Necessity is the mother of invention. The ability to see in the dark, to communicate over long distances, or simply to read when your eyesight isn't perfect were inventions that revolutionized the world. In 1879 Edison filed a patent for an electric lamp with a carbon filament and the world became a brighter place. When Alexander Graham Bell patented the first practical telephone and founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885, it was a miracle to be able to talk to family and friends far away.
The invention of the zipper, post-it, and disposable diapers, had its impact on designers, executives, and parents. And let’s not forgot how gratifying it is when inventions can be picked up and employed in other industries, such as when Velcro, hailing from the aerospace industry, became widely used across arange of medical device and patient positioning solutions.
As well as the more revolutionary inventions, there are inventions of convenience, too. Take for instance, air conditioning, microwave ovens, electric can openers, to name a few that are hard to live without (and in some climates, impossible). You’ll be amazed at when and who invented these everyday items that make your life easier. Take the quiz and learn more!
Like to get food on the table in just a few minutes? Thank Percy Spencer. While working on radar tube design for Raytheon in the 1940's, he noticed a candy bar in his pocket beginning to melt as he conducted experiments. In 1945, he patented the microwave. Early models sold for around $5,000, but today, they can be found in the majority of U.S. homes.
American Mary Anderson patented a manually-operated windshield wiper design for cars in 1903. Oddly enough, it didn't become a standard feature on most vehicles until the 1920s.
As the proprietor of the Toll House Inn, Ruth Wakefield prepared many meals and snacks for her guests. When she ran out of baking chocolate one fateful day, she cut up a chocolate candy bar and sprinkled the pieces into some cookies, On that day in the 1930s, the chocolate chip cookie was born.
Before the early 1900's, people had to deal with the heat however they could, but air conditioning wasn't yet an option. Willis Carrier changed all that in 1902, when he patented the first electric air conditioning system. One important feature was the system's ability to control humidity -- a critical feature in the development of air conditioning technology.
At the 1931 Budapest International Fair, Lazslo Biro introduced the world's first ballpoint pen. Designed to dry quickly and resist smudging, the pen used a tiny ball that turned within a socket to deliver ink to the page.
Before the early 20th century, most men shaved with a straight razor, which had to be sharpened pretty much daily. After he patented a double-edged safety razor with disposable blades, K.C. Gillette sold 51 razors and 168 blades in 1903. The next year, he sold around 90,000 razors and more than 12 million blades.
Peter Durand made important strides in food safety when he patented the tin can in 1810. However, it took almost another half-century until someone came up with the idea for the can opener. Today, Americans use 100 million cans each day.
John Pemberton was a simple pharmacist when he invented Coca-Cola in 1886. The recipe included coca leaves, but the amount of "cocaine" in the drink was infinitesimally small by 1929, when it was removed completely.
Shortly after the creation of Coca-Cola, pharmacist Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi in his New Bern, North Carolina shop. The narcotic-free, caffeine-free beverage was designed as an alternative to the less healthy soft drinks of the period.
Scottish inventor Alan MacMasters developed the first electric bread toaster in the 1890's. Sold as the Eclipse, it featured a rack-style design. It wouldn't be until the 1920's that the pop-up style of toaster used today was invented.
George Crum was a chef at a New York lodge in 1853 when a customer kept complaining that his fried potatoes were cut too thickly. Crum changed the snack game forever when he cut the potatoes extra thin and fried them until they were crispy and delicious.
Josephine Cochrane was descended from numerous inventors and engineers, so it's no surprise that she patented the first electric dishwasher in 1886. The appliance didn't become common in homes until the '50s because it took plumbing technology that long to catch up.
Tired of changing mountains of cloth diapers, Marion Donovan developed the first waterproof disposable diapers in 1951. She eventually patented more than 20 inventions, many totally unrelated to diapers and baby care.
Nihs Bohlin worked for Volvo when he came up with the three-point safety belt in 1959. His invention has saved countless lives, and is now standard in most vehicles.
No, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. The first peanut paste was created in 1884 by pharmacist Marcellus Gilmore Edson, who wanted to make a food for those who couldn't chew well. Carver made many important contributions to Botany and the peanut, but his most significant works came out several decades after Edson's invention.
Gideon Sundback didn't change the clothing industry in 1914 when he patented the first practical zipper -- his Hookless #2. He did get his own Google doodle almost a century later though, in April 2012.
George de Mestral was hiking in the Alps in 1941 when he noticed how firmly burrs were attaching themselves to his dog's coat. He used this idea to create Velcro, which he patented in 1955. The name stands for Velours Crochet, or velvet hook.
The ancient Chinese had their own version of toilet paper, but the rest of the world was forced to make due until Joseph Gayetty came out with the first commercial toilet paper in the mid-19th century. Marketed as a cure for hemorrhoids, his product was sold through the 1920s.
British mathematician Alan Turing is often credited as the inventor of the computer. He wrote a 1936 paper that established the foundations of computer science, and also helped crack the Nazi's Enigma code.
Philo T. Farnsworth invented the first all-electric television in 1938. RCA later paid him $1 million so they could sell TVs to the home market.
Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876. At the time, he was working in a school for the deaf and trying to transmit sound using electricity. He used his fame and wealth to fund other scientists and was an early supporter of the National Geographic Society.
