Important Innovations and Inventions, Past and Present

1960s Jukebox. Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer

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"

Air Balloon Experiment
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.


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"

Boulevard du Temple, Paris - Daguerreotype taken by Louis Daguerre.
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.

Crash Test Dummies

GM developed this test device nearly 20 years ago, to provide a biofidelic measurement tool -- a crash dummy that behaves very similarly to human beings.


The Crayola Company's founders invented the first crayon.

Cray Supercomputer

Seymour Cray was the inventor of the Cray Supercomputer.

Credit Cards

Learn about credit, credit cards, and the first banks to issue them.

Crossword Puzzles

The crossword puzzle was invented by Arthur Wynne.

Cuisinarts and Other Kitchen Appliances

Carl Sontheimer invented the Cuisinart.


Ernest Lawrence invented the cyclotron, a device that greatly increased the speed with which projectiles could be hurled at atomic nuclei.

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Inventions That Begin With "E"

Escalator at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company's Cortland Street Station, New York, 1893. Getty Images/Print Collector / Contributor


Chester Greenwood, a grammar school dropout, invented earmuffs at the age of 15 to keep his ears warm while ice skating. Greenwood would go on to accumulate over 100 patents in his lifetime.

Ear Plugs

The history of ear plugs.

Easter Related

Inventions created for Easter occasions.

Eiffel Tower

Gustave Eiffel built the Eiffel Tower for the Paris World's Fair of 1889, which honored the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.


In 1820, Thomas Hancock patented elastic fastenings for gloves, suspenders, shoes and stockings.

Electric Blanket

In 1936, the first automatic electric blanket was invented.


The history and of the electric chair.


Several famous persons in the field of electricity and electrical theory are profiled.The history of electricity and electronics.


Michael Faraday's big breakthrough in electricity development was his invention of the electric motor.


An electric vehicle or EV by definition will use an electric motor for propulsion rather than being powered by a gasoline-powered motor.


An electromagnet is a device in which magnetism is produced by an electric current.


Innovations related to magnetic fields. See Also - Timeline of Electromagnetism


The complex history behind the electron or vacuum tube.


If pushed to the limit, electron microscopes can make it possible to view objects as small as the diameter of an atom.


The copy machine was invented by Chester Carlson.


Electroplating was invented in 1805 and paved the way for economical jewelry.


The electroscope - a device for detecting electric charge - was invented by Jean Nollet in 1748.


Elisha Elisha Graves Otis did not actually invent the first elevator - he invented the brake used in modern elevators, and his brakes made skyscrapers a practical reality.


Have you ever wondered what this @ in your email address is for?


With twenty thousand vacuum tubes inside, the ENIAC computer was invented by John Mauchly and John Presper.


Understanding how engines work and the history of engines.


The history of engraving, a popular method of printing.


In 1891, Jesse Reno created a new novelty ride at Coney Island that led to the invention of the escalator.


The Etch-A-Sketch was developed in the late 1950s by Arthur Granjean.


Robert Metcalfe and Xerox team invented network computing.


Exoskeletons for human performance augmentation is a new type of body army being developed for soldiers that will significantly increase their capacity.


The history of explosives.


The history of the oldest known glass lens to the first pair of spectacles invented by Salvino D'Armate.

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"F" Is for Inventions Ranging From Frisbees to Firearms

Dogs around the world are grateful for the invention of the frisbee. Getty Images/Elizabeth W. Kearley


Denim, nylon, colored cotton, vinyl... the history behind these and other fabrics.


Learn the fascinating story of how Facebook was invented.


What can be considered the first modern thermometer, the mercury thermometer with a standardized Fahrenheit scale, was invented by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1714.


Innovations related to farms, agriculture, tractors, cotton gin, reapers, plows, plant patents and more.


The facsimile was invented in 1842 by Alexander Bain.


The history of the ferris wheel.


Fiber optics and the use of light to communicate.


The history of photographic film.

Fingerprinting and Forensics

One of the first significant developments in forensic science was identification by fingerprinting.


The history of guns and firearms.


When the flashlight was invented the biblical quote of Let There Be Light was on the cover of the 1899 Eveready catalog.


The history of flight and the invention of the airplane including inventors Orville and Wilbur Wright.


