Greatest Inventions from the 18th, 19th, and 20th Century

Greatest Inventions from the 18th, 19th, and 20th Century

The People behind the Way We Live: A Timeline of Inventions

We often take for granted the technologies we have at our disposal. Read on to learn the origins of some of the most defining inventions in history.


1570. The term “Electricus” is coined by William Gilbert to describe the electric effect of Amber and the magnetic effect of lodestone.

1752. Benjamin Franklin conducts his world famous kite string & key experiment.

1791. Luigi Galvani demonstrates electrical activity in living tissues, such as nerves and muscles.

1826. The mathematic connection between current, voltage and resistance is made by none other than Georg Simon Ohm. In Physics, this law now bears his name.

1888. The AC motor and polyphase power transmission system is invented by Nikola Tesla. His invention revolutionizes industry and commerce.

1800’s. the light bulb is invented for home and business use. A number of inventors such as Thomas Edison, Joseph Swan and J.W. Star independently pursue this invention. Edison eventually got the upper hand in the market by also developing a system to run his particular type of light bulb.

Indoor Plumbing

1596. Sir John Harrington invents the first flush toilet. However, it was never widely adopted since it had no running water supply attached to the system.

1775. Alexander Cumming develops the s-shaped trap that makes use of standing water and a sliding valve, to improve upon earlier toilets.

1800’s. Thomas Crapper comes up with a siphon system for emptying the septic cistern. This solution solved the leak problem that plagued earlier systems.


1885. Karl Benz builds an automobile with his own custom designed engine. It is the first vehicle that could be called a modern automobile.

1888. Benz begins to sell his vehicles.

1893. The first ever American gasoline powered car is tested the Duryea Brothers.

1909. Four wheel brakes introduced in Scotland.

1926. Rickenbacker vehicles make use of safety glass by standard in all their cars.

1927. The end of a 20-year run of Ford’s Model-T, which revolutionized the automobile industry.

1956. Seat Belts are offered by Ford, GM and Chrysler.

1958. The padded dashboard is introduced by Volvo.

1974. The first Airbags are introduced by Ford.

1998. Dual Airbags become a standard feature in all new passenger cars.

Air Travel

1903. The Wright brothers (Orville and Wilbur) conduct the first ever sustained flight.

1927. The first solo, nonstop trans-Atlantic flight is completed by Charles A. Lindbergh.

1933. Boeing 247 is the first modern airliner to take to the skies.

1939. First ever fully jet propelled aircraft flies in the form of Germany’s Heinkel 178.

1949. The DH 106 Comet takes flight as the world’s first commercial Jet Airliner.

1957. Air travel reaches a new level of comfort and safety thanks to the Boeing 707.

Food Processing

1809. A vacuum bottling technique is developed by Nikolas Appert to help supply food for French troops.

1818. The tin-plated can is introduced in the U.S. by Peter Durand.

1832. John Deere invents the steel plough, which allows farmers to produce more crops.

1871. Louis Pasteur works on a method that significantly improves the safety of food, which allows for longer preservation time.

1892. Use of Refrigerators becomes popular in the food processing industry.

1920’s. Refrigeration technology is extended to home use, allowing people to store food safely for longer periods in their own homes.

Computer and the Internet

1941. The first ever truly operational programmable computer known as the Z3 is created by Konrad Zuse.

1946. ENIAC1 is unveiled. It took up around 1,000 square feet of space.

1958. The integrated circuit is developed by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce. Their invention paves the way for the microprocessor technology.

1960. The idea of a network of computers is put forward by J.C.R. Licklider.

1970. Arpanet lays the foundation for massive networking, which lead to an early form of the internet.

1971. Kenbak-1 goes on sale for $750. It is the first personal computer, but was ahead of its time. Only forty machines were sold before the company went bust.

1973. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is created by Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf. TCP controls how data moves around the internet.

1976. Steve Wozniak creates the Apple I.

1979. Atari produces the 400 and 800 computers.

1984. Apple released the Macintosh, which had the first successfully implemented mouse driven user interface.

1989. Tim Berners-Lee proposes the hypertext system that runs across the internet on different operating system. This was essentially the start of the World Wide Web as we know it today.

1992. The launch of the Internet society (ISOC). Use of www becomes massively popular. Companies such as Netscape are founded.


1971. AT&T sends a concept for cellular communication to the FCC (federal communications commission).

1973. The first analog mobile phone call is made by Martin Cooper.

1979. 1G cellular network is launched in Japan.

1991. A second generation cellular network is launched in Finland.

1993. The worlds first person-to-person SMS is sent.

Personal Entertainment

1979. Sony introduces the iconic Walkman personal music device.

1984. Popular use of CDs, paves way for portable CD players.

1987. Research begins in Germany, to digitize audio into a file format.

1997. The first MP3 player (MPMAN Player) is developed in Britain by Kane Kramer.

2001. Steve Jobs and Apple introduce the iPod and iTunes.

2007. Apple’s iPod Touch reinvents the MP3 player as an all-purpose entertainment device.