Important Innovations and Inventions, Past and Present

Important Innovations and Inventions, Past and Present

There are endless famous (and not so famous) inventions worthy of curiosity and wonder. Of course, the lists below are by no means complete, but do provide a 'greatest hits' list of inventions, both past and present, that have captured the imaginations and propelled us forward.

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Inventions Beginning With "A"

French aeronauts Jacques Charles (1746-1823) and Noel Robert made the first manned (free flight) ascent in a hydrogen balloon, designed by Charles, a physics professor, and constructed by Robert and his brother Jean. It took off in front of a crowd of 400,000, landing two hours later at Nesle-la-Vallee, over 27 miles away. Print Collector / Getty Images


Around 1750, the first glue patent was issued in Britain for a glue made from fish.


Scotch Tape or cellophane tape was invented in 1930 by banjo playing 3M engineer Richard Drew.

Aerosol Spray Cans

The concept of an aerosol originated as early as 1790.

Agriculture Related

Learn the history behind agriculture innovations, tractors, cotton gins, reapers, plows, plant patents and more.


Aibo, the robotic pet.

Air Bags

In 1973, the General Motors research team invented the first car safety air bags that were first offered in the Chevrolet as an option.

Air Balloons

The early history of air balloons.

Air Brakes

George Westinghouse invented air brakes in 1868.

Air Conditioning

Willis Carrier brought us the comfort zone with air conditioning.

Air Ships

The history behind balloons, blimps, dirigibles and zeppelins.


Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the manned engined airplane, which they patented as a "flying machine." Learn about other aviation related innovations.

Alcoholic Beverages

Evidence of intentionally fermented beverages exist in the form of beer jugs dated as early as the Neolithic period.

Alternating Current

Charles Proteus Steinmetz developed theories on alternating current that allowed for the rapid expansion of the electric power industry.

Alternative Energy Related

A list of articles related to the invention and the history of alternative, earth-friendly energy sources.


An instrument which measures vertical distance with respect to a reference level.

Aluminum Foil - Aluminum Manufacturing Process

The first mass-produced and widely used metal foil was made from tin. Tin foil was replaced by aluminum foil in 1910. Charles Martin Hall discovered the electrolytic method of producing aluminum cheaply and brought the metal into wide commercial use.


The concept of ambulance service started in Europe with the Knights of St. John.


In 1450, Leon Battista Alberti, the Italian artist and architect, invented the first mechanical anemometer. The anemometer is a device that measures wind speed.

Answering Machines

The history of answering machines.

Antibody Labeling Agents - Antigen and Antibody

Joseph Burckhalter and Robert Seiwald invented the first practical and patented antibody labeling agent.


The history of antiseptics and key figures behind the invention.

Apple Computers

The Apple Lisa was the first home computer with a GUI or graphical user interface. Learn about the history of the Apple Macintosh, one of the most famous Apple home computers.


The history of scuba or diving equipment.

Arc Transmitter

Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen invented the arc transmitter in 1902. The arc transmitter, contrary to all previous types of radio transmitters in history, generated continuous radio waves.

Archimedes Screw

Invented by the ancient Greek scientist and mathematician Archimedes, an archimedes screw is a machine for raising water.

Armillary Sphere

Miniature representations of the earth, moon and planets in the form of terrestrial globes, terrain models and armillary spheres have a long history.

Artificial Heart

Willem Kolff invented both the first artificial heart and the first artificial kidney dialysis machine.


The history of roads, road building and asphalt.


In 1829, scientists discovered that it was the compound called salicin in willow plants that was responsible for pain relief. But it was father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, who first discovered the pain relieving properties of the willow plant in the 5th century B.C.

Assembly Line

Eli Olds invented the basic concept of the assembly line and Henry Ford improved upon it.


A patent for synthetic grass-like playing surfaces or Astroturf was issued to Wright and Faria of Monsanto Industries.

Atari Computers

The history of the entertaining video game console.

ATM - Automatic Teller Machines

The history of automated teller machines (ATM).

Atomic Bomb

In 1939, Einstein and several other scientists told Roosevelt of efforts in Nazi Germany to build an atomic bomb. It was shortly thereafter that the United States Government began the Manhattan Project, whose research produced the first atomic bomb.