Alan Shugart nicknamed the first disk - the "Floppy" for its flexibility.


The history of fluorescent lights and mercury vapor arc lamps.


While air balloons allowed mankind to float inventors dreamed of making flying machines that would allow mankind to have controlled flight.


John Kay invented the flying shuttle, an improvement to looms that enabled weavers to weave faster.


Steve Chmelar invented the foam finger or foam hand often seen at sporting events and political rallies, and he can thank Miley Cyrus for finally getting the credit he deserves.


The invention of football, American style.


Hacky Sack or Footbag is a modern American sport invented in 1972.


The first high level programming language called fortran was invented by John Backus and IBM.


The history of fountain pens and other writing instruments.


The history of this famous kitchen appliance.


"Potatoes, fried in the French Manner," is how Thomas Jefferson described a dish he brought over to the colonies in the late 1700s.


The brass French horn was an invention based on early hunting horns.


In 1928, Thomas Midgley and Charles Kettering invented a "Miracle Compound" called Freon. Freon is now infamous for greatly adding to the depletion of the earth's ozone shield.


How the empty pie plates of the Frisbie Baking Company became the early prototype for the world's funniest sport.


The basic process of freeze-drying foods were known to the Peruvian Incas of the Andes.Freeze drying is the removal of water from food while the food is frozen.


Learn how Clarence Birdseye found a way to flash-freeze foods and deliver them to the public.


Fuel cells were invented in 1839 by Sir William Grove, and are now becoming the power source for the 21st century. 

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Jacuzzi, Jukeboxes and More Famous Inventions Beginning With "J"

A young woman stands in the glow of a multicolored Juke box in the late 1960s. Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer


In 1968, Roy Jacuzzi invented and marketed the first self-contained, fully integrated whirlpool bath by incorporating jets into the sides of the tub. Jacuzzi® is the trademarked name for the invention.


The jet ski was invented by Clayton Jacobsen II.


Dr.Hans von Ohain and Sir Frank Whittle are recognized as the co-inventors of the jet engine. See also: Different Types of Jet Engines


John Spilsbury created the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767.


In 1920, Joe Cartledge invented the first jock strap or athletic supporter.


The history of the jukebox.

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Peanut Butter, Panty Hose and Other Primo Inventions Starting With "P"

Whoever really invented peanut butter, we thank you. Getty Images/Glow Cuisine


Have you ever wondered, "who invented the circular thing that keeps the pizza from hitting the inside of the box top?"


A pager is a dedicated RF (radio frequency) device.


The paint roller was invented by Norman Breakey of Toronto in 1940.


In 1959, Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina introduced pantyhose.


The history of paper, papermaking and paper sacks; the patents and persons behind the different processes.


A history of the paperclip.


History of the paper punch.


Louis Sebastien Lenormand is credited with being the first person to demonstrate the principle of the parachute in 1783.


French scientist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal invented the first digital calculator, the Pascaline.


Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization.


The history of peanut butter.


Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming. Andrew Moyer patented the industrial production of penicillin. John Sheehan invented a synthesis of natural penicillin.


The history of pens and other writing instruments (including pencil sharpeners and erasers).


"Pepsi-Cola" was invented by Caleb Bradham in 1898.


The history behind perfume.


The history of the periodic table.


The history of the periscope.


The USPTO will not patent a perpetual motion machine.


The word "phonograph" was Edison's tradename for his musical playback device, which played wax cylinders rather than flat disks.


The photocopier was invented by Chester Carlson.


Learn about the Camera Obscura, the history of photography, the significant processes, polaroid photography and the invention of photographic film. See also: Photography Timeline


Alexander Graham Bell's Photophone was ahead of its time.


Solar cells or PV cells rely on the photovoltaic effect to absorb the energy of the sun and cause current to flow between two oppositely charge layers. See also: How a Photovoltic Cell Works.


The piano first known as the pianoforte was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori.


The piggy bank's origin owes more to the history of language.


The patents and people behind the first oral contraceptives.


On October, 1965, Pillsbury debuted the loveable 14-ounce, 8 3/4-inch character in a Crescent Roll commercial.


The history of pinball.


The history of pizza.


