Home Technology40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
TechnologyBy Joe Burgett -

Where would the world be today without the technology and assistance we have today as human beings? Likely, we’d all be in a very bad place that none of us ever want to be. If it was not for some of the world’s greatest inventors, the way the world looks and operates today would certainly be very different. Some inventions that are no longer in use sparked the inventions that happen to still be major parts of our society today. These people are just as important as the inventors who see their inventions in use all the time. In Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and even Ancient Rome, there were times when a collective invented something too.

This means that someone came up with an idea and then others expanded upon it, creating new technology or concepts. From there, more kept adding to the tech or concept until it eventually became what we know it as today. Things like Gears, Showers, Catapults, Cannons, and especially the world of medicine were constantly added to. To make a mark on the world as one of the greatest inventors on the planet, you had to invent something amazing. Perhaps, you had to invent several amazing things. Your invention(s) had to be revolutionary and still operate in some form today. This is the same for discoveries one might make too, as inventions often take a major discovery to come about first. We decided to make a list to highlight some of the people who fit this. That said, we hope you enjoy our list of the greatest inventors in world history.

 

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Swedish Academy Portrait Of Alfred Nobel [Image via Pe3k/Shutterstock.com]

40. Alfred Nobel

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Dynamite, Nobel Prize

Alfred Nobel is one of the greatest inventors in world history due to his invention of dynamite. Nobel actually has 335 patents in total for numerous other inventions. Dynamite, however, remains the most popular. He never realized how much his invention would negatively impact the planet, however.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Legacy]
This came to a head when he read a premature obituary in his local newspaper that condemned him for profiting off the sale of arms. As a result, he wanted to bring some level of good to the world. He left his entire fortune to an annual award system that rewarded people for doing great things. We know it today as the Nobel Prize, which is awarded annually in various categories. However, with the most prominent being the Peace Prize.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Luther Burbank Gardening [Image via U.S. Library Of Congress]

39. Luther Burbank

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Over 800 Strains & Varieties Of Plants

While on the surface, it may not seem like Luther Burbank should go down as one of the greatest inventors in world history, he most certainly is. Burbank was a botanist and horticulturist that is likely the most well-known pioneer of agricultural science. If it was not for Burbank, we would not have several vegetables and fruits many of us eat today.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Santarosahistory]
The fact that he created over 800 strains and varieties of plants is impressive. He’s most known for the plumcot and his development of the spineless cactus. Yet he invented different varieties of blackberries, strawberries, cherries, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, plums, prunes, figs, and more. In fact, he helped to develop many we eat around the world today.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Ben Franklin Portrait [Image via Liudacorolewa/Shutterstock.com]

38. Ben Franklin

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Lightning Rod, Flexible Urinary Catheter, Bifocal Glasses 

Ben Franklin is one of the world’s greatest inventors, who invented some impressive and useful things we still use. However, one thing often mistakenly attributed to him is that he “discovered electricity.” He didn’t actually do this. However, he did discover how certain objects connected to it.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Nbcnews]
This allowed him to create the lightning rod, something he realized could be useful after his infamous kite experiment. He also helped to pioneer electrotherapy as well. Beyond this, he invented the flexible urinary catheter. For those who have ever been forced to use one, the modern-day version is thanks to Ben. Of course, he is also well-known for his invention of the Bifocals.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Herman Hollerith With His Tabulating Machine [Image via Columbia University]

37. Herman Hollerith

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Electromechanical Tabulating Machine

The name Herman Hollerith is not massive, but he is one of the world’s greatest inventors. He invented the electromechanical tabulating machine. It was used for punching cards that helped people summarize information. This was later used for accounting needs and “clocking in” at your particular workplace. Herman essentially revolutionized data processing with his patented invention.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Ynicio]
It became such a big deal that his company, Tabulating Machine Company, became well-known. Eventually, stock acquisitions led to his company consolidating with a few others to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911. Of course, the company was eventually renamed. Today, you know the company by the name of IBM.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Johannes Gutenberg (right) Showing Engraving Off [Image via Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com]

36. Johannes Gutenberg

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg ranks as one of the world’s greatest inventors mostly due to what his most famous invention actually did. For years, if you wanted a book, you had to be lucky to afford one. All copies of books even had to be written by hand. When Johannes Gutenberg came along, he used Ancient Chinese block printing concepts to invent the Printing Press.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Sandiegoreader]
This machine allowed books to be fully copied, with numerous of the same type being possible in days rather than weeks. In its early days, the Printing Press was most notable for making several copies of the Holy Bible, bringing the book to everyday people for the first time. Eventually, written media (newspapers) were possible due to Printing Press. That is why we often call the media, “The Press.”

