Inventions and Inventors of the 18th Century

Painting of Benjamin Franklin wearing bifocals reading a document.

The White House Historical Association/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The 18th century, also referred to as the 1700s, marked the beginning of the first Industrial Revolution. Modern manufacturing began with steam engines replacing animal labor. The 18th century also saw the widespread replacement of manual labor by new inventions and machinery.

The 18th century was also part of the "The Age of Enlightenment," a historical period characterized by a shift away from traditional religious forms of authority and a move towards science and rational thought.

The effects of 18th-century enlightenment led to the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution. The 18th century also saw the spread of capitalism and the increased availability of printed materials. Here is a timeline of the major inventions of the 18th century. 

1701

1709

  • Bartolomeo Cristofori invents the piano.

1711

  • Englishmen John Shore invents the tuning fork.

1712

1717

  • Edmond Halley invents the diving bell.

1722

  • French C. Hopffer patents the fire extinguisher.

1724

  • Gabriel Fahrenheit invents the first mercury thermometer.

1733

1745

  • E.G. von Kleist invents the Leyden jar, the first electrical capacitor.

1752

  • Benjamin Franklin invents the lightning rod.

1755

  • Samuel Johnson publishes the first English language dictionary on April 15th after nine years of writing. 

1757

  • John Campbell invents the sextant.

1758

  • Dolland invents a chromatic lens.

1761

  • Englishmen John Harrison invents the navigational clock, or marine chronometer, for measuring longitude.

1764

1767

1768

1769

  • James Watt invents an improved steam engine.

1774

1775

  • Alexander Cummings invents the flush toilet.
  • Jacques Perrier invents a steamship.

1776

  • David Bushnell invents a submarine.

1779

1780

  • Benjamin Franklin invents bifocal eyeglasses.
  • Gervinus of Germany invents the circular saw.

1783

  • Louis Sebastien demonstrates the first parachute.
  • Benjamin Hanks patents the self-winding clock.
  • The Montgolfier brothers invent the hot-air balloon.
  • Englishmen Henry Cort invents the steel roller for steel production.

1784

  • Andrew Meikle invents the threshing machine.
  • Joseph Bramah invents the safety lock.

1785

  • Edmund Cartwright invents the power loom.
  • Claude Berthollet invents chemical bleaching.
  • Charles Augustus Coulomb invents the torsion balance.
  • Jean Pierre Blanchard invents a working parachute.

1786

1789

1790

  • The United States issued its first patent to William Pollard of Philadelphia for a machine that roves and spins cotton.

1791

  • John Barber invents the gas turbine.
  • Early bicycles are invented in Scotland.

1792

  • William Murdoch invents gas lighting.
  • The first ambulance arrives.

1794

  • Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin.
  • Welshmen Philip Vaughan invents ball bearings.

1795

  • Francois Appert invents the preserving jar of food.

1796

  • Edward Jenner develops the vaccination for smallpox.

1797

  • Amos Whittemore patents a carding machine.
  • A British inventor named Henry Maudslay invents the first metal or precision lathe.

1798

  • The first soft drink is invented.
  • Aloys Senefelder invents lithography.

1799

  • Alessandro Volta invents the battery.
  • Louis Robert invents the Fourdrinier Machine for sheet papermaking.