Learn about the history of plastic, the uses for and the making of plastic, plastic in the fifties and more.


Noah McVicker and Joseph McVicker invented Play-Doh in 1956.


Simple pliers are an ancient invention. Two sticks probably served as the first uncertain holders, but bronze bars may have replaced wooden tongs as early as 3000 BC.


The farmers of George Washington's day had no better tools than had the farmers of Julius Caesar's day. In fact, Roman plows were superior to those in general use in America eighteen centuries later. John Deere invented the self-polishing cast steel plow.


Learn about ancient and modern plumbing from around the world: baths, toilets, water closets.


A pneumatic device is any of various tools and instruments that generate and utilize compressed air.


Polaroid photography was invented by Edwin Land.


The methods and techniques of, and the equipment available to, police agencies.


Polyethylene terephthalate created synthetic fibers such as polyester dacron and terylene.


John Larson invented the polygraph or lie detector in 1921.


Polystyrene is a strong plastic created from erethylene and benzine that can be injected, extruded or blow molded, making it a very useful and versatile manufacturing material.


Pompoms and the history of cheerleading innovations.


The history of the popsicle.


William Barry invented the postmarking and canceling machine. William Purvis invented the hand stamp. Philip Downing invented the letter-drop letter box. Rowland Hill invented the postage stamp.


Arthur Fry invented Post-It Notes as a temporary bookmarker.


Potato chips were invented in 1853.


George Lerner of New York City invented and patented Mr. Potato Head in 1952.


Edmund Cartwright was a cleric and the inventor of the power loom patented in 1785.


The history of computer printers.


Learn about the history of printing and printer technology.


The history of prosthetics and amputation surgery begins at the very dawning of human medical thought.


Prozac® is the registered trademarked name for fluoxetine hydrochloride and the world's most widely prescribed antidepressant.


Herman Hollerith invented a punch-card tabulation machine system for statistical computation.


Edwin Moore invented the push-pin.


Learn the history behind the crossword and other brain-teasing puzzles.


The origins of Saran Wrap® (PVDC) film and the history of the Dow Chemical Company.

PVC (Vinyl)

Waldo Semon invented a way to make polyvinyl chloride or vinyl useful.

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Safety Pins to Syringes: Inventions Beginning With "S"

The first attempt by aviator Glenn Curtiss to create a seaplane (aka a flying boat) didn't work so well. Getty Images/Library of Congress

Safety Pins

The safety pin was invented by Walter Hunt in 1849.


The very first sailboards (windsurfing) date back to the late 1950s.


The origins of the sandwich.

Saran Wrap

The origins of Saran Wrap film and the history of the Dow Chemical Company.


History changed on October 4, 1957, when the former Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I.The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed only 183 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path.


The history of the saxophone.

Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM)

Gerd Karl Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer are the inventors of the STM, which provided the first images of individual atoms.


The history behind this cutting invention.


The invention of scooters. Also See - Early Patent Drawings

Scotch Tape

Scotch Tape was patented by the banjo playing, 3M engineer, Richard Drew.

Screws and Screwdrivers

You might be surprised by how early wooden screws were invented. Here's the history of the Archimedes Screw, the Phillips Head Screw, the Robertson Screw, Square Drive Screws, and more.

SCUBA Diving Equipment

In the 16th century, barrels were used as primitive diving bells, and for the first time divers could travel underwater with more than one breath of air, but not much more than one.


Wolf Hilbertz patented sea-cretion, a construction material made from the electrolytic deposition of minerals from seawater.

Seat Belts

Never drive without first buckling up you seat belt. But which inventor brought us this safety invention?


The seaplane was invented by Glenn Curtiss. March 28, 1910 in Martinque, France, marked the first successful seaplane take-off from water


John Milne was the English seismologist and geologist who invented the first modern seismograph and promoted the building of seismological stations.

Self-Cleaning House

This amazing home was invented by Frances Gabe.

Segway Human Transporter

What was once a mysterious invention created by Dean Kamen that had everyone speculating as to what it was, was revealed and demonstrated as the now familiar Segway Human Transporter.


This beloved, bubbling lemon lime drink was invented by Charles Grigg.

Sewing Machines

The history behind sewing machines. 