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Jerome H. Lemelson With Hotwheels [Image via Smithsonian National Museum of American History]

35. Jerome H. Lemelson

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Critical Parts Used In The Camera, Bar Coder, Telephones, & VCRs

We should note what several companies claimed about Jerome H. Lemelson, as well as some biographers. It is clear that he was a brilliant man, but he did not truly invent a lot. However, he was great at about getting patents from the U.S. Government that could be just vague enough for him to claim he invented something. Lemelson invented parts. Some of which are critical to machines.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Youtube]
However, he did not invent the major machine that used some of his parts. As a result of this confusion, Lemelson pretty much lived in court as he sued consistently over tech he claimed had been copied. Lemelson had over 600 patents and is at least co-credited for the invention of many machines, so we felt compelled to add him due to this.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
George Washington Carver’s Bust On Peanut Farm [Image via Philip Rozenski/Shutterstock.com]

34. George Washington Carver

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Various Products Using Peanuts Among Other Agricultural Contents

George Washington Carver was born in 1864. A brilliant man, Carver was well-educated and knew that there was a better way to make sure everyone was taken care of agriculturally. He wanted many to move away from cotton planting and move toward making their own food. This was an attempt to help the South as it was forced to stop using black men & women as slaves.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Mentalfloss]
This was where he pushed the peanut among others. Out of just the peanut, he invented several items. This included flour, insulation, paste, soap, lotion, and much more. In fact, it is said he invented roughly 300 peanut products. Overall, he proved there was better stuff to farm than cotton and farmers slowly but surely began switching things up.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Katharine Burr Blodgett Looking Into Machine [Image via Wikipedia Commons]

33. Katharine Burr Blodgett

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Nonreflective Glass

Katharine Burr Blodgett is one of the greatest inventors in world history. She is actually the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. Upon earning just her Master’s, she began working for General Electric where she invented nonreflective glass. Of course, we now know nonreflective glass changes how light passes through it compared to reflective glass.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Pbs]
Usually, versions of reflective glass will push some of the light back while nonreflective will not. For a projector, the light change will give a better, basically high-definition appearance to images or videos. The same happens for how cameras record or take images too. In all reality, Katherine pretty much changed the film, television, and photography industries completely.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
John Logie Baird During Interview [Image via Scottish Business Insider]

32. John Logie Baird

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The Color Television

If you have ever watched television in your life, then you should probably thank Scottish inventor John Logie Baird for that. He is one of the inventors behind the mechanical television. He is often referred to as “one of” because several things related to the TV came about in the 1800s. However, very few were similar to modern-day televisions.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Mentalfloss]
Baird’s first working system came about on January 26, 1926. He is the first man to demonstrate some form of color television and the first to make a fully electronic color television. On top of this, his company, Baird Television Development Company, was the first to achieve a transatlantic television transmission. John became one of the world’s greatest inventors as a result.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Turing Machine From Imitation Game Film [Image via Black Bear Pictures]

31. Charles Babbage & Alan Turing

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The Computer

We should state for the record that Alan Turing & Charles Babbage did not work together and likely never even knew each other. Yet we still put them in the same place on our list because both men can be credited, in some form, for inventing the computer. Charles Babbage is often given the most credit in this department, as his “Difference Engine” was technically an early computer.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Telegraph/Image via Medium]
Later called the Analytical Engine, it was able to incorporate arithmetic logic units, and control flow via conditional branching & loops. It also used an integrated memory. This made it “Turing-complete,” which pretty much meant that it could recognize or decide other data-manipulation rule sets. Of course, the term comes from Alan Turing and, well, his Turing Machine. This was used to form the original general-purpose computer. Both men did a lot for the computer, so obviously both should be credited with its invention.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Tim Berners-Lee Interview [Image via Wired]

