It may not always be on the forefront of our minds, but everything on earth (that isn’t, ya know, trees and animals and stuff) has been inspired by the curiosity of humankind. Without certain scientific innovations — some dating back many centuries — our society would be vastly different.
Innovation is a key component to businesses today as well, especially with the speed in which industries evolve. More often than not, discoveries from the past continue to shape the present as our society adapts to various technological advancements.
These seven inventions were remarkable when they were first discovered, and continue to be essential to our daily lives.
1. The Model T
Cars are one of the most transformative inventions in America’s history. Where would we be without the sports car, minivan, or wood-paneled station wagon?
Although the first automobile can be traced back to the nineteenth century, Henry Ford’s affordable Model T and the introduction of mass production changed the way we thought about transportation.
Without cars, it would be difficult to keep up with our fast-paced culture, since they allow us to seamlessly get from one place to another. Today, innovative ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft rely entirely on the automobile in their business model. So the next time you’re running late and opt for an Uber to save time, thank Mr. Ford for his curiosity that led to this novelty some 100 years ago. Just don’t forget to leave a tip afterwards.
2. Electric light
These days, it’s easy to take electricity for granted. But all it takes is one power outage that leaves us feeling helpless to remind us why this invention was so significant. Many curious inventors worked to develop electric lights throughout the nineteenth century, before Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan created the first long-lasting light bulbs in 1879 and 1880. The light bulb’s wiring networks also helped fuel the creation of domestic electrical wiring, which is included in many of our home appliances.
So the next time you walk into a room and switch on the lights, consider the years of work that went into making it possible.
3. The printing press
The printing press helped democratize knowledge and made it easier to spread information and communicate. Although many aspects of our lives have adapted to the digital age, the printing press paved the way for these modern forms of communication like social media and the dreaded email newsletter. (Not to mention bloggers.)
Everything from our culture’s love for literature, to advertisements, to concert posters, and even your favorite food blog wouldn’t exist as they do today without Johannes Gutenberg’s revolutionary invention.
As of 2016, 95 percent of adults in the U.S. owned a cell phone, and as of this year 99 percent of U.S. households possess at least one television. You may even be reading this on your phone right now, or parked in front of the TV binge-watching your latest obsession.
These vital pieces of technology would not work without transistors, which help regulate the flow of current through the circuit boards. Although they may be lesser known than other innovations, transistors are in radios, televisions, cell phones, and computers — making them a key component of our everyday lives. In a world where owning a smartphone is essential, consider the alternative and thank your lucky stars technology has come this far.
Something we all have in our kitchens is also the result of innovation. Refrigeration — the process of removing heat from an enclosed space — was developed in the 1850s, transforming how we ate and prepared food. Because of the refrigerator, we can now store food for longer and nosh on delectable treats like cake and leftover pizza. This also led scientists to invent air conditioning, so refrigeration not only helps our food stay fresh, it helps us beat the heat as well.
Today, common illnesses can easily be treated with antibiotics. But before these drugs existed, illnesses like strep throat could lead to serious complications. One of the first antibiotics, penicillin, was actually discovered by accident in 1928 by Dr. Alexander Fleming.
Antibiotics are an important medical innovation since they can kill and prevent the growth of bacteria, often saving people’s lives. Antibiotics still play a key role in the medical world, treating bacterial infections and acting as a preventative measure before surgery.
7. The internet
This list wouldn’t be complete without the internet.
It’s no secret that people would be lost without online connectivity — and without Google Maps, we’d be literally lost, too. With the invention of smartphones, we have the internet’s search and browsing power with us at all times. Things like email, GPS, and music streaming would be obsolete without the invention of the internet.
Thanks to the questions these people asked and the projects they pursued, our homes, work environments, and transportation methods are more efficient. But just because our society has come this far already, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more innovation and improvement.
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