Shrapnel is a type of antipersonnel projectile named after the inventor, Henry Shrapnel.

Shoes and Related

As late as 1850, most shoes were made on absolutely straight lasts, there being no difference between the right and the left shoe. Learn about the history of footwear and shoe making technology, including sneakers, which were designed by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight.

Shoe Manufacturing Machine

Jan Matzeliger developed an automatic method for lasting shoes and made the mass production of affordable shoes possible.

Shopping Related

Who created the first shopping mall and other trivia.

Sierra Sam

The history of crash test dummies—the first crash test dummy was the Sierra Sam created in 1949."

Silly Putty

Silly Putty is a result of history, engineering, an accident and entrepreneurship.

Sign Language (and related)

The history of sign language.

Signaling System (Pyrotechnic)

Martha Coston invented a system of maritime signal flares.


The skyscraper like many other architectural forms, evolved over a long period of time.


A short history of the skateboard.

Skates (Ice)

The oldest known pair of ice skates dates back to 3000 BCE.

Sleeping Car (Pullman)

The Pullman sleeping car (train) was invented by George Pullman in 1857.

Sliced Bread (and Toasters)

The history of sliced bread and the toaster, the best thing since sliced bread, but actually invented before sliced bread.

Slide Rule

Around 1622, the circular and rectangular slide rule was invented by Episcopalean minister William Oughtred.


The slinky was invented by Richard and Betty James.

Slot Machines

The first mechanical slot machine was the Liberty Bell, invented in 1895 by Charles Fey

Smart Pills

The name of smart pill now refers to any pill that can deliver or control its delivery of medicine without the patient having to take action beyond the initial swallow.


Canadian, Arthur Sicard invented the snowblower in 1925.

Snowmaking Machines

The history of snowmaking machines and facts about making snow.


In 1922, Joseph-Armand Bombardier developed the type of sport machine that we know today as the snowmobile.


Soap making was known as early as 2800 BCE, but in the synthetic detergent industry it is not as easy to pinpoint exactly when the first detergents were invented.


Not much is known about the origin of soccer, however, football and ball kicking games were played by the ancient Greeks and Romans.


The first real knit socks were discovered in Egyptian graves in Antinoe.

Soda Fountain

In 1819, the "soda fountain" was patented by Samuel Fahnestock.


George Hancock invented softball.

Soft Drinks

An introduction to the history of soft drinks including Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, and other less well-known bubbly beverages.


The history of various software programs.

Solar-Powered Cars

Solar-powered electric demonstration vehicles were first built by universities and manufacturers during the late eighties.

Solar Cells

A solar cell directly converts light energy into electrical energy.


Discover the history of Sonar.

S.O.S Soap Pads

Ed Cox invented a pre-soaped pad with which to clean pots.

Sound Recording

The history of sound recording technology—from early recorded sounds and wax cylinders to the latest in broadcasting history.

Soup (Campbells)

Where did soup come from?


The history of spacesuits.


In 1962, Steve Russell invented SpaceWar, one of the first games intended for computer use.

Spark Plugs

The history of spark plugs.

Spectacles and Sunglasses

The history of eyeglasses from the oldest known glass lens to the first pair of spectacles invented by Salvino D'Armate and beyond. Around the year 1752, James Ayscough introduced spectacles with lenses made of tinted glass.


George Carruthers received a patent for the far-ultraviolet camera and the spectrograph.

Spinning Jenny

Hargreaves patented theSpinning Jenny used for weaving yarn.

Spinning Mule

Samuel Crompton invented the spinning mule.

Spinning Wheel

The spinning wheel is an ancient machine that turned fibers into thread or yarn, which were then woven into cloth on a loom. The spinning wheel was probably invented in India, though its origins are obscure.


The spork is half spoon and half fork.

Sports Related

Yes, there are patents related to sports.

Sporting Goods

Learn who invented the skateboard, the frisbee, sneakers, the bicycle, the boomerang and other sporting goods.

Sprinkler Systems

The first fire sprinkler system was invented by American, Henry Parmalee in 1874.


Rowland Hill invented the postage stamp in 1837, an act for which he was knighted.


