehicle in 1888-1889. Edouard Delamare-Debouttevile (France) built a gas-powered automobile in 1884. German inventor Karl Benz made his first automobile in 1885 and started production in 1888. Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach (Germany) designed a vehicle from scratch in 1889. John William Lambert (US) built a three-wheeler in 1891, the same year that Henry Nadiq (US) built a four-wheeler. In the UK, an early automobile was built by Frederick William Lanchester in 1895. In Quebec, George Foss built a single-cylinder gasoline car in 1896. Many, many developments followed.
Karl Benz’s original 1885 automobile. The design was patented in 1886 and put into production in 1888.
ALUMINUM EXTRACTION PROCESS – 1886 – Charles Martin Hall, US; Paul Héroult, France
Before 1886, the cost of separating aluminum from other minerals was so high that aluminum was more expensive than silver. In 1886, Charles Martin Hall (US) and Paul Héroult (France) independently invented an electrolysis process that made aluminum extraction much more commercially feasible.
A bank of Hall-Héroult cells for extracting aluminum.
DISHWASHER – 1887 – Josephine Cochran – US
Joel Houghton (US) built a hand-powered dishwasher in 1850 that was slow and unreliable. L.A. Alexander (US) made an impractical rack dishwasher in 1865. The first reliable hand-powered dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane (US) in 1887 to cut down on her servants chipping her fine china, in 1887. The first modern electric dishwasher was invented by William Howard Livens (UK) in 1924, but dishwashers did not become a popular household appliance until the 1950s.
Josephine Cochrane’s 1886 patent application for her dishwasher.
PNEUMATIC TIRE – 1887 – John Boyd Dunlop – UK
Before pneumatic, or air-filled rubber tires, there were hard rubber tires and before those, tires consisted of bands of iron or steel wrapped around wooden wheels. Robert William Thomson (Scotland) created a vulcanized rubber pneumatic tire in 1845 but the rubber was too expensive and it didn’t catch on. John Boyd Dunlop (Scotland) made pneumatic tires in 1887 for his son’s bicycle, reportedly because his son complained of headaches from the rough roads, and was able to develop the product commercially. In 1895, André Michelin (France) put pneumatic tires on an automobile for the first time, but the results were not good. In 1903, P.W. Litchfield (US) of Goodyear created a tubeless tire, but it was not used commercially until 1954. Grooved tires were invented by Frank Seiberling (US) in 1908. B.F. Goodrich Company developed a longer lasting tire in 1910 by adding carbon to the rubber. In 1911, Philip Strauss (US) invented the first successful automobile tire using an outer tire and inner tube. Synthetic rubber tires were introduced by Goodrich in 1937.
John Dunlop, Jr. in 1888 on the bicycle with pneumatic tires created by his father.
CONTACT LENSES – 1888 – Adolf Fick – Germany
In 1508, Leonardo da Vinci (Italy) suggested the idea of a placing a water-filled glass hemisphere over the eye to directly alter corneal power. In 1636, René Descartes (France) proposed a liquid-filled glass tube, with the protruding end shaped to correct vision, placed on the cornea. In 1801, Thomas Young (UK), following Descartes, affixed two water-filled lenses to his eyes with wax. John Herschel (UK) in 1845 proposed correcting vision by means of “a spherical capsule filled with animal jelly” or “a mold of the cornea” impressed on a “transparent medium.” In 1887, F.E. Muller (Germany) produced a transparent eye covering that could be tolerated. A year later, German ophthalmologist Adolf Fick made the first true contact lenses, which rested on the sclera. They were made of heavy blown glass and could only be worn a couple of hours at a time. Later in 1888, August Müller (Germany) created more comfortable glass-blown scleral lenses. Plastic scleral lenses were introduced by William Feinbloom (US) in 1936. Much smaller corneal lenses, which could be worn up to 16 hours a day, were first developed in 1949. Norman Gaylord, an American chemist, was instrumental in developing permeable contact lenses. Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lim invented the first soft, or hydrogel lenses in the late 1950s. Silicone hydrogels were introduced by Ciba Vision (Mexico) in 1998.
This machine used by Otto Wichterle to make the first soft contact lenses was made from a children’s toy.
PORTABLE CAMERA – 1888 – George Eastman – US
George Eastman (US) invented the first roll film in 1884, which eventually replaced photographic plates. In 1888 he invented the Kodak camera, the first camera to use roll film, which made thousands into amateur photographers.
