Timeline of historic inventions

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The 15th-century invention of the printing press with movable type by the German Johannes Gutenberg is widely regarded as the most influential event of the modern era.[1]

The timeline of historic inventions is a chronological list of particularly important or significant technological inventions and the people who created the inventions.

Note: Dates for inventions are often controversial. Inventions are often invented by several inventors around the same time, or may be invented in an impractical form many years before another inventor improves the invention into a more practical form. Where there is ambiguity, the date of the first known working version of the invention is used here.

Earliest inventions

Note that all dates refer to the earliest known evidence of an invention. Dates are often approximate and likely to change as more research is done and older examples of any given technology are found. Similarly, the locations listed are for the site where the earliest solid evidence to date has been found, but in most cases there is little certainty how close that may be to where the invention actually first took place.



Note the shift from Ma and ka to BC and AD - 8000 BC is approximately the same as 10 ka.

2nd millennium BC

1st millennium BC

8th century BC

7th century BC

6th century BC

With the Greco-Roman trispastos ("three-pulley-crane"), the simplest ancient crane, a single man tripled the weight he could lift than with his muscular strength alone.[68]

5th century BC

4th century BC

3rd century BC

An illustration depicting the papermaking process in Han Dynasty China.

2nd century BC

File:Museum für Antike Schiffahrt, Mainz 02. Spritsail.jpg
The earliest fore-and-aft rigs, spritsails, appeared in the 2nd century BC in the Aegean Sea on small Greek craft.[88] Here a spritsail used on a Roman merchant ship (3rd century CE).
  • 2nd century BC: Paper in Han Dynasty China: Although it is recorded that the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) court eunuch Cai Lun (born c. 50 – AD 121) invented the pulp papermaking process and established the use of new raw materials used in making paper, ancient padding and wrapping paper artifacts dating to the 2nd century BC have been found in China, the oldest example of pulp papermaking being a map from Fangmatan, Gansu.[89]

1st century BC

1st millennium AD

1st century

2nd century

3rd century

Schematic of the Roman Hierapolis sawmill. Dated to the 3rd century AD, it is the earliest known machine to incorporate a crank and connecting rod mechanism.[109][110][111]

4th century

5th century

6th century

7th century

  • 7th century: Porcelain in Tang Dynasty China: True porcelain is manufactured in northern China from roughly the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century, while true porcelain was not manufactured in southern China until about 300 years later, during the early 10th century.[139]

9th century

A Mongol bomb thrown against a charging Japanese samurai during the Mongol invasions of Japan after founding the Yuan Dynasty, 1281.
  • 9th century: Numerical zero in Ancient India: The concept of zero as a number, and not merely a symbol for separation is attributed to India.[147] In India, practical calculations are carried out using zero, which is treated like any other number by the 9th century, even in case of division.[147][148]

10th century

  • 10th century: Fire lance in Song Dynasty China, developed in the 10th century with a tube of first bamboo and later on metal that shot a weak gunpowder blast of flame and shrapnel, its earliest depiction is a painting found at Dunhuang.[149] Fire lance is the earliest firearm in the world and one of the earliest gunpowder weapon.[150][151]
  • 10th century: Fireworks in Song Dynasty China: Fireworks first appear in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), in the early age of gunpowder. Fireworks could be purchased from market vendors; these were made of sticks of bamboo packed with gunpowder.[152]
  • 10th century: Dry Docks in China.[153]

2nd millennium

11th century

12th century

  • 1119: Mariner's compass (wet compass) in Song Dynasty China: The earliest recorded use of magnetized needle for navigational purposes at sea is found in Zhu Yu's book Pingzhou Table Talks of 1119 (written from 1111 to 1117).[157][161][162][163][164][165][166] The typical Chinese navigational compass was in the form of a magnetic needle floating in a bowl of water.[167] The familiar mariner's dry compass which uses a pivoting needle suspended above a compass-card in a glass box is invented in medieval Europe no later than 1300.[168]