Atomic Clock

The US primary time and frequency standard is a cesium fountain atomic clock developed at the NIST laboratories.

Audio Tape Recording

Marvin Camras invented the method and means of magnetic recording.


Dr Andy Hildebrand is the inventor of the voice pitch-correcting software called Auto-Tune.

Automated Electrified Monorail Systems

Ronald Riley invented the automated electrified monorail system.

Automatic Doors

Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt invented the sliding automatic door in 1954.


The history of the automobile spans over one hundred years. View timelines of automotive development and discover who made the first gasoline powered car.

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Famous Inventions Beginning With the Letter "B"

Bakelite buttons. Getty Images/ David McGlynn

Baby Carriage

The history of the baby carriage or stroller.


Leo Hendrik Baekeland patented a "Method of Making Insoluble Products of Phenol and Formaldehyde." Setting out to make an insulator, he invented the first true plastic and transformed the world.

Ball Point Pens

The ball-point pen was invented by Ladislo Biro in 1938. A patent battle erupted; learn how Parker and Bic won the war.

Ballistic Missiles

A ballistic missile can be any of a variety of weapons systems that deliver explosive warheads to their targets by means of rocket propulsion.

Balloons and Blimps (Airships)

The history and patents behind airships, balloons, blimps, dirigibles and zeppelins.

Balloons (Toys)

The first rubber balloons were made in 1824 by Professor Michael Faraday for use in his experiments with hydrogen.


Band-Aid® is the trademarked name for the 1920 invention belonging to Earle Dickson.

Bar Codes

The first patents for bar code were issued to Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver on October 7, 1952.


In America, barbecue (or BBQ) originated in the late 1800's during Western cattle drives.

Barbed Wire

Don't fence me in -- all about the invention, development, and use of barbed wire.

Barbie Dolls

The Barbie doll was invented in 1959 by Ruth Handler.


The barometer was invented by Evangelista Torricelli in 1643.

Bartholdi Fountain

The Bartholdi Fountain was designed by the same inventor of the Statue of Liberty.

Baseball and Baseball Equipment

The evolution of baseball bats changed the sport entirely; modern baseball was invented by Alexander Cartwright.

BASIC (Code)

BASIC (Beginner's All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was invented in 1964 by John Kemeny and Tom Kurtz.


James Naismith invented and named the game of basketball in 1891.

Bathrooms (and related inventions)

The history of ancient and modern plumbing from around the world-baths, toilets, water closets and sewage systems.


Batteries were invented in 1800 by Alssandro Volta.

Beauty (and related inventions)

The history of hair dryers, ironing curlers and other beauty appliances. The history of cosmetics and hair products.


Yes, even beds have a rich history of invention. Learn more about waterbeds, Murphy beds, and other kinds of beds.


We can trace the beginning of beer far back beyond the dawn of recorded time. Apparently, beer was the first alcoholic beverage known to civilization.


Bells may be categorized as idiophones, instruments sounding by the vibration of resonant solid material, and more broadly as percussion instruments."


The history and origins of beverages and the equipment used to make them.


Stephen Poplawski invented the kitchen blender.

Bic Pens

Learn about the history of Bic pens and other writing instruments.


The history of the foot-powered riding machine.


Benjamin Franklin is credited with creating the first pair of eyeglasses that help both near- and far-sighted people see better.


The bikini was invented in 1946 and named after the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the site of the first atomic bomb testing. The designers of the bikini were two Frenchmen named Jacques Heim and Louis Reard.


"Bingo" originated from a game called Beano.

Biofilters and Biofiltration

The first proposition to use biological methods to treat odorous compounds came as early as 1923.

Biometric and Related Technology

Biometrics technology is used to uniquely identify or verify an individual through characteristics of the human body.

Blood Banks

Dr. Charles Richard Drew was the first person to develop the blood bank.

Blue Jeans

Non other than Levi Strauss invented blue jeans.

Boardgames and Cards

Puzzle over the history of board games and other brain teasers.

Body Armor and Bullet-proof Vests

Throughout recorded history, people have used various types of materials as body armor to protect themselves from injury in combat and other dangerous situations.


