Most important discoveries/inventions EVER

Dan Gayle's picture

1. Fire
2. The wheel
3. Writing
4. Paper
5. Movable type (EDIT: The lead kind. Not the software kind.)
6. Electricity

That's where I've made it to so far. Additions? Subtractions? Comments?

Miss Tiffany's picture

HA! Funny movie. Zug zug.

Nick Shinn's picture

Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll.
But not Smartypants.

Dan Gayle's picture

I was going to list:
6. Gibson Les Paul

umlautthoni's picture

Kind of ironic, but maybe the internet would be a nice addition?

blank's picture

Antibiotics should probably be number one on the list. There's not a single invention in history that's done more to improve our quality of life. The transistor should also be pretty far up there, as should interchangeable parts and the assembly line.

Dan Gayle's picture

Re:There’s not a single invention in history that’s done more to improve our quality of life.

Psalms 90:9,10
“For all our days have come to their decline in your fury;
We have finished our years just like a whisper.
In themselves the days of our years are seventy years;
And if because of special mightiness they are eighty years,
Yet their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things;
For it must quickly pass by, and away we fly.”

Antibiotics aren't all they're cracked up to be, in my opinion.

katzenjammer's picture

Jpad, right on about antibiotics.

How about?:

The telegraph - enabled for first time, really, the coordination of distant events & schedules/trains.

Seaworthy clocks - allowing for rationalized navigation.

There's a BBC show that I used to watch, where this guy would take one simple "technology" (something we take for granted and see as rather mundane and obvious), and shows how revolutionary it was and how much it effected history.

The modern world is such an amazing web of such a myriad of interdependent inventions & discoveries, it's hard to prioritize them. Take the discovery of antibiotics - I'll bet we can name ten prior inventions/discoveries that the discovery of antibiotics depended upon - take away one of them and no antibiotics.

And that interests me too: what is the difference between a discovery or an invention? Are all inventions merely discoveries? Was the airfoil invented - or did we merely discover it in nature?

oldnick's picture


matthew_desmond's picture

How about Pasteur?

Dan Gayle's picture

I just thought that it was interesting that 3 out of at least the top 10 most important inventions of all time have specifically to do with typography. That means we are cool.

katzenjammer's picture


I'd go even further: every one of them has to do with typography. That makes us supercool :-)

Alaskan's picture

I second the beer, and I'd like to nominate wine and coffee.

pattyfab's picture


In The 2000 Year Old Man, Mel Brooks tells Carl Reiner that "the greatest thing mankind ever devised, I think, in my humble opinion, is Saran Wrap." Why? Because "you can put a sandwich in it! You can look through it!...It's so good and cute.",9171,989802-1,00.html

pattyfab's picture

Or, you could argue, sliced bread. Since you hear all the time, "it's the greatest thing since sliced bread"

mjpatrick's picture

I just recently saw Caveman for the first time in over 25 years... last time I saw was in the theatre with my sister. Still offers some good laughs.

My thoughts on what are the some of the most important discoveries / inventions:
•Shoes (I cannot imagine not having shoes, it would suck not having them)
•Red Bull (for sometimes helping me start design jobs)
•Grey Goose (for sometimes helping me finish them)
•OS X (because using OS 9 pretty much become my own personal bug-ridden hell)
•Ramen Noodles (for keeping me alive during some very difficult times)

I was going to list:
6. Gibson Les Paul

Well, you'd get my support. Timeless design, great tone, and no other guitar I'd had sustained a note quite the same way. Mine turns 20 this year, I should celebrate by buying another.

muzzer's picture

BEER AND WINE. Sex is choice as well. Does that count?


pattyfab's picture

Uh... Muzzer - I don't think you can call sex an invention. A discovery, maybe.

Si_Daniels's picture

Dan, the rule about talking about the president of Iran applies to pictures too.

Anyway mark me down for beer and nuclear bombs - both in short supply in Iran, so I hear.

