the most important discoveries of mankind that changed the world

Ronald Plett / Pixabay

Homo sapiens is believed to have first started making fire on its own around 1.42 million years ago. Scientists made such conclusions based on findings found at the archaeological site of an ancient man in East Africa known as Chesovanya.

The fact that humans learned to make fire of their own volition was a key turning point in history that forever separated humans from animals.

The wheel

John O’Neill / CC0

While in 3500 BC before humans invented the wheel, our species was very limited in land mobility. According to David Anthony, professor of anthropology at Hartwick College, inventing the wheel itself was not the hardest part of the job. The real conundrum began when it came time to attach the rotating cylinder to a stationary platform.

“The wheel and axle concept was a really brilliant idea,” says Professor Anthony.

Hard work paid off and the advent of wheeled carts made farming and trade easier. They also facilitated the transportation of goods as well as long-distance travel. Wheels remain vital in today’s world and can be found everywhere from clocks and cars to giant turbines.

The nails

This key invention was made possible by the history of Ancient Rome, where people first learned to cast metal and give it the desired shape. But before the appearance of nails, wooden structures had to be erected by geometrically connecting boards, which took a lot of time and effort.


Roman bronze nails with magical signs and inscriptions, III – IV centuries AD. Insertcleverphrasehere / CC BY-SA 4.0

Until the late 18th century, nails were a purely hand-made product, where a blacksmith heated an iron bar and then struck it on all four sides to create a sharp point. Machines for the production of nails appeared in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. After the English inventor Henry Bessemer developed the mass production process of steel, the iron nails of the past gradually disappeared.

But the invention of the screw is usually attributed to the Greek scientist Archimedes – who lived in the 3rd century BC.

The compass

Ancient navigators knew how to use the stars for guidance, but this method had a major drawback: it did not work during the day or in cloudy weather at night.


Comps of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) ladle or sinan showing south. Navigational aids / CC BY-SA 3.0

The first compass was created in China during the Han Dynasty between the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. This compass is created from magnetite, a naturally magnetized iron ore. Its amazing properties have been studied by ancient scientists for centuries. But the compass was first used directly for navigation during the Song Dynasty, between the 11th and 12th centuries.

A little later, the technology found its way to the West, where it allowed sailors to move freely away from land, discovering new coasts and paving new trade routes.


It is known that the most important discovery of Isaac Newton was gravity. Legend has it that the English scientist discovered the earth’s attraction (gravity) after an apple fell on his head. Unfortunately, this story is only partially true. The sight of an apple falling from a tree led Newton to wonder what force attracts objects to the ground in a straight line rather than a curved trajectory, such as a falling cannon ball.



The answer to this question was gravity, the force that attracts objects to each other. And the more distant these objects are, the weaker this force will be.

Subsequently, Newton’s work and his definition of gravitation helped to explain and study various physical phenomena: from the flight path of a baseball to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

In 1687 Newton published his famous book “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”. In it, the physicist formulated the law of universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. This work became the foundation of modern physics.

The earth revolves around the sun

The most important discovery of Nicolaus Copernicus, then defended by Galileo, was that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and not the other way around, as previously thought.


In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus described his radical theory of the universe, in which the Earth, along with the other planets, revolved around the Sun. It took more than a century for his theory to become widely accepted. Nicolaus Copernicus / Public Domain

Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei learned to make his own telescopes and began observing the phases of the planet Venus. At the same time, Galileo noticed that the planet went through the same phases as the Moon. Based on this observation, Galileo confirmed Copernicus’ theory that the central point in the solar system must be the Sun, not the Earth.

Galileo also made other important astronomical discoveries. For example, he discovered that the surface of the Moon was not as smooth as was thought. In 1610, the astronomer found that Jupiter had four moons. Galileo was also the first to state that there were many more stars in the universe than one could see, which was a shock to the scientific community of his time.

The printing press

Between 1440 and 1450, the German engineer Johannes Gutenberg invented the manual printing press. He is not a pioneer in this field – before Gutenberg printing machines (albeit not so perfect) already existed in China and Korea. Gutenberg’s machine was more convenient and allowed the use of a large number of metal plates and movable signs.


Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki / Public Domain

Thanks to this simplified process, printing presses multiplied the speed of making copies of books, which led to the rapid and widespread dissemination of knowledge. Book printing became a real revolution in the dissemination of knowledge: in only 50 years, until 1500, about 40 thousand editions were printed in Western Europe with a total circulation of 20 million volumes.

In addition, the printing presses provided wider access to the Bible, which led to various alternative interpretations of the Holy Scriptures. For example, the interpretation of Martin Luther and his “95 theses” appeared. It was printed in hundreds of thousands of copies and became the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

The internal combustion engine

As is known, when fuel is burned, a high-temperature gas is released, which, when expanded, acts on the piston, driving it. This is how internal combustion engines convert chemical energy into mechanical energy.

The internal combustion engine was the result of decades of engineering work and took its modern form in the second half of the 19th century.


Nicolaus Otto’s engine, 1876. Nicolaus August Otto / CC BY-SA 3.0

The creation of the engine marked the beginning of the Industrial Age and gave rise to a huge variety of machines, including modern automobiles and airplanes.

It is known that in 1791 John Barber invented the gas turbine and then in 1794 Robert Street patented the liquid fuel internal combustion engine and built a working prototype.

The phone

Several inventors pioneered telephony at the same time, but the first to receive a patent for an electric telephone was the American-Canadian scientist of Scottish descent, Alexander Graham Bell. He filed his patent on March 7, 1876.


An actor portraying Alexander Bell in a 1926 silent film shows Bell’s first telephone transmitter (microphone), invented in 1876. Early Office Museum / Public Domain

Three days later, Bell makes his first phone call. He calls his assistant and says, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

According to Bell himself, his own family inspired him to invent the telephone, although the inventor was unable to talk on the phone with most of his relatives. The inventor’s father taught oratory and helped teach speech to deaf people. Belle’s mother was a musician and lost her hearing in old age. The inventor’s wife was deaf from the age of five.

Bell’s invention gained well-deserved fame and popularity, and also revolutionized business and communications.

On the day of Bell’s death, August 2, 1922, all telephone communications in the United States and Canada were suspended for one minute to honor the inventor’s memory.

The light bulb

With the invention of the light bulb, humanity forever overcame its dependence on natural light, allowing people to work productively at any time of the day.


Original carbon filament light bulb from Thomas Edison’s store in Menlo Park. Terren / CC BY 2.0

Several inventors worked on the light bulb in the 19th century. But in 1879, American inventor Thomas Edison created a fully functional lighting system that included a generator and wire, and with them the carbon filament bulb itself.

Edison’s invention not only brought electricity to homes around the world, but also changed people’s lifestyles. Instead of going to bed at dusk, people started going to bed later.


In 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered a mess in his laboratory: a forgotten petri dish full of bacteria. Because the lid was left ajar, the entire sample was infected with mold – and where it did appear, all the bacteria had died. Thus, out of seeming carelessness, a great discovery is born.


Alexander Fleming in his laboratory. Public Domain

The discovered antibiotic mold turned out to be Penicillium. Over the next two decades, chemists were able to purify the mold, study its properties and develop the drug penicillin, which could deal with a huge number of bacterial infections in humans.

By 1944, penicillin was being mass-produced and advertised. For example, one of the advertising posters advised World War II soldiers to take the drug to get rid of venereal diseases.


In the 1960s, a group of scientists working for the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) created a communications network to connect all the agency’s computers. It received the name ARPANET and is considered the predecessor of the Internet.



This network uses packet exchange communication developed by scientist and ARPA team member Lawrence Roberts.

In the 1970s, the technology was improved by scientists Robert Kahn and Vint Surf. They develop the most important communication protocols for the Internet: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP). Thanks to these developments, Kahn and Surf are called by many “the inventors of the Internet”.

The Internet received a new development in 1989 thanks to CERN scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web (WWW). According to CERN, “the idea of ​​the WWW is to combine all new developments into an easy-to-use global information system.”

The development of the WWW opened the world of the Internet to everyone and connected the world in a way that had never happened before.

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