We are down to the penultimate list of the 50 greatest and best inventions of all time.
In this list, we see a number of incredible inventions that have changed our lives and a few that have saved lives too.
The 50 Greatest Inventions of all Time – Countdown 20 to 11
20. The Bus (1662)
Public transportation is a very important part of our history.
It’s also a very convenient and simple way to travel.
But who invented the bus and when?
Many of you will of heard of Blaise Pascal, the mathematician who came up with the first principle on atmospheric pressure:
any force applied to a confined fluid is transmitted uniformly in all directions throughout the fluid regardless of the shape of the container.Pascal’s Law
But it may surprise you to learn that it was the same Blaise Pascal back in 1662, who invented the concept of the bus.
He used a system of horse-drawn carriages with each carriage carrying up to 8 passengers.
These carriages would run along regular routes in Paris.
However, the idea didn’t catch on, and by 1675 the bus routes were stopped.
It wasn’t until the 1820s that horse-drawn buses became a more mainstream form of transportation, followed by steam buses in the 1830s, and electric trolleybuses in 1882.
The first internal combustion engine buses, or motor buses, entered circulation in 1895.
Interesting read: The Bus Starts Here … in Paris by Wired
19. Bitcoin (2008)
These days, it seems like you can’t go online at all without seeing something about cryptocurrency.
And the Bitcoin trend is largely to blame.
But what is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin (₿) is a decentralised digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator.
It was first introduced in 2008 by inventors operating under the name Satoshi Nakamoto.
Whilst many were sceptical at the beginning (and some still are) there is no doubt it has disrupted the traditional money markets.
The volatility of the exchange price is what makes it a high-risk strategy and is also what attracts many buyers.
We consider this one of the best inventions of all time because it proves that the economy that we know isn’t the only option, and the implications of that are huge.
Interesting read: What is Bitcoin? by NextAdvisor
18. The Airplane (1903)
The airplane is considered one of humanity’s best inventions of all time simply because it defies all logic.
It shows a tremendous amount of heart that when looking at the skies we decided our place was among them—and it worked!
Introduced in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took the first four flights out of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, USA.
The inaugural flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet.
Whilst there are many contenders as to who invented the airplane, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the standard-setting and record-keeping body for aeronautics, saw this as ‘the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight‘.
When these two brothers showed that we could soar without falling, the world changed forever.
As a result, we now have the ability to travel anywhere in the world.
Interesting read: 10 Things You May Not Know About the Wright Brothers by History.com
17. The Tesla Roadster (2008)
The Tesla Roadster is an invention that is on the list for what it symbolises more than anything.
It is the first electric vehicle (EV) to enter the mainstream production line.
Elon Musk, co-founder, chairman and product architect, received the first Tesla Roadster back in February 2008.
And though not everyone wanted to drive a Tesla Roadster when this car first entered the market a year later in 2009, it certainly was considered a game-changer.
This company showed us a future where we could keep vehicles without the same high level of waste.
In short, if you have ever driven one of these, you know that it is like stepping right into the future.
More electric vehicles have joined the market, but the Roadster is still the most notable because it paved the way.
Interesting read: The Tesla car that started it all by Business Insider
16. The Lightbulb (1802)
First harnessed and produced in 1879 by inventor Thomas Edison—depending on who you ask, of course—the lightbulb took us out of the darkness.
After generations of depending upon candlelight and light from the sun, it was nice for humanity to be able to enjoy their evening hours without shadows crowding every corner.
However, it was actually Humphry Davy in 1802 who many feel is the real inventor of the first electric light.
He developed something called the ‘electric arc lamp’.
Aptly named due to the bright arc of light created when electricity passes through its two carbon rods.
However, for the purposes of this list, and possibly highly controversially, we have accredited Humphry Davy as the true inventor of the light bulb.
Interesting read: Who Invented the Light Bulb? by Live Science
15. Electricity (Debateable)
Electricity itself is not an invention, it is a discovery.
However, how we harness the power of electricity is definitely one of the greatest and best inventions of all time and why it made it onto our list.
The introduction of electricity within our society is one that has occurred time and time again.
It took time to understand just how big of a role it would eventually play in our lives.
Many people credit Benjamin Franklin with the discovery of electricity in 1752, but that isn’t really the case.