George Babcock and Steven Wilcox co-invented the water tube steam boiler, a safer and more efficient boiler.


The history of the boomerang.

Bourdon Tube Pressure Guage

In 1849, the Bourdon tube pressure gauge was patented by Eugene Bourdon.


It's 1913 and Mary Phelps Jacob's corset was not the undergarment to wear under her new shear evening gown.

Braces (Dental)

The history of dental braces or the science of Orthodontics is complex, many different patents helped to create braces as we know them today.


Louis Braille invented braille printing.

Brush (Hair)

Brushes were used as early as 2,500,000 years ago.

Bubble Gum

The invention and history of chewing gum, bubble gum, gum wrappers, gum tins and bubble gum machines.


It is not certain who invented the first bulldozer, however, the bulldozer blade was in use before the invention of any tractor.

Bunsen Burners

As an inventor, Robert Bunsen developed several methods of analyzing gases, however, he is best known for his invention of the Bunsen burner.

Butterick (Dress Patterns)

Ebenezer Butterick, together with his wife Ellen Augusta Pollard Butterick, invented the tissue paper dress pattern.

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Inventions Beginning With "C"

Daguerreotypes, like this one of Boulevard du Temple, Paris, were among the early forms of photography. Louis Daguerre circa 1838/39

Calendars and Clocks

Learn about the invention of early clocks, calendars, the quartz watch, timekeeping devices and the science of time.


Timelines covering calculator patents since 1917.Learn about the history of Texas Instruments, the origins of the electronic calculator, the hand-held calculator and more.

Cameras and Photography

The history of the camera, including Camera Obscura, photography, the significant processes of photography, and who invented the polaroid and photographic film.

Cans and Can Openers

A timeline of tin cans - learn how cans are made, filled and recycled. The history of the first can opener.

Canadian Inventions

Canadian inventors have patented more than one million inventions.


The delectable history of candy.


Edward Goodrich Acheson invented carborundum. Carborundum is the hardest man-made surface and was essential to ushering in the industrial age.

Card Games

The history of playing cards and card games like Uno.


Wilson Greatbatch invented an implantable cardiac pacemaker.


Carmex is a salve for chapped lips and cold sores invented in 1936.


The history of the automobile covers over one hundred years. Learn about the patents and famous car models, view timelines, read about the first gasoline powered car, or about electric vehicles.


The interesting history behind the carousel and other circus and theme park innovations.

Cash Registers

James Ritty invented what was nicknamed the "Incorruptible Cashier" or the cash register.

Cassette Tapes

In 1963, the Philips company became the first company to demonstrate the compact audio cassette.

Cat Eyes

Percy Shaw patented his road-safety invention called cat eyes, in 1934 when he was only 23.


Thomas Fogarty invented the embolectomy balloon catheter. Betty Rozier and Lisa Vallino co-invented the intravenous catheter shield. Ingemar Henry Lundquist invented the over the wire balloon catheter that is used in the majority of angioplasty procedures in the world.

Cathode Ray Tube

Electronic television is based on the invention of the cathode ray tube, which is the picture tube found in modern television sets.

CAT Scans

Robert Ledley invented "diagnostic X-Ray systems", known as CAT-Scans.


George Smith and Willard Boyle received a patent for Charge-Coupled Devices or CCDs.

Cell (Mobile) Phones

How the FCC slowed the progress of a cellular phone system.

Cellophane Film

Cellophane film was invented by Jacques Brandenberger in 1908. Cellophane ® is the registered trademark of Innovia Films Ltd of Cumbria UK.

Celsius Thermometer

Swedish astronomer, Anders Celsius invented the centigrade scale and celsius thermometer.


In 1790, the First Census of the United States was taken.

Chain Saws

The history behind the humble chain saw.


French monks were the first to bottle a sparkling form of wine called Champagne, named after the Champagne region of France.


The history of Chapstick and its inventor.

Cheerleading (Pompoms)

Pompoms and the history of cheerleading innovations.

Cheese in a Can

The history of "Cheese in a Can".

Cheese Slicer

The cheese-slicer is a Norwegian invention.

