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The 50 Greatest Inventions of All Time – (30 to 21)

We have already seen some great inventions in our first list of 20 – the Abacus, the Mobile / Cell phone, the MRI Scanner to name a few.

We continue our countdown from 30 down to 21 where we see some very modern inventions starting to appear in the list.

The 50 Greatest Inventions of all Time – Countdown 30 to 21

30. Bluetooth (1989)

Illustration of a Bluetooth wireless technology mobile connecting to many other devices - No. 30 on the great invention of all time list

There is some confusion on who actually invented the concept of Bluetooth.

In 1989 Nils Rydbeck, CTO at Ericsson Mobile in Lund, Sweden initiated the development of the “short-link” radio technology which later became known as “Bluetooth”. His objective was to create wireless headsets.

However, it is Jaap Haartsen in 1994 who lay the foundations for “Bluetooth Wireless Technology” on mobile phones to create new sales.

Today, most tech devices come with Bluetooth as standard and come with incredible stability and distance (up to 400m with Bluetooth 5.0).

Bluetooth is definitely a modern-day great invention that makes our lives much easier and helps us to stay connected.

Quick Quiz: Do you know how and why Bluetooth got its name?

Interested reading: The Story Behind How Bluetooth Technology Got Its Name by Bluetooth

29. The Binary System (1679)

illustration showing the Binary system - No. 29 on the list of greatest inventions of all time

Here is another contentious argument as to who invented the Binary System (i.e. system containing only 0’s and 1’s).

Gottfried Leibniz, a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist, and diplomat, is credited with the invention in 1679.

However, an English mathematician and scientist named Thomas Harriot had already been theorising with the binary, ternary, quaternary, and quinternary systems in the late 1500s.

However, he did not see any practical application at that time.

A quarter-century later, the 1940s saw the first practical use of the Binary System in making computer’s possible.

The Binary System is undoubtedly a great invention, and the “unsung hero” of the computer era, that has dramatically changed our lives today.

Interesting reading: The Binary System Was Created Long Before Leibniz by Herbert Bruderer

28. The Wheel (3500 B.C.)

illustration showing the evolution of the wheel - No. 28 on the list of greatest inventions of all time
The progression of the wheel over time
Image used under the fair use policy courtesy of Live Science.

Wheels have been around for most of humanity’s reign, and it is easy to see that we are still pretty attached to them.

Though wheels have changed substantially throughout the years, this is one invention that humanity just would not be the same without.

Making it possible to take things from here to there, the wheel dates back to 3500 B.C. where it was first harnessed by the Sumerians, who inserted rotating axles into solid discs of wood.

Today the modern wheel makes for a much smoother ride.

Interesting reading: A Salute To The Wheel by Megan Gambino

27. The Practical Modern Greenhouse (1800…)

World's Largest Victorian Greenhouse Temperate House - No. 27 on the list of greatest inventions of all time
World’s Largest Victorian Glasshouse – The Temperate House
Image used under the fair use policy courtesy of CNN

Most of us love fresh veggies and a nice collection of houseplants, and the greenhouse allows us to harness this power on a much bigger level.

The concept of greenhouses goes back as far as AD 14 – 37 when the Roman emperor Tiberius was particularly partial to a daily cucumber-like vegetable. Constructed of beds on wheels, people moved them around daily to capture the sun.

Charles Lucian Bonaparte introduced the first practical modern greenhouse in the 1800s designed to grow tropical and medicinal plants.

Today, greenhouses help us to grow plants and food when the conditions to do so are not ideal.

Interesting reading: The History of Greenhouses by Growlink

26. Refrigeration (1834)

illustration of the first vapour compression refrigeration system - No. 26 on the list of greatest inventions of all time
First Vapour Compression Refrigeration System
(Image used under fair use policy courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Humanity has had its fair share of food needs and preserving food has been a fairly consistent problem throughout history.

Historically, we would keep items in natural cold spaces or even coat meats and other products in salt to keep them preserved.

While these methods did serve as a decent stand-in, the world changed forever when Jacob Perkins introduced the first working vapour-compression refrigeration system in 1834.

But it wasn’t until 1913 that refrigerators started to appear in the home.

Today, we buy more than 200 million refrigerators worldwide every year, making this not only a great invention but clearly a necessary one.

Interesting reading: History of Refrigeration and Refrigerators by History Of Refrigeration

25. The Email (1965 or 1971 or 1977)

Ray Tomlinson first ever email sent - No. 25 on the list of greatest inventions of all time
Ray Tomlinson – the inventor of email?
(Image used under fair use policy courtesy of Guinness World Records)

This invention is one that by now, some of us regret — but it wasn’t always that way.

