PAPER – CHINA, 105 BC
The invention of paper is crucial as it enabled civilizations to share knowledge and keep records more effectively. While the ancient Egyptians developed woven papyrus reed ‘paper’ as far back as the fourth century BC, real paper, which is made from mashed-up fibers, was invented in China by Han Imperial Court official Cai Lun around 105 BC.
GUNPOWDER – CHINA, 142
The quintessential explosive was developed in China over many centuries, but it was first mentioned in an Taoist text written by alchemist Wei Boyang in 142 AD. This invention has had a major impact on world history, changing the way humans wage war, and gunpowder is still the basis of many modern weapons.
THE MECHANICAL CLOCK – CHINA, 725
Another super-important invention from China, the world’s first mechanical clock was created by mathematician Yi Xing and military engineer Liang Lingzan in the eighth century. This accurate way of telling the time pushed humanity forward in a big way, facilitating everything from seafaring to agriculture.
THE PRINTING PRESS – HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE, 1440
Johannes Gutenberg’s seminal invention enabled the spread of knowledge to the people and heralded the era of mass communication, giving the wider public access to information that was formerly the preserve of the elite. Its importance cannot be overstated.
THE THERMOMETER – REPUBLIC OF VENICE, 1612
Modern medical practice, scientific research and manufacturing all call for accurate temperature measurement. Galileo Galilei developed the first thermoscope, a device that shows temperature changes, in 1592. The first true thermometer, a thermoscope with a scale, was created by Venetian physician Santorio Santorio in 1612.
THE MODERN STEAM ENGINE – ENGLAND, 1698
A major driver of the industrial revolution, the world’s first commercially available steam-powered engine was invented by English engineer Thomas Savery in 1698. The pioneering contraption was used to power mills and pump water out of mines.