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General
Inventions and Discoveries

On this page:

Electric Lights
Machine Guns
Photography
Textiles
Telescopes
Thermometers
Toilets
Inventions
Inventors

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Inventions and Discoveries

This is a tricky subject for quizzers – because many things don't just get invented out of the blue by one person; they rely on continuous improvement, often by a number of people working independently.

The first few sections of this page (all except the last two, actually) deal with some of those subjects.

Electric Lights

Discovered incandescence in a platinum wire, in 1802; also invented the carbon arc – the first practical electric light – around 1805 Click to show or hide the answer
Granted the first patent for an incandescent lamp, with a glass bulb and a partial vacuum, in 1841 Click to show or hide the answer
Demonstrated a lamp with a carbonised paper filament, in 1860, and patented an improved version in 1880 Click to show or hide the answer
Made improvements to Swan's design, and patented his version – the world's first reliable (therefore marketable) light bulb – in the US (with Swan's agreement) in 1878 Click to show or hide the answer

If setting questions about Swan and/or Edison, remember that Swan demonstrated his lamp in 1860 but didn't patent it until 1880, while Edison first patented his version (in the USA) in 1878.

Machine Guns

English inventor of a gun capable of firing multiple times without reloading (1718) Click to show or hide the answer
American inventor of the first machine gun (not automatically reloaded – 1861) Click to show or hide the answer
American–born, British–based inventor of the first portable, fully–automatic machine gun (recoil operated – 1883) Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer

Photography

Created the world's oldest surviving product of a photographic process, in 1825; made the famous print, made from a photoengraved printing plate, of the view from a window at Le Gras (his ancestral family estate in the village of Saint–Loup–de–Varennes, in Burgundy) in 1826 or 1827 Click to show or hide the answer
French inventor of the first publicly announced photographic process – using silver–plated copper plates – in 1839 Click to show or hide the answer
English inventor of the first process for creating reasonably light–fast and permanent photographs that was made available to the public (using paper); claimed to have produced photographs using this method in 1834 – i.e. before Daguerre Click to show or hide the answer

Textiles

These inventions were all important drivers of the Industrial Revolution.

Born Bury 1704; invented the flying shuttle, 1733 Click to show or hide the answer
Born near Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, in 1720; invented the spinning jenny, 1764 Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Born Preston, 1732; patented the spinning frame (water frame) in 1769; built the first cotton spinning factory at Cromford, Derbyshire, in 1771 – probably the first modern factory Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Born in 1753, in one of the oldest houses in Bolton, Lancashire; invented the spinning mule in 1779 as a hybrid of Arkwright's spinning frame and Hargreaves's spinning jenny Click to show or hide the answer
Born Nottinghamshire 1743; invented the power loom 1784. It was another 40 years before his ideas bore fruit in a reliable automatic loom, but by 1803 there were over 2,000 in use in Britain. By 1857 this number had risen to a quarter of a million. The power loom could be operated by cheap, unskilled labour; as a result many skilled workers lost their jobs, and this was a major factor in the rise of the Luddite movement in the early 19th century Click to show or hide the answer
French inventor of the punched card loom (1801) – a link between the textile industry of the Industrial Revolution and the computer technology of today Click to show or hide the answer
US inventor of the cotton gin (1894), which automated the separation of cotton fibres from the seeds and and greatly increased the profitability of cotton as a crop Click to show or hide the answer

Telescopes

Refractors

Three Dutch spectacle makers, commonly credited with the invention of the (refracting) telescope in around 1608 Click to show or hide the answer
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Heard about the Dutch telescope in June 1609, built his own within a month; in 1610 he improved the design, became the first person to use a telescope to make observations of a celestial body, and discovered the largest four moons of Jupiter Click to show or hide the answer

The invention of the microscope is closely associated with that of the refracting telescope. The principal candidates for the invention are Hans Lippershey, Zacharias Jansen (see above) and Cornelis Drebbel.

Unlike a reflecting telescope (see below), a refractor is closed at both ends. This makes them less susceptible to dirt, and also to the movement of air in the tube – thus giving a sharper, steadier image. But a refractor is necessarily longer than a reflector, and can suffer from chromatic aberration (separation of colours around the image, making rainbow patterns). Refractors are also more expensive to make than reflectors.

