Here’s our gallery of some of the greatest discoveries mankind has ever made. They are among the discoveries that changed the world. It’s impossible to rank their importance though, as we think that all of them are equally significant.
Before its invention in 3500 BC, humans had a severely difficult time on how much stuff they could transport over land, and how far they could take it. Thanks to the wheel, the transportation of goods was greatly improved and it boosted the movement of agriculture and commerce. It also eased the burdens of people who traveled great distances. From the invention of the wheel, vehicles also began to develop. The wheel went on to give birth to other inventions such as the water wheel and the windmill, as well as the spinning wheel and potter’s wheels. The propeller, which is used as a means of propulsion for bigger vehicles such as boats and aircraft, were also made possible because of the wheel. Needless to say, the wheel is vital to our way of life.
The knowledge of how to create a spark and developing it into a flame remains one of the most intrinsic skills in human society. Fire provides us warmth and comfort, but most importantly, it allows us to cook food, especially meat. Our ancestors found that cooking meat was easier and safer to eat, and it was not long before they adapted to a diet with more meat in it. Fire changed our diets, which subsequently changed our digestive system. From wood to flint and iron and matches, the creation of fire has largely evolved.
English mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton is considered the greatest and most influential scientist of all time. Among his many discoveries, the most well-known is of course the law of universal gravitation, which he identified in 1664. He found out that gravity is the force that draws objects towards each other. This is why things fall down and why the planets orbit around the Sun.
English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin changed the idea of how life on earth developed in his book on the Origin of Species, published in 1859. According to his theory, all organisms gradually evolve or change over the course of time. These changes are the organisms’ way of adapting themselves in order to survive, because if they are not able to adapt, they may die and become extinct. These adaptations and changes develop naturally. He referred to this process as a natural selection, but it is often popularly called the “survival of the fittest.”
We often take electricity for granted but imagine if it had not been discovered. Our lives would be in total darkness, literally and figuratively. We’ve got to hand our immense thanks to English scientist Michael Faraday, who is best known for his discoveries of electromagnetic induction and the laws of electrolysis. Out of his research came his invention of the world’s first generator, or the electric motor, the forerunner of the huge generators that produce electricity.
Although no one knows for certain how the universe was born, many scientists believe that its existence started with a huge explosion, called the Big Bang, some 14 billion years ago. In 1927, Belgian priest and scientist Georges Lemaitre was the first one who proposed the Big Bang Theory, a theory he also called the “Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of creation” according to Wikipedia.
According to Lemaitre, the universe might be traced back to a single, tiny dot, which was hot and dense, with no stars or atoms. Then in just seconds this tiny dot expanded quickly which resulted into the formation of atoms. And this rapid expansion led to the creation of heavenly bodies such as the stars and galaxies. It led to the formation and growth of the universe, and it is still expanding up to the present. Lemaitre’s theory has been confirmed by other scientists.
Contrary to what has been normally taught at schools, it wasn’t the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev who originally came up with the periodic table. However, he is credited for developing and improving it into the modern periodic table that we use today. He arranged the periodic table of elements based on their correct atomic weights and was the one to predict the existence of undiscovered elements.
There were many scientists before Mendeleev who contributed to the development of the periodic table. One of them is the late French scientist Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois. The name may not ring a bell to others, but he was the first scientist to arrange the chemical elements in order of atomic weights, as written in his 1862 publication. Although his contribution was significant, it was largely ignored by many chemists at that time because de Chancourtois was a geologist and he expressed the chemical arrangements in geological terms. Mendeleev’s table, published in 1869, became the most recognized.
Danish physicist Niels Bohr is known for his work concerning the development of the atomic structure and quantum theory. This is a branch of physics which explains the things that make atoms as well as electromagnetic waves (like lights) work. For Bohr’s work, he was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Although Bohr helped develop the atomic bomb, he otherwise frequently used the atomic power for peaceful purposes.
Famous scientist Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity and published it in 1905. It analyzes the relationship among speed, time, and distance. It explains that the speed of light always stays the same, despite how fast something or someone moves toward or away from it. Einstein’s discovery laid the foundation for most of modern science.
Atomic bombs (or nuclear weapons) were built by a group of scientists in the 1940s, in a research and development project called the Manhattan Project. During World War II, in 1945, Americans dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This resulted in hundreds and thousands of casualties, most of them civilians. Since the tragic bombings, the use of nuclear power has been restricted to peaceful purposes only, although some countries are suspected to possess such weapons.
The first study of Australopithecus was conducted in 1924 by Australian anthropologist Raymond Dart, who was then working at a university in Johannesburg, South Africa. The fossil of this extinct genus of hominid had been found from a lime quarry in Taung, a town miles away from Johannesburg. From Dart’s study, the fossil belonged to a three-year-old primate who existed about 4 million years ago. He later called it Australopithecus africanus. Since the extinct primate had some human-like features, Dart concluded that this was the one of human’s earliest ancestors.
Living things — plants, animals, and humans — need oxygen to survive. Oxygen makes up about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere; this element is quite abundant in the whole universe. Several scientists made independent discoveries about oxygen. These include the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1772, English chemist Joseph Priestly in 1774, and French chemist Antoine Lavoisier in 1775.
The discovery of fingerprinting was first noted by an English officer Sir William James Herschel, in the mid-19th century. He was the first European to discover the value of fingerprints for identification while he was in India. Herschel found out that each fingerprint was unique and could not change over time. Although he implemented fingerprinting for the practical purposes of identification, little did he realize that it could be also used to identify and catch criminals. The English scientist Francis Galton and Edward Henry, the commissioner of London police, used fingerprinting as an effective tool and evidence to solve crimes.
Many of the great thinkers of the ancient times thought that the Earth was flat, since most of them were unable to conceive of any other shape. However, there were the ancient Greeks such as Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato, and Erastothenes who gave allusions that the Earth was round. Then there’s the myth of Columbus where he reportedly found out the same thing, and several astronomers and scientists including Islamic scholars, Chinese, and Indian astronomers also argued that the earth was round, not flat.
The debate ended when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan was funded by the kingdom of Spain to circumnavigate the world. And he traveled the world without falling into the deep abyss of the universe like many people claimed many years before, it was the indisputable truth needed to prove that the earth was, and is, round.