Eastman’s 1888 Kodak camera. After users finished taking all 100 photographs on the roll of film, they mailed the entire camera to Kodak, which mailed back the prints.
ESCALATOR – 1891 – Jesse W. Reno – US
Nathan Ames (US) designed revolving stairs in 1859, but they were never built. The same is true for Leamon Souder’s 1889 patented stairways. Jesse Reno (US) patented the Endless Conveyor, a ‘cleat-type’ escalator, in 1892 and built a working model at Old Iron Pier in New York in 1896. George Wheeler (US) patented a step-type escalator that had modern features in 1892, a few months after Reno. Charles Seeberger (US) bought Wheeler’s patents and built the first commercial escalator for Otis Elevator in 1899. (Reno also joined with Otis.) Meanwhile, in Europe, Piat (France) installed an escalator in Harrods in London in 1898. Hallé (France) displayed an escalator in Paris in 1900. Hocquardt (Germany) won patent rights in Europe for its Fahrtreppe in 1906.
Jesse Reno first displayed his “Endless Conveyor” as an amusement park ride at Coney Island (on right).
MOVIE CAMERA – 1891 – William Dickson & Thomas Edison – US
Louis Le Prince, a French-born inventor living in the UK, invented the first movie camera in 1888, but Le Prince mysteriously disappeared before he could pursue his invention. William Friese-Greene (UK) invented a movie camera in 1889, with a public demonstration in 1890, but its 10 frames per second rate and unreliability were serious drawbacks. Thomas Edison and his assistant William Dickson invented the Kinetographic Camera, the first commercially successful movie camera, in 1891. Georges Demenÿ (France) built his Beater Movement camera in 1893. Polish inventor Kazimierz Prószyński made the Pleograph – combining camera and projector – in 1894. Charles Moisson made the Domitor camera for the Lumière brothers in 1894. Many more models followed.
Thomas Edison (right) operates an old kinetograph while George Eastman looks at some film at a 1928 party.
VACUUM FLASK (THERMOS) – 1892 – James Dewar – Scotland
In 1881, German chemist Adolf Weinhold invented a vacuum flask, but it was not commercially successful. In 1892, Scottish scientist James Dewar invented a vacuum flask, which he refused to patent. In 1904, German glassblower Reinhold Burger and an associate named the product Thermos and trademarked the name. Thermoses were then mass-produced for home use.
A Thermos ad from 1909.
BREAKFAST CEREAL FLAKES – 1894 – John Harvey Kellogg – US
Dr. John Kellogg (US) was the superintendent of a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan and a Seventh Day Adventist who was always looking for foods that would fit the bland, vegetarian diet his faith prescribed. One day in 1894, he left some cooked wheat sitting out until it went stale. He and his brother Will decided to force it through rollers to make long sheets of dough. Instead, they made flakes. The brothers toasted the flakes and served them to the patients. They obtained a patent for ‘flaked cereals and process of preparing same’ in 1896 and experimented with other grains. In 1906, Will Kellogg added sugar to the corn flakes (over his brother’s objection) and marketed them commercially for the first time.
Advertisement for Kellogg’s corn flakes, from 1910.
RADIO – 1895 – Guglielmo Marconi – Italy
James Clerk Maxwell (Scotland) established the mathematical basis for propagating electromagnetic waves through space in a paper published in 1873. David E. Hughes (Wales/US) was probably the first to intentionally send a radio signal through space in 1879 using his spark-gap transmitter, although the achievement was misunderstood at the time. In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner (US) invented the photophone, a wireless telephone that transmitted sound on a beam of light. In 1885, Thomas Edison (US) invented a method of electric wireless communication between ships at sea. In 1886, Heinrich Hertz (Germany) conclusively demonstrated the transmission of electromagnetic waves through space to a receiver. Édouard Branly (France) improved the receiver device in 1890. In 1892, Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US) invented the Tesla coil, which generated alternating current electricity; in 1893 Tesla developed a wireless lighting device and in 1898 he demonstrated a remote controlled boat. In 1894, Sir Oliver Lodge (UK) improved Branly’s receiver, calling it a coherer, and demonstrated a radio transmission in 1894. In the same year, Lodge showed the reception of Morse code signals by a wireless receiver. Also in 1894, Jagadish Chandra Bose (India) had demonstrated transmission of radio waves over distance; Bose developed an improved transmitter and receiver in 1899. Guglielmo Marconi (Italy/UK) read Lodge’s and Tesla’s papers in 1894 and built his first radio devices in early 1895. By the end of 1895, he had developed a device that could transmit radio waves 1.5 miles. In 1896, Marconi moved to England, where he presented his device to Sir William Preece at the British Telegraph Service. By 1897, Marconi had patented his device and started his own wireless business, which established radio stations at various locations. In 1899, Marconi sent radio waves across the English Channel and he sent the first transatlantic message, possibly as early as 1901. Alexander Popov (Russia) built and demonstrated improved versions of both the transmitter and receiver, first in May, 1895 for a scientific group and then a public display in March 1896. There is some evidence that Popov set up a radio transmitter with two-way communication between a naval base and a battleship in 1900. Beginning in 1899, Ferdinand Braun (Germany) made significant improvements to the design of wireless devices, including inventing the closed circuit system and increasing the distance the signals would carry. Roberto Landell de Moura, a Brazilian priest and scientist, invented a radio in 1900 that could transmit a distance of eight kilometers.