For example, Ancient Greeks found that rubbing fur on amber caused a strange attraction back in 600 BC.
This later became known as ‘static electricity’.
In the 1930s, archaeologists discovered pots with sheets of copper inside which they believe were used as an early form of battery by the Romans.
But it wasn’t until the 17th century when the invention of an early electrostatic generator was used to manage currents.
Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison focused on DC (direct current) back in the late 1800s whereas Nikola Tesla focused on AC (alternating current) in what was called ‘the current war’ to win public support for the type of electricity to be used in the home.
Tesla was a smart strategist as well as a great inventor deciding to focus on the dangers of DC.
And consequently, he convinced the public that his AC option was the better and safer choice for the home.
Interesting read: Who Discovered Electricity by Universe Today.
What are you going to invent today?
Great inventions start with a single shared idea.
Talk to us. We will empower you.
14. GPS (1978)
For better or for worse, GPS (Global Positioning System) has completely redefined the way that people get from Point A to Point B.
First introduced by the United States government in 1978, GPS was a groundbreaking approach to navigation.
But, just like the light bulb and the telephone, the person actually accredited with inventing GPS is hotly disputed even to this day.
However, there is not an overall consensus as to which individual it should be accredited to.
But what is not disputed is that it changed the way that we traversed the endless waters of the ocean or empowered us to venture out into the jungle or forests where we might want to explore.
For most of us, it is a tool that we use on a daily basis just to get around.
In the modern world, for example, we use GPS to get to any new location.
Gone are the days of simply buying a map or relying on printed instructions from the internet.
Today’s GPS is available on devices of all sizes, and modern variations can even help you effortlessly navigate around traffic jams!
Interesting read: Who Invented The GPS? by geoawsomeness.com.
13. The 3-Point Seatbelt (1959)
Having included the airbag on this list, it wouldn’t be right to leave out the 3-point seat belt as one of the greatest and best inventions of all time in the safety category.
First introduced by the Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin working for Volvo back in 1959, the 3-point seatbelt was a much-needed evolution for vehicles around the world.
But as we got better at making faster cars, we failed to truly grasp the potential harm that this might bring.
While it is nice to be able to travel across counties/states in a mere matter of hours, the fact remains that vehicles come with a high risk.
What is quite remarkable about this invention, unlike most other inventions, is that Volvo made the patent available to everyone.
Instead of charging a license fee and promoting their cars as the safest in the world, they chose instead to focus on mass adoption in all cars to save lives.
The introduction of the 3-point seatbelt as a normal feature in cars has saved countless lives throughout history.
Interesting read: Volvo’s Gift to the World by Forbes
12. The Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (1863)
The self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is a device that most of us don’t have use for.
However, it has revolutionised industries in a way that certainly serves the community.
Invented by James Braidwood, a Scottish firefighter in 1863, this device has saved the lives of countless professionals.
As well as everyday people too.
By putting two rubber-lined bags together and filling them with air, and running a tube from the lower bag to the face mask, he was able to supply firefighters with clean air for a short period of time.
Another tube took the exhaled air to the top bag where it cooled.
Made to offer clean air in environments where clean air isn’t an option, these systems have been used by firefighters and scientists around the world.
Interesting read: Bring Your Own Air by Asia Pacific Fire.
21. The Car (1886)
On this list of the best inventions of all time we have had the bus and the airplane.
Therefore it is only fitting that we now include the car.
The car was first invented back in 1886 when Karl Benz patented the first Benz Patent Motorwagen.
It was a three-wheeled motor car.
Though other people were working towards similar goals, Benz was able to get ahead with his patent.
His invention changed the way we live and travel.
Sure, the cars of the time were a little different from the ones that we have today.
But most of us can’t imagine a world where cars don’t exist.
Interesting read: Who Invented the Car by Live Science.
Many inventions on this list are transport-related, proving exploration is in our blood.
As we countdown through the top 10, will the number 1 greatest invention of all time be a surprise?
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Check out the complete series
- 50 to 41: 50 Greatest Inventions of All Time – Countdown (50 to 41)
- 40 to 31: 50 Greatest Inventions of All Time – Countdown (40 to 31)
- 30 to 21: 50 Greatest Inventions of All Time – Countdown (30 to 21)
- 20 to 11: This article
- 10 to 01: Greatest Inventions of All Time – Countdown (10 to 1) – coming soon