30. Tim Berners-Lee

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee is an engineer and computer scientist who currently serves as the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium & the Web Research Initiative. He’s also the Founder of the World Wide Web Foundation. There is more to his resume, but we think you get the point.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Learningenglish.voanews]
Tim invented the internet and the first web page as well. He called it “info.cern.ch,” and it is still live to this day. The page serves mostly as an information tool, as the name suggests. While working an employee at the European Organization for Nuclear Research or “CERN,” he used their NeXT Computer to go live with the first webpage on December 20, 1990.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Bust Of Archytas [Image via Massimo Todaro/Shutterstock.com]

29. Archytas of Tarentum

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The First Flying Machine

Archytas of Tarentum is a notable Ancient Greek Inventor & Scientist who is often referred to as the “Father of Mathematical Mechanics.” Now known as one of the world’s greatest inventors, during his time he taught Mathematics at the Pythagorean School. He invented the first known autonomous flying machine called the Archytas Dove.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via History]
It was a wooden dove that could flap its wings and even go up to 200 meters or a little over 656 feet in the air. It ran on compressed air and an internal steam engine. He often dreamed of going into space and was fascinated with everything in the night sky, making him a leader in Cosmology. Today, a crater on the moon is named after him.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Samuel Morse Portrait [Image via Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com]

28. Samuel Morse

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Morse Code, Single-Wire Telegraph System

While Samuel Morse did not invent the first telegraph, his version of a single-wire system became a much more efficient way of doing things. In fact, during the American Civil War, several wires were put up to send messages from place to place. This would lead to the inspiration behind how the telephone worked. Technically, Samuel Morse beat others to the electromagnetic telegraph by a year too.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Thoughtco]
This is according to the patent submitted, on display today at the Smithsonian Institution. While he is now the “sole inventor,” people did not know him as this when he was alive. He did, however, invent Morse Code. This is the primary language in use for telegraphy, making him one of the world’s greatest inventors. Many in the Armed Forces still use forms of Morse Code to this day!

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Bronze Statues At Wright Brothers Museum [Image via David Ross/Shutterstock.com]

27. Wright Brothers

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The Motor-Powered Airplane, Three-Axis Control 

The Wright Brothers, Orville & Wilber, are most known for their invention of the modern airplane. There is actually a distinction in this as they actually invented the first motor-operated airplane. Other types of airplanes have been invented since. They called their airplane the Wright Flyer, which took flight in December of 1903.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Medium]
Other versions, such as the Wright Flyer II, Wright Flyer III, & the Wright Glider improved upon the first airplane’s design. The big thing they are now massive for in the scientific community, however, is the three-axis control concept they came up with for their version of the airplane. This had far-reaching results as submarines, space ships, satellites, and industrial robotics use it to essentially function.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Ctesibius artwork [Image via Encyclopedia Britannica]

26. Ctesibius

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Pipe Organ, Hand-Held Crossbow

Working as a mathematician in the Greek city of Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt, Ctesibius became one of the world’s greatest inventors. He invented the science behind compressed air and its use in pumps, which is what made cannons work. This was on top of his work on the elasticity of air. He also responsible for pneumatics, resulting in his “Father of Pneumatics” nickname.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Wikipedia]
Sadly for Ctestibius, a lot of his work was lost, including ALL of his research. Yet some of his designs remain. Today, we might credit with far more inventions than he has now. However, military types and weapons makers eventually would implement his original design for the hand-held crossbow. He’s also responsible for inventing the pipe organ and the water clock.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Bill Gates At Cambridge University [Image via Luke MacGregor/Time]

25. Bill Gates

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Windows Software, Microsoft Products

When Bill Gates was starting off in the tech world, there was a major focus on computer hardware. Computers were already a thing but they had not yet become what we know them as today. Hardware was important, so many companies made this a key focus. Yet Gates saw something few others considered. All this hardware was also going to need proper software.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Today]
Gates and his company Microsoft partnered with IBM in 1980 to help in this area, as IBM was about to roll out the personal computer. The infamous “Windows” software launched in 1985, then Microsoft and IBM cut ties a year later. Yet Gates and Microsoft had already become a massive player. Their software to this day is on over 80% of all personal computers. In 2019 alone, Microsoft reported its total year revenue reached $125.8 billion. This is in large thanks to Windows Software.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Statue Of Cai Lun [Image via CGTN]