Brass paper fasteners were introduced in the mid-1860s, and by 1866 George W. McGill had developed a machine to insert these fasteners into papers. The first stapling machine with a magazine that held a supply of preformed wire staples that were fed automatically to the staple-driving mechanism was patented in 1878.

Statue of Liberty

Bartholdi was a French sculptor born in Alsace. He created many monumental sculptures, but his most famous work was the Statue of Liberty.


Robert Fulton invented the first successful steamboat on August 7, 1807. Also see: John Fitch and His Steamboat

Steam Engines

Thomas Newcomen invented the atmospheric steam engine in 1712 - steam engine history and information on the men and women involved with steam engines.


Henry Bessemer invented the first process for mass-producing steel inexpensively.

Stem Cell Research

James Thomson was the first scientist to isolate and culture human embryonic stem cells.


William Ged invented Stereotyping in 1725. Sterotyping is a process in which a whole page of type is cast in a single mold so that a printing plate can be made from it.


The history of stoves.


In 1888, Marvin Stone patented the spiral winding process to manufacture the first paper drinking straws.

Street Sweeper

C. B. Brooks invented an improved street sweeper truck and patented it on March 17, 1896.


What we commonly call styrofoam is the most recognizable form of foam polystyrene packaging.


Study the evolution of submarine design, from the submarine's beginning as a compressed air or human-powered warship to today's nuclear-powered subs.

Sugar Processing Evaporator

The sugar processing evaporator was invented by Norbert Rillieux.


The first commercial sunscreen was invented in 1936.


Seymour Cray and the Cray Supercomputer.


In 1986, Alex Müller and Johannes Bednorz patented the first high-temperature superconductor.

Super Soaker

Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker squirt gun. (Johnson also patented thermodynamics systems.)


The first patent ever issued for modern suspenders, the kind with the familiar metal clasp was patent by Roth.

Swimming Pools

The history of swimming pools—the first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome.


The history behind this medical device.

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Tampons, Tupperware and Trumpets: Inventions Beginning With "T"

Teddy Bears were invented more or less simultaneously in America and Germany and were named for President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. Getty Images/laurenspolding


Graham Durant, John Emmett and Charon Ganellin co-invented Tagamet. Tagamet inhibits the production of stomach acid.


The history of tampons.

Tape Recorders

In 1934/35, Begun built the world's first tape recorder used for broadcasting.

Tattoos and Related

Samuel O'Reilly and the history of inventions related to tattoos.


The name taxicab usually abbreviated to taxi came from the taximeter an old instrument which measured the distance travelled.

Tea and Related

The history of tea, tea bags, tea drinking customs and more.

Teddy Bears

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, is the person responsible for giving the teddy bear his name.


Roy Plunkett invented tetrafluoroethylene polymers or Teflon.

Tekno Bubbles

Tekno Bubbles are a innovative variation on blowing bubbles, but these bubbles glow under black lights and can smell like raspberries.


Samuel Morse invented the telegraph.The general history of telegraphy. Optical Telegraph


Examples of telemetry are the tracking of the movements of wild animals that have been tagged with radio transmitters, or the transmitting of meteorological data from weather balloons to weather stations.


The history of the the telephone and telephone related devices. Also take a look at the First Patent for the Telephone.

Telephone Switching System

Erna Hoover invented the computerized telephone switching system.


A spectacle maker probably assembled the first telescope. Hans Lippershey of Holland is often credited with the invention of the telescope, but he almost certainly was not the first person to make one.


The history of television - color television, satellite broadcasts, remote controls and other television related inventions. Also see this Television Timeline

Tennis and Related

In 1873, Walter Wingfield invented a game called Sphairistikè (Greek for "playing ball) which evolved into modern outdoor tennis.

Tesla Coil

Invented in 1891 by Nikola Tesla, the Tesla coil is still used in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment.


Lloyd Conover invented the antibiotic tetracycline, which became the most prescribed broad spectrum antibiotic in the United States.

Theme Park-Related Inventions

The history behind circus, theme park, and carnival inventions including roller coasters, carousels, ferris wheels, trampoline and more.


The first thermometers were called thermoscopes. In 1724, Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the first mercury thermometer, the modern thermometer.


Sir James Dewar was the inventor of the Dewar flask, the first thermos.


