People seem to think that history’s great inventions sprang from the inspiration of the occasional genius. Many of them were actually accidental, or evolved from humble beginnings – and are still evolving. Surprisingly a lot of those accidental inventions have had a huge impact on our society. Here are just a few:
Penicillin was discovered when Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming found a strange mold in his lab in 1928. This mold turned out to be a powerful antibiotic, now called penicillin which revolutionized medicine. Antibiotics continue to be a valuable tool in medicine that have prolonged and saved the lives of countless human beings. But ancient Egyptian texts advised the application of rye mold to wounds – a forgotten natural cure which Fleming re-discovered more than two thousand years later.
The Internal Combustion Engine
The first successful combustion engine was created for industrial use in 1859 by Etienne Lenoir. A more compact design appeared in 1864 from the workshop of Seigfried Marcus. Karl Benz adapted it to the first production automobile in 1886. Engines have evolved rapidly, thanks to tools like the dynamometer, used for measuring torque and RPMs (rotational speed), and the power testing and design skills of succeeding generations of engineers. Companies such as Power Test Inc. work every day to test engines like this to make sure that they are as powerful as possible. Without this type of power testing it would be even harder to figure out a way to improve engines in the future.
The Net followed the first computers of the 1950s. The U.S. Department of Defense began seeking the development of networks which could exchange data. The first IP message was sent over the government’s ARPANET in 1969 by Charlie Klein, a student of Dr. Leonard Kleinrock at UCLA. As other universities and industries joined ARPANET, the term “internet” appeared to describe connecting widely separated networks. By the 1980s ISP’s offering connection to the public appeared. At the same time Tim Berners Lee worked out the methods for exchanging hypertext documents electronically.
The camera’s history actually dates back to ancient Chinese and Greek inventors who used a pinhole and mirror to focus sunlight into viewable images. The first modern camera appeared in 1816 when Nicephore Niepce thought to focus light on a surface coated with silver chloride – the first film. George Eastman made advances in the technology to come up with the first commercially sold camera in 1888 – called the “Kodak”. Rolls of photographic film appeared to make movie cameras possible in 1890. The Polaroid appeared in 1948, and the first digital cameras in the mid-1970s – from the Eastman Kodak company.
All of these inventions are still with us and still evolving to improve the quality of life. If there’s one thing that will never fail, it’s human ingenuity.