Paul Cutler's picture

6. Gibson Les Paul

Bah - only if you want to end up bent over and at the chiropractor. SG - forever.

Just kidding guys - I like the Les Paul tone but man wearing one every night is just too painful…

I have 1968 SG Custom with 3 pickups, a fretless wonder neck and gold hardware. I don't need no stinking Les Paul… :)


Ricardo Cordoba's picture

The steam engine -- helping to melt the polar ice caps ever since its invention.

(Bit of gallows humor there, sorry.)

Lex Kominek's picture

Paul - I've got a 1961 SG with gold hardware as well. One day I'll get it refretted with gold wire and get some gold humbucker covers too.

I vote SG.

- Lex

v-six's picture

Vision correction.

(How many of the top 10 listed here are useful if you can't see?)

Oh, did anyone say indoor plumbing and clothing? I'd be very cold in New York without them.

AzizMostafa's picture

This + Lipsticks + Mirrors?!

tupper's picture

Sex -- invention / discovery? I think it depends on how it's done!

Personally, I'd include a bunch of mathematics in the list.

fallenartist's picture

Just a little reminder. Most of these inventions apply to very small wealthy part of the human kind, unfortunately. Internet (two per cent?), electricity, sometimes even wheel, medicines and writing are still unknown/inaccessible for many.


Spire's picture


Sebastiaan's picture

Vision correction. (...)
Art (...)
(...) coffee (...)

and I'd like to replace this:


By Free Open Source Software (FOSS), UNIX, and the C programming language, which got us where we are.

Si_Daniels's picture

>which got us where we are.

I really don't think you can blame these things for 'where we are'

Paul Cutler's picture

> I’ve got a 1961 SG with gold hardware as well.

Lex - you're obviously a man with superb taste… :)

No Fender players here?


Chris G's picture

Chalk up another vote for the SG. (Chrome hardware only for me thanks...)

muzzer's picture

Art? If I can't vote for sex then art is out as well! As far ai I know we have always been artists.


timd's picture

Fulcrum & lever


Chris Rugen's picture

- manned flight
- mass production
- the transistor
- motor vehicles
- irrigation

Many of these inventions/ideas have spurred fundamental changes in the way we interact with the world and each other, as well as spawning enormous related systems (such as the road system for cars). Their relative goodness or badness is debatable.

Chris Rugen's picture

- legal property rights

dezcom's picture



PS: Patty who first discovered sex? It wasn't Adam because he's been taking a ribbing for it :-)

Bleisetzer's picture

To know to be
Books - more books - even more books
But the most exciting discovery for me in my life was:
my wife - again and again, since 24 years.


pattyfab's picture

Chris - sex was probably discovered by an early invertebrate many gazillions of years before humans were (unfortunately) invented. But I'm no biologist.

Georg - you have a lucky wife to be so loved.

jlt's picture






adnix's picture


Nick Shinn's picture

sushi -- I guess that rules out cookery.
but not wasabi.

dan_reynolds's picture


Air travel

Language (although not necessarily languages… ;-) )

Letters, letter drawing, typography, and printing! :-D

And British television

katzenjammer's picture

Lagavulin (16 year) & Talisker


pattyfab's picture

Lagavulin, now you're talking!

I'd have to put God on the other list tho. And he is for SURE an invention.

Hiroshige's picture

Architecture - pure raw Architecture.


jlt's picture

yes, i realize she / it is an invention. however, this list isn't for the best, but the most important.



jlt : : rnrmf!

Linda Cunningham's picture

Scotch, Calvados, Port, and Champagne.

Real cheese (not artificially flavoured orange gum).

Monty Python.

dezcom's picture

"It's only a flesh wound!"


dsb's picture

flying cars

begsini's picture


v-six's picture

When I said vision correction, I should have included the needed hint of sarcasm, which reminded me... someone once designed a punctuation glyph to denote sarcasm (jokingly of course). Does anyone remember this, or have I gone off the deep end?

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