The Wizard of Menlo Park didn't invent the light bulb, but he did invent the first commercially-viable light bulb in 1880, when he discovered that carbonized bamboo made the perfect filament. The life-long inventor filed over 1,000 patents before his death.
A visit from the King and Queen of Italy prompted Naples pizza maker Raffaele Esposito to make the first pizzas. He named one the Margherita after the Queen, topping his creation with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf created Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, better known as TCP/IP, which forms the basis for the Internet. The pair credit the many that came before them for inspiring their invention, including men and women who developed transistors, computers and various programming languages.
German engineer Karl Benz patented the first practical motor car in 1886. While Henry Ford is often mistakenly credited as the inventor of the automobile, Ford did create a sustainable assembly-line system for manufacturing the cars.
French inventor Pierre Lallement was inspired in the mid-19th century when he saw a dandy horse -- a bike that the user had to straddle with his feet on the ground to walk the device forward. He added pedals to propel the bike forward in the 1860's and the rest is history.
Louis Lassen hated to see extra beef going to waste after lunch hour at his New Haven restaurant. He started grinding it up and placing it between two pieces of toast in 1895. Today, the Library of Congress credits him with inventing the hamburger.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google out of their Stanford dorm room. They named the company after the number googol -- a one followed by 100 zeroes.
John Bacon Curtis created the first commercial chewing gum with his State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum in the early 19th century. In the 1850's, he switched to paraffin, which made for a more tasty and chewier gum.
Before the refrigerator, people had to can their food, or use ice houses to keep it cold. Jacob Perkins patented the first electric refrigerator in 1835, and his invention actually could produce a small amount of ice.
People have used various chew sticks to clean their teeth for thousands of years, but it was Brit William Addis who first commercially-produced toothbrushes starting in 1780. The next major advancement in toothbrush tech came in 1938, when boar bristles were largely replaced by nylon.
Joseph Aspdin patented Portland Cement in October 1824. Named for the limestone of Portland, England, his invention helped builders craft solid, durable concrete.
Move over Milton Hershey. It was Joseph Fry who made the first chocolate bar in 1847, though Fry's bittersweet bar was nothing like the ones you'd find today. It wasn't until 1847 that Nestle came up with a tastier milk chocolate bar.
British engineer Hubert Cecil Booth invented the first electric vacuum cleaner in 1901. It was so large that it had to be located outside of a building, while giant hoses were passed through the windows to suck up debris.
Though he got little credit, James Goodfellow came up with the card and PIN system used at modern ATM's. The more commonly-credited inventor is John Shepherd-Barron, who came up with an ATM that used special checks right around the same time that Goodfellow developed his invention.
While observing how Eskimos froze freshly-caught fish, Clarence Birdseye realized that the secret to freezing food successfully was speed and low temperatures. In the 1920's he started a frozen food empire that is still around today.
Alva J. Fisher invented the first electric clothes washing machine, known as the Thor, which replaced hand-cranked models of the past.
OK, so the printing press isn't an everyday item, but books sure are. In a world where many people prefer e-Readers, fans of traditional books can give thanks to Johannes Gutenberg. In 1488, Gutenberg invented a printing press with movable type that helped make books accessible to people of all classes for the first time.
Walter Hunt designed the safety pin in 1849. The process took him just a few hours, and he sold all rights to his creation for $400 to pay off some debts.
Made by Douglas Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960's, the first computer mouse was made from wood, and used a pair of interior wheels to make computing a more user-friendly experience.
More than 30 million people in the U.S. wear contact lens, and the majority of these wear soft rather than hard lenses. Czech chemist Otto Wichterle came up with the idea for soft contacts in the 1960's, and helped replace uncomfortable glass contacts with much more pleasant options.
Sir John Harington was a poet and courtier for Queen Elizabeth I when he designed a flush toilet for his home in the 16th century. The Queen liked the invention so much during a visit to his home that he had one built for her as well.
Patek Phillipe made the first known wristwatch in 1868 for a member of the Hungarian royalty. It wasn't until the 1880's, however, that wristwatches were produced in large numbers.
Half a century after Benjamin Franklin did his famous kite experiments, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta figured out how to capture and store electricity with his electric pile, a precursor to the modern battery.
Need a caffeine jolt to wake up each morning? Thank Melitta Bentz, who in 1908 patented the first disposable coffee filter, and changed the way coffee was made forever.
Many people claim to have invented the camera, but it was French scientist Joseph Nicephore Niepce who took the first documented photograph -- which he called a heliograph -- in 1827.
Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison waged a battle of the currents in the 19th century, as Tesla supported the use of alternating current while Edison swore by direct current. More than 100 years later, Tesla's alternating current is the standard method of distributing electricity to homes.
Italian engineer Guglielmo Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio signal in 1901. He shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with inventor Karl Braun.
Before Sir Rowland Hill introduced the first postage stamp, known as the Penny Black, in 1840, postage was typically paid by the recipient. This led to all kinds of mail fraud, and meant that rates weren't uniform throughout the postage system.
The development of rubber tires was the work of many men. It started with Charles Goodyear, who came up with vulcanization in 1844. John Boyd Dunlop was the first to patent a pneumatic tire, and Andre Michelin was the first to put Dunlop's pneumatic tire on a car, rather than a bicycle.