Cheesecake and Cream Cheese

Cheesecake is believed to have originated in ancient Greece.

Chewing Gum

The history of chewing gum and bubble gum.

Chia Pets

Animal figurines have been designed which have live herbs that simulate the fur or hair of a particular animal.

Chinese Inventions

Learn about the kite, chopsticks, umbrellas, gunpowder, firecrackers, the steelyard, abacus, cloisonné, ceramics, papermaking, and more.


The history behind chocolate, chocolate bars and chocolate chip cookies.

Christmas Related

The history of candy canes, Christmas lights and Christmas trees.

Christmas Lights

In 1882, the first Christmas tree was lit by the use of electricity.


This history of tobacco related products.


The clarinet evolved from an earlier instrument called the chalumeau, the first true single reed instrument.

Clermont (Steamboat)

Robert Fulton's steamboat, the Clermont, became the first successful steam-propelled vessel.


The history of reproductive and therapeutic.

Closed Captioning

Television closed captions are captions that are hidden in the television video signal, invisible without a special decoder.

Clothes and Clothing Related

The history of what we wear: blue jeans, the bikini, the tuxedo, fabrics, fasteners, and more.

Coat Hangers

Today's wire coat hanger was inspired by a clothes hook patented in 1869 by O. A. North.


"Coca-Cola" was invented by Dr. John Pemberton in 1886.

Cochlear Implants (the Bionic Ear)

The cochlear implant is a prosthetic replacement for the inner ear or cochlea.


The history of the cultivation of coffee and innovations in brewing methods.

Cold Fusion Energy

Viktor Schauberger was the "father of cold fusion energy" and the designer of the first non-energy consuming "flying disc".

Color Television

Color television was by no means a new idea, a German patent in 1904 contained the earliest proposal-RCA color television system-Living Color.

Colt Revolver

Samuel Colt invented the first revolver aptly named the Colt revolver.

Combustion Engine (Car)

History of the internal combustion engine.

Combustion Engine (Diesel)

Rudolf Diesel was the father of the "diesel-fueled" internal combustion engine or diesel engine.

Comic Books

The history of comics.

Communications and related

History, timeline, and innovations.

Compact Discs

James Russell invented the compact disc in 1965. Russell was granted a total of 22 patents for various elements of his system.


The history of the magnetic compass.


An index to famous persons in the computer business, over twenty-six fully illustrated features cover the history of computers from 1936 until today.

Computers (Apple)

On April Fool's Day, 1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs released the Apple I computer and started Apple Computers.

Computer Chess

Dietrich Prinz wrote the original chess playing program for a general purpose computer.

Computer Game

This history is more fun than a joy stick. Steve Russell invented the computer game called "SpaceWar." Nolan Bushnell invented the game called "Pong."

Computer Keyboard

The invention of the modern computer keyboard began with the invention of the typewriter.

Computer Peripherals

Compact disks, the computer mouse, computer memory, disk drives, printers and other peripherals are discussed.

Computer Printers

The history of printers used with computers.

Computerized Banking

ERMA (Electronic Recording Method of Accounting) began as a project for the Bank of America in an effort to computerize the banking industry.

Concrete and Cement

Concrete was invented by Joseph Monier.

Construction Materials

The history of construction and building materials.

Contacts and Corrective Lenses

The history of corrective lenses-from the oldest known glass lens to modern contact lenses.

Cookies and Candy

Enjoy some snack food history and learn how the Fig Newton got named, how cotton candy works, and all about chocolate-chip cookies.


Sir James Dewar was the co-inventor of cordite, a smokeless gunpowder.


This illustrated history of cork extractors explains the origins of this humble invention, found in households all over the world.

Corn Flakes

The kooky history of Corn Flakes and other breakfast cereals.


Percy Lavon Julian synthesized the medicines physostigmine for glaucoma and cortisone. Lewis Sarett invented a synthetic version of the hormone cortisone.


The history of cosmetics and hair products.

Cotton Gin

Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin on March 14, 1794. The cotton gin is a machine that separates seeds, hulls and other unwanted materials from cotton after it has been picked. See also: The Cotton Gin Patent.