One of Marconi’s first receivers, from 1896.
X-RAY IMAGING – 1895 – Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen – Germany
Researchers first noticed x-rays emanating from experimental discharge tubes called Crookes tubes, around 1875. In 1886, Ivan Pulyui (Ukraine/Germany) discovered that sealed photographic plates darkened when exposed to Crookes tubes. Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US) began experimenting with x-rays in 1887 and soon discovered the hazard to human health. Fernando Sanford (US) generated and detected x-rays in 1891. Wilhelm Röntgen (Germany) began studying x-rays in 1895 and announced their existence (giving them the name, ‘x-rays’) in a scientific paper. Röntgen was the first to recognize the medical use of x-rays when he x-rayed his wife’s hand. In 1896, Thomas Edison (US) invented the flouroscope for x-ray examinations. In the same year, John Hall-Edwards (UK) was the first physician to use x-rays under clinical conditions. Problems with the cold cathode tubes used to generate x-rays led to the invention of the Coolidge tube, by William D. Coolidge (US) in 1913.
A photograph of an x-ray experiment being conducted using a Crooke’s tube (left) between 1895 and 1899.
ASPIRIN – 1897 – Felix Hoffmann/Bayer – Germany
Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. In ancient times, plants containing salicylate, such as willow, were used to prepare medicines. There are references to it in Egyptian manuscripts from between 2000 and 1000 BCE and Hippocrates mentions salicylic tea to reduce fever in 400 BCE. Willow bark extract was a common remedy in the 18th and early 19th centuries, after which pharmacists began to experiment with and prescribe chemicals related to salicylic acid. French chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt first produced acetylsalicylic acid in the lab in 1853. A pure form of the chemical was synthesized by Felix Hoffman (Germany), a chemist with the Bayer company, in 1897 and it was soon marketed all over the world. Sales rose after the flu epidemic of 1918, but dropped after the introduction of acetaminophen in 1956 and ibuprofen in 1962. Aspirin sales once again increased in the last decades of the 20th Century, when scientists discovered the anti-clotting benefits of aspirin.
A 1917 newspaper ad for Bayer aspirin.
DEFIBRILLATOR – 1899 – Jean-Louis Prévost & Frédéric Batelli – Switzerland
Swiss physiologists Jean-Louis Prévost and Frédéric Batelli first demonstrated the power of electric shocks on ventricular fibrillation in 1899. In 1933, American physician Albert Hyman and C. Henry Human, an engineer, invented a device that delivered an electrical shock to the heart. American surgeon Claude Beck used defibrillation, using paddle-type electrodes on an open heart, in surgery on a 14-year-old boy in 1947. In the mid-1950s, V. Eskin & A. Klimov (USSR, now Kyrgyzstan) developed a closed chest defibrillator device that used externally-applied electrodes. Early devices all used alternating current. In 1959, American physician Bernard Lown, with engineer Barouh Berkovits (Czechoslovakia/US), developed a direct current method that produced a heavily damped sinusoidal wave that could be applied to a variety of arrhythmias. In the late 1980s, it was found that the biphasic truncated waveform worked just as well but used much less energy. In the 1960s, Frank Pantridge (Ireland) developed the first portable defibrillators. An implantable defibrillator was developed by a team at Sinai Hospital (US) in 1980.
The defibrillator invented by Dr. Claude Beck in the 1940s.