Can you identify these inventions that changed the world?

By: Maria Trimarchi
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

If it can't be fixed with duct tape, it can't be fixed -- right? But did you know that the can't-go-without-it tape was first called "duck" tape and used to be green? See how much you know about the life-changing inventions we so easily take for granted.

Who was the first to discover electricity?

Alessandro Volta invented the battery, William Gilbert was the first to use the word, and Nikola Tesla discovered alternating current electricity. But we've known about electricity -- static electricity -- as far back as the ancient Greeks!

Who invented the internet?

It's a few people, actually. Leonard Kleinrock thought of it. With J.C.R. Licklider and Robert Taylor, he created a network that became ARPANET (which went on to become the first ISP). But it was Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, inventors of the internet protocols TCP/IP, who are considered the ones who created the internet.

Which man, who created Bakelite, is considered the father of plastics?

"I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics." Mr. McGuire (from "The Graduate") can thank Leo Baekeland, the man who created Bakelite in 1907, for that word of wisdom.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory during the Manhattan Project, is responsible for the development of what?

J. Robert Oppenheimer, nicknamed the Father of the Atomic Bomb, is responsible for the development of nuclear weapons. He later famously said, "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

Who's responsible for the @ symbol in your email address?

Ray Tomlinson, who sent the very first email, put the @ symbol in your email address. His first test email, sent to himself, was just a random series of QWERTY characters.

What did Alexander Fleming call penicillin, before it was named penicillin?

Before calling it penicillin (it's a member of the Penicillium genus), Alexander Fleming referred to it as "mould juice."

Founder of Nissin Foods, Momofuku Ando is also considered the father of what food?

Momofuku Ando was inspired to create instant noodles when he witnessed the scarcity of food in Japan after WWII. In 2005, the noodles were vacuum-packed, to nourish astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery. Today ramen noodles are the most successful industrial food ever produced, and, some argue, a component to ending world hunger.

Name one invention helping humans to live longer now than just 200 years ago:

Because the municipal sanitation programs put in place in the late 19th and 20th centuries help control communicable diseases like cholera, we have a better chance of making it to our golden years.

People have been automating things for centuries. But what's the name of the robot that started the modern robotics industry?

Leonardo da Vinci conceived of a humanoid robot in 1495. But it wasn't until 1921 when we started using "robot" in our vocabulary. In 1954, George Devol gave us Unimate, the first digital, programmable industrial robot.

What kickstarted a revolution when it was introduced in 1960?

The pill was life-changing when it was first marketed in 1960. For many women, the pill offered a way to take control of their bodies, as well as their career potential.

Edward Jenner was the first to use a virus to protect against disease. But it was Louis Pasteur's vaccine against what that made vaccinations catch on?

Louis Pasteur invented the rabies vaccine -- and anthrax, too. He accomplished this after discovering that microbes would sour alcohol.

What kind of plow not only digs soil but also turns the soil?

The digging plus turning of the moldboard plow, invented in the 18th century, allowed farmers to plant in harder soil, which meant they had more land options for farming.

Which father of the American car industry also introduced the assembly line?

Henry Ford's introduction of assembly line-style mass production began an overall shift toward mass-produced things.

Once cars were available to many Americans, who laid the groundwork for the American highway system?

Horatio Nelson Jackson is the first documented person to drive across the country, but his 1903 adventure had him traveling on various types of unpaved roads and paths. In 1956, President Eisenhower conceived of and signed the act that created America's Interstate Highway System.

With what did the Egyptians construct the Great Pyramid?

Pyramid construction was long a mystery, and many questions still remain, but we now believe the ancient Egyptians constructed King Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza by using lifting technology, positioning the stone blocks with levers, pulleys and ramps.

Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn are considered the fathers of the internet. But who developed HTML, giving us the internet browsing we know today -- the world wide web?

It was Tim Berners-Lee who created the world wide web. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, which controls the format of web pages.

What powered the factories, boats and trains of the Industrial Revolution?

It was the steam engine that powered the Industrial Revolution. In 1698 the first commercial steam engine was introduced.

If your milk's been pasteurized, what's been done to it?

Considered one of the biggest and most effective public health programs, pasteurization is a heat-based method of sterilizing a liquid to kill any pathogens (in your milk or beer or wine).

During which empire did Johannes Gutenberg invent the printing press?

Invented in the 15th century -- in the Roman Empire -- by Johannes Gutenberg, the printing press allowed for the mass production and dissemination of information.

What replaced the steam engine?

The steam engine, an example of an external combustion engine, fell out of favor with the introduction of the internal combustion engine.

The first controlled clinical trial was aboard the HMS Salisbury in 1747, when James Lind tried to treat scurvy with what?

Lind's experiment explored the question of whether or not citrus fruits helped to prevent and treat scurvy. And he was on to something -- because vitamin C does just that.

Michael Faraday invented the electric motor. And Georg Ohm, the electrical circuit. But who invented the electric light bulb?

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879. In a public demonstration, he lit up a street with light bulbs in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Optical lenses, which can focus or divide light, are used in eyeglasses. Which is another example of how an optical lens can be used?

They're used to help us see better through our eyeglasses, but optical lenses are also key in the scientific world, where they're used in lasers, microscopes, telescopes and more.

Dr. William Morton made history as the first to successfully demonstrate the use of what during surgery?

In the mid-19th century, Dr. Morton was the first to successfully use anesthesia during surgery, which he performed on Edward Gilbert Abbott at "The Ether Dome" at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Who is considered the father of the modern computer?

William Oughtred invented the slide rule, but it was Charles Babbage who conceptualized and invented the analytical engine that modern computing is built on -- but it was never built during his lifetime. He died in 1871.

And who is considered the mother of computer programming?

British mathematician Ada Lovelace is maybe best known for her work with Charles Babbage's analytical engine. She laid out the idea of how to instruct the engine and theorized "looping," which is a concept used in modern computer programming.

When did the refrigerator first become available for in-home use?

William Cullen demonstrated the first artificial refrigeration in 1748. But it wasn't until the 1910s when you could order your very own in-home refrigerator from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog.

Oswald Boelcke, Germany's first flying ace, wrote the instruction manual on air combat. Which of his proteges went on to overshadow him in the public eye?

Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron, was his protege. His squadron was known as the Flying Circus -- but Snoopy could tell you all about him.

Sir George Cayley was the first to identify the four aerodynamic forces of flight on which modern airplane design is based. Which is not one of the four forces?

The four aerodynamic forces of flight are weight/gravity, lift, drag and thrust. He put forth his theories in 1799.

What genetic discovery did Gregor Mendel make while scientifically observing pea plants?

While working with pea plants, Gregor Mendel discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance. The "father of modern genetics" was an Austrian monk.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR is a genome editing tool -- exciting to some, terrifying to others. The acronym stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.

What's the name of the genome-editing enzyme?

The genome-editing enzyme used in CRISPR is known as CAS9. The acronym stands for CRISPR associated protein 9 -- an acronym within an acronym.

When a faulty egg is edited with DNA from a donor egg by swapping the nucleus, the resulting embryo has own many how many biological parents?

This controversial technique results in a three-parent embryo. As of 2017, this is not legal in the U.S.

What kind of tissue did scientists successfully grow for the first time in a lab in 2015?

Lab-grown muscle tissue happened in 2015. It responded to external stimuli just like native tissue.

Today they're used in everything from hearing aids to laptops, but the transistor was invented by which telecommunications company?

The transistor was invented at AT&T's Bell Labs in 1947. Engineer and writer John Pierce came up with the name "transistor."

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