Many fashion historians believe that the thong first appeared in the 1939 World's Fair.

Tidal Power Plants

The rise and fall of the sea level can power electric-generating equipment.

Timekeeping and Related

The history of timekeeping innovations and time measurement.


Henry Timken received a patent for the Timken or tapered roller bearings.


Charles Pajeau invented Tinkertoys, a toy construction set for children.


The history of tires.


The best thing since sliced bread, but actually invented before sliced bread.

Toilets and Plumbing

The history of toilets and plumbing.

Tom Thumb Locomotive

Learn about the inventor of the Tom Thumb steam engine.


The history behind several common household tools.

Toothpaste, Toothbrushes, and Toothpicks

Who invented false teeth, dentistry, toothbrush, toothpaste, toothpicks and dental floss. Also, learn about the history of toothpicks

Totalizator Automatic

The automatic totalizator is a system that totals the investments on runners, horses, betting pools and pays out dividends; invented by Sir George Julius in 1913.

Touch Screen Technology

The touch screen is one of the easiest to use and most intuitive of all PC interfaces, making it the interface of choice for a wide variety of applications.


The history behind several toy inventions—including how some toys were invented, how others got their names and how famous toy companies began.


A history of tractors, bulldozers, forklifts and related machinery. Also see: Famous Farm Tractors

Traffic Lights and Roads

The world's first traffic lights were installed near London's House of Commons in 1868. Also see this article on Garrett Morgan, who patented a hand-cranked traffic management device.


The prototype trampoline apparatus was built by George Nissen, an American circus acrobat and Olympic


The transistor was an influential little invention that changed the course of history in a big way for computers and electronics. See Also - Definition


The history and timeline of different transportation innovations - cars, bikes, planes, and more.

Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit was invented by Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott.


The trumpet has evolved more than any other instrument known to modern day society.

TTY, TDD or Tele-Typewriter

The history of TTY.

Tungsten Wire

The history of tungsten wire used in lightbulbs.


Tupperware was invented by Earl Tupper.


The tuxedo was invented by Pierre Lorillard of New York City.

TV Dinners

Gerry Thomas is the man who invented both the product and the name of the Swanson TV Dinner


The first practical typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes. The history of the typewriter's keys (QWERTY), early typewriters and typing history.

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Inventions Beginning With "W"

A clockmaker at work. Getty Images/Marlena Waldthausen / EyeEm


The history of the Sony Walkman.


Wallpaper as a wall covering was first used by the working classes in Britain and in Europe as a substitute for costly materials.


The earliest washing "machine" the scrub board was invented in 1797.


The invention of the quartz watch, mechanical clocks, timekeeping devices and time measurement.


It was the first powered textile machine and enabled the move away from small home manufacturing towards factory production.


Edwin Ruud invented the automatic storage water heater in 1889.


The water wheel is an ancient device that uses flowing or falling water to create power by means of a set of paddles mounted around a wheel.


Waterskiing was invented in 1922 by Ralph Samuelson, an eighteen-year-old from Minnesota.Samuelson proposed the idea that if you could ski on snow, then you could ski on water.


Norm Larsen invented WD-40 in 1953.


The history and patents behind different weather measuring instruments.


In 1885, Nikolai Benardos and Stanislav Olszewski were granted a patent for an electric arc welder with a carbon electrode called the Electrogefest. Benardos and Olszewski are considered the fathers of welding apparatus.


Everyone kept asking me who invented the wheel; here is the answer.


Chuko Liang of China is considered to be the creator of the wheelbarrow.


The first dedicated wheelchair was made for Phillip II of Spain.


The history of Microsoft's graphical user interface for personal computers.


Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers.The history of cars.


Windsurfing or boardsailing is a sport that combines sailing and surfing and uses a one person craft called a sailboard.


Bette Nesmith Graham invented White-out.


The origins of word processing programs from a rising WordStar.


Solymon Merrick patented the first wrench in 1835. Also See - Jack Johnson - Patent Drawings For A Wrench.


The history of pens and other writing instruments.

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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "Important Innovations and Inventions, Past and Present." ThoughtCo, Sep. 2, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, September 2). Important Innovations and Inventions, Past and Present. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Important Innovations and Inventions, Past and Present." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).