Reflectors

Scottish mathematician and astronomer: described a reflecting telescope in 1663, and gave his name to it Click to show or hide the answer
Built the first practical reflecting telescope (using a convex secondary mirror) in 1668, and gave his name to it Click to show or hide the answer
English polymath: built the first Gregorian telescope (i.e. using Gregory's design as described in 1663), in 1673 Click to show or hide the answer
French priest: described, and gave his name to, a reflecting telescope, which largely superseded the Gregorian reflector as the alternative to the Newtonian design Click to show or hide the answer

Reflecting telescopes are cheaper to make than refractors, but the design must overcome the problem of allowing the viewing of an image without obstructing the primary mirror. The Gregorian, Newtonian and Cassegrain designs all use different methods to do this.

Cassegrain reflectors can be more compact than Newtonians, because the light is 'folded' twice inside the tube, making two journeys rather than one. But the Newtonian is cheaper to make.

Thermometers

Believed to have discovered the principle on which the first thermometers were based – that the density of a liquid changes in proportion to its temperature; invented a thermoscope (a device for showing changes in temperature, but without a numeric scale) based on this principle, around 1593 Click to show or hide the answer
Italian physician: produced the first medical thermometer, in 1612 Click to show or hide the answer
Venetian mathematician, and close friend of Galileo: added a scale to Galileo's thermoscope to enable the quantitative measurement of temperature, and produced more convenient portable thermometers, around 1611–13 Click to show or hide the answer
Italian astronomer and mathematician, published the first clear diagram of a thermoscope, in 1617 Click to show or hide the answer
Dutch inventor – more famous as the builder of the first navigable submarine, for the English Royal Navy (1620): built an oven in the 1620s which included an early thermometer with a heat scale; also, while working on a coloured liquid for a thermometer, accidentally made the discovery that led to a much improved carmine dye (cochineal) Click to show or hide the answer
English physician: published the first diagram of a thermometer (i.e. a thermoscope with a scale) in 1638 Click to show or hide the answer
German physicist, invented the Mercury thermometer (the first accurate thermometer) in 1714 Click to show or hide the answer

While on the subject of the development of the thermometer, it's interesting to note that the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales of temperature were devised in 1724 and 1742 respectively.

Toilets

Sadly, and contrary to the widespread misapprehension, the flush toilet was not actually invented by Thomas Crapper. But he did play a part in its history:

English courtier – godson of Queen Elizabeth I: described a forerunner to the modern flush toilet, which was installed at his house at Kelston, Somerset, in A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596) – a political allegory and a coded attack on the monarchy Click to show or hide the answer
Scottish watchmaker: granted the first patent for a flush toilet; invented the S–shaped trap (or bend) in 1775 to retain water permanently within the bowl, thus preventing sewer gases from entering buildings Click to show or hide the answer
London plumber who, in 1880, invented the U–bend – which couldn't jam, so, unlike the S–bend, didn't need an overflow Click to show or hide the answer

Inventions

In this section, each answer is an invention.

Invented in Norway, 1926, by Erik Rotheim; first practical application (in the US military as insecticide, 1941) by Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan Click to show or hide the answer
Patented in 1691 by John Lofting, a Dutch inventor, merchant and manufacturer who moved from Amsterdam to London in about 1688, and improved in 1797 by Joseph Bramah, inventor of the hydraulic press in 1795 (who is often credited with this invention also) Click to show or hide the answer
Patented in 1912 by Swiss chemist Jacques E. Brandenberger, who had set out to create a fabric that would repel liquids; made from regenerated cellulose; name is a combination of 'cellulose' and a French word meaning 'transparent' Click to show or hide the answer
ENIAC – developed at the University of Pennsylvania for the US Army – was the first general–purpose Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Thomas Edison's first patent (1869) Click to show or hide the answer
Portable accessory: first marketed in the 1920s and registered as a trademark in 1930, but is most closely associated with the Yuppie lifestyle of the 1980s Click to show or hide the answer
Invented by (in 1963), and named after, an Italian immigrant to the USA, whose son Kenny was born with rheumatoid arthritis Click to show or hide the answer
In 1936, American psychologist Dr. August Dvorak, and his brother–in–law Dr. William Dealey, patented a simplified Click to show or hide the answer
Invented in 1874 by the appropriately–named French polymath scientist Gustave Trouvé Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Patented in Germany, in 1920, by Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Often credited to George Crum, a mixed race (African / Native American) chef at a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1853 Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Invented in 1958 by Dutch rally driver Maurice Gatsonides, in an attempt to find a way to drive faster Click to show or hide the answer
Often said to have been invented in 1913 by Harry Brearley of Sheffield (but there were earlier comparable products) Click to show or hide the answer
Described by James Watt in 1784; built in 1840 by James Nasmyth; used in many industrial processes, but gradually replaced in the 20th century by mechanical and hydraulic equivalents Click to show or hide the answer
Term used at least as early as the mid–19th century (as quoted in the Beatles song For the Benefit of Mr. Kite); modern version first built in 1936 by US gymnasts George Nissen and Larry Griswold; name comes from the Spanish word for a diving board Click to show or hide the answer
Invented by Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral, after a walk in the woods with his dog in 1941; patented in 1955, and manufactured commercially from the late 1950s Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer

Inventors

In this section, each answer is the name of an inventor.

Printing press (moveable type) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Logarithms Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Slide rule Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Adding machine Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Barometer Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Pendulum clock Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Seed drill Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Atmospheric steam engine (later improved by Watt) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Chronometer Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Lightning conductor Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Soda water Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Steam–driven car Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Toothbrush (while in prison for causing a riot) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Bifocal spectacles Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Hot air balloon Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Parachute Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Gas lighting (domestic) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Hydraulic press Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electric battery Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Steam locomotive Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Canning (food preservation) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Stethoscope (credited to) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Click for more information
Miner's safety lamp Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
False teeth (dental plate) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Waterproof fabric Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electromagnet Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Portland cement Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Scuba–diving device Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Friction match Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Sewing machine (first practical domestic) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
English concertina Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Lawn mower Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electromagnet (improved) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electromagnetic induction: dynamo, transformer, DC motor Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Railway sleeping car Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Steel plough Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Bicycle Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Vulcanisation Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Facsimile (fax) machine Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electrical telegraph Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Click for more information
Pneumatic bicycle tyre (patented, not developed) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Revolver Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Christmas cracker Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Safety pin Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Airship (non–rigid) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Gyroscope Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Safety lift (elevator) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Click for more information
Bunsen burner Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Burglar alarm Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Linoleum Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Press stud Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Celluloid Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Torpedo Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Barbed wire Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Dynamite (demonstrated 14 July) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Air brake Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Typewriter Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Margarine Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Celluloid (developed and trade marked) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Toilet roll Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electric motor (DC) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Barbed wire Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Carburettor Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Carpet sweeper Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Telephone (and Microphone) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
International load line (on ships) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Phonograph Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Cash register Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electric lamp Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Stereo Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electric flat iron Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Fountain pen Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Motor cycles Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Gramophone (flat disc – patented) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Esperanto Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Ball–point pen Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electric motor (AC) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Petrol–driven motor car Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Photographic roll film (and a camera to use it) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Pneumatic bicycle tyre Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Vacuum flask Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Zip fastener: patented by Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Cinematograph Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Pneumatic motor car tyres Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Diesel engine Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Safety razor Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Automatic revolver Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Paper clip Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Rigid airship Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Vacuum cleaner (motorised) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Vacuum cleaner (portable) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Artificial silk (rayon) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Disc brake Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Aeroplane Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Radio valve Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Bakelite (first plastic made from synthetic components) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Cellophane Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Combine harvester Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Maser Invention Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
First demonstration Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Television Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Penicillin Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Frozen food (peas) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electric razor Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Cats' eyes Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Trampoline Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Parking meter Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Simplified keyboard Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Jet engine (first successful) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Nylon Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Ball–point pen (first practical) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Teflon Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
DDT (insecticide properties of) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
The first successful helicopter Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Electronic computer (ENIAC) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Aqualung Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
LSD Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Gave his name to a hand–held signalling lamp (typically used for morse code) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Bathyscaphe (bathyscaph, bathyscape) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Microwave oven Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Transistor (the first practical point–contact type) – developed at Bell Laboratories Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Click to show or hide the answer
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Long–playing record Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Polaroid camera Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Junction transistor Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
DNA Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Click to show or hide the answer
Hovercraft Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Correction fluid Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
LaserInvention (theory) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
First demonstration Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Computer mouse (patent applied for) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Post–it note: adhesive used in Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Pocket calculator Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Ballbarrow Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Click for more information
"Dual Cyclone" bagless vacuum cleaner Click to show or hide the answer
Post–it note (practical application for) Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
Clockwork (wind–up) radio Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017