History’s Ten Greatest Innovations

The world's greatest innovators and their indispensable inventions. Our choices are taken from the vast plain of time. These top innovations made the list based on how they changed the way people looked at the world and the way we've lived our lives. 10. Heliocentricism

The world’s greatest innovators and their indispensable inventions.

Our choices are taken from the vast plain of time. These top innovations made the list based on how they changed the way people looked at the world and the way we’ve lived our lives.

10. Heliocentricism

This one really got the astronomers – and the Catholic Church – in a tizzy. When Copernicus first published his work about the sky and sun standing still, while the earth moved around them, it went against everything everyone had been taught. In his first publication, Copernicus included a disclaimer and a dedication to Pope Paul III. It kept him out of the fire until Galileo got in there and messed it up.




9. Universal law of gravitation

If an apple fell on my head there’s a good chance I’d throw a fit and go home. But not Newton, he had an idea, instead. Newton supposed that if gravity could make an apple fall to the ground, perhaps it could affect the orbit of the Moon. From this came the Universal Law of Gravitation. Now we can send satellites into orbit and we use the law to create more efficient machines. 



8. Global Warming

Thanks to An Inconvenient Truth—or kind-of-truth according to the British Government—we’ve decided that only man could have ruined the world and only man can save it. Nevertheless, ‘going green’ is a huge part of our lives. It dictates everything from shopping habits to policy making. (This idea was made from a recycled thought.)




7. Sliced Bread

Does this even need an explanation? Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa invented the first loaf-at-a-time bread-slicing machine 1928. His brilliant innovation will live on forever in the best cliché since—I have to do this, sorry—sliced bread.




6. Human Rights

Although the idea had been toyed with by poets and philosophers for centuries, it was the UN’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” that set a milestone in sticking up for the little guy. With help from groups like Amnesty International and from people like Bono, it’s cool to care and it’s cool to listen to Live Aid.



5. Vaccination

In the 17th century a group of Indians decided that rather than eat their smallpox scabs, they would use them to inoculate people against the disease. Thanks to this, came the rise of vaccines, which means longer lives and better healthcare. Polio never had it so rough.





4. Evolution

Maybe the Devil put the fossils in the ground to fool us. Maybe not. Either way, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory really got people thinking. The idea that we did not come from an archetype in seven days but that we probably came from apes over thousands of years, is still a guiding principal of biology.

3. Consumer Culture

In the 1920s Edward Bernays, the father of public relations and nephew of Sigmund Freud, gave a group of young women cigarettes and had them march in a parade through New York City. The women said that smoking let them be free of male domination. Women smoking became socially acceptable and cigarette sales skyrocketed. Bernays used the idea that by understanding what humans’ unconscious desires were, one could use those desires to increase sales.

2. Relativity

When you take two little things and bang them together they can make a big thing. And what a big thing Einstein’s theory of relativity is. Nuclear energy is still one of the cleaner energy sources and nuclear weapons still pose a very real threat. Sure, weapons all together could be considered a pretty hefty innovation, but a bayonet doesn’t seem to have the same clout as an A-Bomb. I think the Japanese would agree.

1. The Internet

We can have business meetings, rent movies, share our lives, read the news and do pretty much whatever we want online. The Internet has completely changed the way we live our lives. We have access to information that we couldn’t even dream of in the 80s, and we have a platform to discuss it with people from Paraguay. Like the printing press, the Internet is taking information out of the hands of the elite and allowing a greater number of people to influence thought.

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