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See Inside Scientific American Volume 309, Issue 5

What Are the 10 Greatest Inventions of Our Time?

Before you consider, here are a few opinions from Scientific American readers in 1913 on what makes a great invention

8. The pneumatic tire. Cars for personal transportation were an improvement on railways. “What the track has done for the locomotive, the pneumatic tire has done for the vehicle not confined to tracks.” Credit is given to John Dunlop and William C. Bartlet, who each had a milestone on the road (pun intended) to successful automobile and bicycle tires.

9. Wireless communication. Marconi was given the credit for making wireless “commercially practical.” Dowe also makes a comment that could apply equally to the rise of the World Wide Web, stating that wireless was “devised to meet the needs of commerce primarily, but incidentally they have contributed to social intercourse.”

10. Composing machines. The giant rotary press was quite capable of churning out masses of printed material. The bottleneck in the chain of production was composing the printing plates. The Linotype and the Monotype dispensed with that bottleneck.

The essays sent in were compiled to come up with a master list of inventions that were considered to be the top 10. Wireless telegraphy was on almost everyone’s list. The “aeroplane” came in second, although it was considered important because of its potential, not because there were so many airplanes in the sky. Here are the rest of the results:

Wireless telegraphy 97 percent
Aeroplane 75
X-Ray machine 74
Automobile 66
Motion pictures 63
Reinforced concrete 37
Phonograph 37
Incandescent electric lamp 35
Steam turbine 34
Electric car 34
Calculating machine 33
Internal combustion engine 33
Radium 27
Submarine boats 24
Picture telegraphy 24
Electric furnace 21
Diesel engine 18
Color photography 17
Dictograph 16
Composing machine 15
Transmitting and transforming AC current 15
Pneumatic tire (car and bicycle) 15
Dirigible (airships) 13
Photoengraving 13
Tungsten lightbulb 11
Electric welding 10
High-speed steel 10
Kodak portable camera 10
Fixation of nitrogen 9
Welsbach gas burner 9
Producer gas [a type of fuel] 8
Monorail 8
Flexible photo films 7
Liquid air 7
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