The Greatest Innovations and Breakthroughs

Early Press. Accreditation: Daniel Chodowiecki [Public domain]

This post is something original, in that it’s not original: it’s a link to an intriguing article published a few years ago, which came to my attention on Flipboard. The article was published in 2013 in The Atlantic, and was a compilation of the 50 “innovations that have done the most to shape the nature of modern life”(since the wheel). I sent emails which included an abridged version of the article to a number of people. A friend replied, saying that I should provide it, or a link, on this site. I agree, and suggest that you check it out. Even if you don’t read the long essay, flip down to the list itself (there’s a link to it on the first page). Top three: The Printing Press, Electricity, Penicillin.

You may well have some differences of opinion. Personally, I think sanitation, at number 12, has been more important than penicillin, at number 3, and also that “personal computers” (number 16) should be replaced with simply “the electronic digital programmable computer”. (We were doing things on mainframe computers that are essentially the same as can today be done on personal computers, just less conveniently.) Also, I’d replace pasteurization with the germ theory of Pasteur, which not only led to pasteurization, but also to asceptic technique in surgery, which is pretty important. And I’d replace “plant breeding” (number 38) with simply “genetics”, which led not only to plant breeding, but to a profound new understanding, and practices, in biology and medicine. The discovery of micronutrients toward the end of the 19th century changed nutrition forever.

Overvalued? Maybe the automobile (once we had the internal combustion engine it was going to be applied to the buggy), And the combine harvester (number 50) was not that innovative – it simply integrated activities that pre-existed. But overall the list is thought-provoking.

Everyone will have their differences. But it’s pleasing to see that YouTube, and the app that tells you when to get up off your chair and walk around, didn’t make the list.

Now. Go and read about those innovations.

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