When thinking of discoveries we always look at the recent advancements in science and industry, and we very rarely stop to take a look at the big picture: the discoveries that, throughout history, triggered changes and technological leaps that shaped the world as we know it today. Let’s have a look at ten important discoveries, from the dawn of time to the present day, that helped mankind reach today’s peaks of innovation.
We take it for granted. We use it to warm ourselves, to cook our food, to power our industry, to drive our engines. But before there was fire, man lived in caves, fearing the dark and the cold, and only by harnessing the flames was he able to survive an ice-age that made other species extinct. This is why fire is probably the most important discovery man has ever made, assuring our continued survival and consequent discoveries since the dawn of time.
2. The wheel
It is so common today that it doesn’t even cross our minds how ancient civilizations must have lived until its’ development around 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia. But back then, carrying heavy objects from one place to another was a difficult task, so the discovery of the wheel came in quite handy. This round object that helps the world move is another fundamental discovery that shaped the way human civilization evolved.
From weapons to heavy industry, and even the smallest piece of jewelry, we cannot imagine how the world would have looked like without steel. This iron-carbon alloy dates back four thousand years ago, and it changed the world in more ways than we can even think of.
4. The Compass
We rely on GPS and maps to get around, but before these handy helpers, our ancient predecessors used the compass as a way to navigate a world they still knew very little about. The invention of the compass helped mariners navigate safely far from land, thus contributing to the Age of Discovery. This is only one of many contributions the Chinese brought to the advancement of the world.
5. Spherical Earth
Demonstrated by Magellan’s expedition around the world, knowing that the Earth is round helped shape important branches of science such as astronomy and cartography and is certainly an important discovery. It got us one step closer to understanding our place in the Universe and opened the door for exploring the world we live in.
Another marvelous Chinese discovery, gunpowder changed the face of the battlefield forever. It made empires rise and crumble and drove a revolution in weaponry that, in turn, lead to other adjacent discoveries that changed the face of the world. Gunpowder is a real turning point in history, and therefore has a well deserved spot on our list.
7. Steam power
Even though it is quite recent compared to the other discoveries on the list, steam was the driving force of the Industrial Revolution and it lead to advancements in industry, transportation, and lifestyle that made the world move faster than ever before. Most of the advancements we take for granted today are more or less based on developments from the age when steam ruled supreme.
We need not say more; electricity is the heart and soul of today’s modern world and we only remember how important it is during a blackout. The nineteenth century represented a huge leap in electrical research and engineering, setting the cornerstone for making electricity an omnipresent element in our lives today.
When the proverbial apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head, it marked the beginning of a whole new age in physics. The Newtonian system, which ruled supreme in the world of science until the discoveries of the 20th century, is all based on one discovery that changed the way we understand the world around us forever: gravity, the all-present force that keeps us from floating off the face of the Earth.
From nuclear power plants to atom bombs, going through a vast array of other uses, Henri Bequerel’s discovery of radioactivity in 1896 changed history and the face of the twentieth century. Marie and Piere Curie’s successive research into the field opened the door for advancements in energy production, medical imaging and many other technological sectors, including, sadly, weapon manufacturing as well.