Whilst our inboxes today are full of advertisements from obscure online stores and urgent messages from the boss, email is clearly a game-changer in modern communication.

The invention of email though is actually a point of controversy.

Depending on who you ask, the inventor’s name can change.

In 1965, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) university developed a system that allowed users to share files and messages via a centralised disk by logging in from remote terminals. Some say this was the first email invention.

Six years later in 1971, an American computer programmer named Ray Tomlinson introduced the “@” symbol allowing messages to target individuals on certain machines.

It wasn’t until 1977 when Arpanet introduced the first email standard (including To: and From: fields).

Though we may not agree on who deserves the credit for this one, the fact remains that emails allow us to quickly convey information around the world in an instant.

Interesting reading: The History of Email: Major Milestones from 50 Years by Emailonacid

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24. Google (1998)

Backrub to Google logo history - No. 24 on the list of greatest inventions of all time
The history of the Google logo

If you grew up with Google, you probably recognise that the Google of today is not what was first introduced by Larry Page and Sergey Brin back in 1995.

The original version of Google was more of a dream than anything, and it didn’t always work all that well.

It also wasn’t named Google. The first search engine was actually called Backrub!

In August 1998, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim wrote Larry and Sergey a check for $100,000, and Google Inc. was officially born.

Now, Google is such an effective tool that the average person uses it several times a day.

Whether you want to know who that one actor is, or you just want to look up a recipe for dinner, Google has your back.

This system has fundamentally changed how we use and access the internet today.

For a lot of us, Google is the internet, so it is pretty easy to see why it is so notable and clearly why it must be included as one of the greatest inventions of all time.

Interesting reading: From the Garage to the Googleplex by Google.

23. Car Airbags (1951)

Airbag invention crash test dummy - No. 23 on the list of greatest inventions of all time

For as long as cars have been on the road, there have been dangerous accidents.

Older cars might not have packed that much of a punch, but with today’s acceleration and maximum speeds, getting in a car is always a risk.

Two dentists from Birmingham in 1920, Arthur Parrott & Harold Round, actually own the patent for airbags.

However, the introduction of air-filled bags in cars was much later, in 1951.

The American John W. Hetrick and German engineer Walter Linderer filed separate patents just a couple of months apart and therefore the invention of the airbag in cars is credited to both of them.

This is one invention that literally saves lives, but you might not believe how long it took for airbags to catch on.

By 1998 most vehicles had airbags as standard.

Interesting reading: A Detailed Look at the History of Airbags by Hotcars

22. Wood Burning Stoves (1500…)

wood-burning stove invention Franklin stove by Franklin Benjamin - No. 22 on the list of greatest inventions of all time
The Franklin Stove

Unless you live in a college dorm, you would probably be surprised to walk into a living space that doesn’t have a stove, but this invention actually took quite a while to truly catch on.

Introduced in Europe during the 16th century, wood-burning stoves paved the way for modern stove use as we know it.

These stoves could heat up space and cook food so it wouldn’t kill you. However, it was the mid-1700s before many households had one.

Like many inventions, the credit for the first wood-burning stove is again a contentious issue. However, many consider Benjamin Franklin as the true inventor in 1751, which he aptly named the “Franklin Stove”.

Most of us have stepped away from traditional wood-burning stoves today, but it is hard to imagine a world without them.

Interesting reading: Who Invented the Wood-Burning Stove by Gr8fires

21. The Microphone (1878)

first microphone - No. 21 on the list of greatest inventions of all time
Image used under the fair use policy courtesy of MyNewMicrophone

The microphone is another one of those great inventions that have a fair bit of controversy around its origin.

Some people believe that Alexander Graham Bell invented the microphone back in 1876.

However, people generally credit David Edward Hughes, Emile Berliner and Thomas Edison as the real inventors of the first true microphone in 1878. This microphone enabled proper voice telephony was the (loose-contact) carbon microphone.

Receiving credit for an original invention isn’t always easy, but there is no arguing the long-lasting impact of the microphone on our society.

Without it, we would never get to enjoy a concert or listen to all of those fun podcasts.

Interesting reading: Mic History – Who Invented Each Type of Microphone and When by MyNewMicrophone

Conclusion

There are some incredible inventions on this list that have changed our lives forever.

From the wheel to Google.

Inventions drive change, mostly for the better (with the exception of email of course).

We are down to the top 20 of greatest inventions of all time which is coming soon.


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01/02/2022

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