13th century

  • 13th century: Soap in Babylonia[169]
  • 13th century: Rocket for military and recreational uses date back to at least 13th century China.[170]
  • 1275: Torpedo by Hasan al-Rammah.[171]
  • 1277: Land mine in Song Dynasty China: Textual evidence suggests that the first use of a land mine in history is by a Song Dynasty brigadier general known as Lou Qianxia, who uses an 'enormous bomb' (huo pao) to kill Mongol soldiers invading Guangxi in 1277.[172]
  • 1286: Eyeglasses in Italy[173]
  • 13th century: Explosive bomb in Jin dynasty Manchuria: Explosive bombs are used in 1221 by the Jin dynasty against a Song Dynasty city.[174] The first accounts of bombs made of cast iron shells packed with explosive gunpowder are documented in the 13th century in China and are called "thunder-crash bombs",[175] coined during a Jin dynasty naval battle in 1231.[176]
  • 13th century: Hand cannon in Yuan Dynasty China: The earliest hand cannon dates to the 13th century based on archaeological evidence from a Heilongjiang excavation. There is also written evidence in the Yuanshi (1370) on Li Tang, an ethnic Jurchen commander under the Yuan Dynasty who in 1288 suppresses the rebellion of the Christian prince Nayan with his "gun-soldiers" or chongzu, this being the earliest known event where this phrase is used.[177]

14th century

15th century

The oldest known parachute is depicted in this anonymous Italian manuscript dated to the 1470s.[179]

16th century

17th century

A 1609 title page of the German Relation, the world's first newspaper (first published in 1605)[188][189]

18th century










19th century











20th century

  • 1900: Human voice transmitted wirelessly (by radio) for the first time by Roberto Landell de Moura. The first AM radio factory is opened in 1912.
  • 1900: The first Zeppelin is designed by Theodor Kober.
  • 1903: The first successful gas turbine is invented by Ægidius Elling.
  • 1903: First manually controlled, fixed wing, motorized aircraft flies at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina by Orville and Wilbur Wright. First modern fixed wing aircraft. Gustave Weisskopf (Whitehead), a German-American immigrant, is credited with motorized aircraft flight in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1901. Flights are witnessed by citizens and other associates and recorded in the Bridgeport Herald, a local newspaper, but were not mentioned in a 1904 article in Scientific American.[205]
  • 1904: The Fleming valve, the first vacuum tube and diode, is invented by John Ambrose Fleming.
  • 1907: The first free flight of a rotary-wing aircraft is carried out by Paul Cornu.
  • 1907: Leo Baekeland invents bakelite, the first fully synthetic plastic.
  • 1908: Cellophane is invented by Jacques E. Brandenberger.
  • 1909: Fritz Haber invents the Haber process.
  • 1909: The first instantaneous transmission of images, or television broadcast, is carried out by Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier.





  • December 1947: The transistor, used in almost all modern electronic products is invented in December 1947 by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain under the supervision of William Shockley. Subsequent transistors became steadily smaller, faster, more reliable, and cheaper to manufacture, leading to a revolution in computers, controls, and communication.






See also


  1. See People of the Millennium for an overview of the wide acclaim. In 1999, the A&E Network ranked Gutenberg no. 1 on their "People of the Millennium" countdown. In 1997, Time–Life magazine picked Gutenberg's invention as the most important of the second millennium; the same did four prominent US journalists in their 1998 resume 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking The Men and Women Who Shaped The Millennium. The Johann Gutenberg entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia describes his invention as having made a practically unparalleled cultural impact in the Christian era.
  2. Semaw, S.; M. J. Rogers; J. Quade; P. R. Renne; R. F. Butler; M. Domínguez-Rodrigo; D. Stout; W. S. Hart; T. Pickering; S. W. Simpson (2003). "2.6-Million-year-old stone tools and associated bones from OGS-6 and OGS-7, Gona, Afar, Ethiopia". Journal of Human Evolution. 45: 169–177. PMID 14529651. doi:10.1016/S0047-2484(03)00093-9. 
  3. De Heinzelin, J; Clark, JD; White, T; Hart, W; Renne, P; Woldegabriel, G; Beyene, Y; Vrba, E (1999). "Environment and behavior of 2.5-million-year-old Bouri hominids". Science. 284 (5414): 625–9. PMID 10213682. doi:10.1126/science.284.5414.625. 
  4. Harvard Gazette, Invention of cooking drove evolution of the human species
  5. 5.0 5.1 http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/09-archaeologists-find-earliest-evidence-of-humans-cooking-with-fire "Until the Wonderwerk Cave find, Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, a lakeside site in Israel, was considered to have the oldest generally accepted evidence of human-controlled fire."
  6. 6.0 6.1 James, Steven R. (February 1989). "Hominid Use of Fire in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene: A Review of the Evidence" (PDF). Current Anthropology. University of Chicago Press. 30 (1): 1–26. doi:10.1086/203705. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  7. http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/2839 "Anthropologists have yet to find an Acheulian hand axe gripped in a Homo erectus fist but most credit Homo erectus with developing the technology."
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