24. Cai Lun

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Paper & Papermaking Process

Cai Lun is an ancient Chinese inventor, politician, and eunuch. While he invented several things, he is likely most known for the invention of paper and the papermaking process. Some assume that paper was in play prior to this. This was due to writing and scrolls overall having been around for centuries by this point.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Chinahistorysg]
However, these scrolls utilize papyrus, not paper. As a result, Cai Lun’s invention of paper was a massive thing for the world. China to this day produces the most paper worldwide annually, even over the United States. This is all thanks to one of the world’s greatest inventors, Cai Lun.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Alexander Graham Bell Statue In Ontario, Canada [Image via Gilberto Mesquita/Shutterstock.com]

23. Alexander Graham Bell

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell invented something that most of us use every single day, the telephone. However, before he did this, Bell was actually involved with speech and hearing research. Part of his family worked in the area of elocution, the study of formal speaking, grammar, style, and tone. This heavily influenced his technical work.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Biography]
He was awarded the U.S. patent for his invention of the telephone on March 7, 1876. Funny enough, Bell thought of the telephone as a nuisance and refused to have one in his study. Bell later went on to do massive work in optical telecommunications and aeronautics and was one of the 33 founders of the National Geographic Society. Yes, THAT National Geographic. He was even the founder of the American Telegraph & Telephone Company, better known as AT&T.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Charles Goodyear Portrait [Image via Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com]

22. Charles Goodyear

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Pliable, Moldable, Waterproof Rubber & Vulcanized Rubber

Charles Goodyear completely changed the game with his invention and patenting of vulcanized rubber. This is a form of hardened rubber that Goodyear managed to get to upon molding rubber to fit his desired outcome. He invented pliable, moldable rubber as well so the process to harden only made sense. Through this, it would also become waterproof. Thereby making it perfect for cars.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Massmoments]
Goodyear randomly stumbled across it, as he heard about Thomas Hancock’s effectiveness in heating. Goodyear’s rubber is notably within several rubber items today, including footwear and obviously tires. In fact, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company named their company after him. Goodyear himself did not have any connection to them, as he passed years before their founding.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Galileo Galilei Statue In Florence, Italy [Image via Ilia Baksheev/Shutterstock.com]

21. Galileo Galilei

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Thermoscope, Galileo’s Pump, Telescope

While Galileo Galilei was often notable in history for his views on science and the universe, yet he actually invented several major things too. This includes Hydrostatic Balance, or how one measures an object in the air or water. Galileo’s Pump is also a massive innovation that merely raised water, reliant on single horsepower. This concept is what the modern pump uses to this day.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Newscientist]
He also invented the Pendulum Clock & The Sector. The latter of which was a compass used to help gunners accurately shoot their cannons in the proper places. Galileo also invented the Thermoscope, which is an accurate way to tell the temperature outside, in water, etc. Of course, he is most known for his telescope, which modern versions are based on. Even the microscope uses Galileo’s concepts. Truly, he is one of the world’s greatest inventors.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Stephanie Kwolek With Kevlar Gloves [Image via USA Today]

20. Stephanie Kwolek

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Kevlar

If you have ever worked in law enforcement or possibly as an Angel for Charlie, then you’ll likely want to thank chemist, Stephanie Kwolek. She invented Kevlar! Today, we mostly know Kevlar for its ability to stop bullets. This is due to the high tensile strength-to-weight ratio. This measurement actually makes it 5 times stronger than steel.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Timeforkids]
That is why it is commonly used underneath clothing as a bulletproof vest. The idea originally for Kevlar was to use it as a replacement for steel in racing tires, funny enough. Therefore, the idea of replacing steel with it kinda worked. Kevlar is heat-resistant, which allows it to be useful for something like tires. This is why some bicycle tires utilize kevlar even today. However, we’ll likely always know Kevlar most for its ability to stop bullets.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Karl Benz On 1885 Benz Motorwagen [Image via Thoughtco]

19. Karl Benz

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The Automobile

Karl Benz was actually the man that invented the first practical automobile. The German engineer was able to develop his Benz Patent Motorcar in 1885 but didn’t receive the official patent until 1886. As an engine designer, he developed several different types for his automobiles. One of these is the flat engine, which he was given the patent for in 1896.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Britannica]
This is a form of piston engine, where the cylinders are located on either side of a central crankshaft. It’s most effective in the V-Engine. The flat engine version most used now is the boxer engine. They are often used in some high-performance racecars as well as the Porsche & Subaru vehicles. It was eventually used in motorcycles, including by Harley-Davidson.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Marie Curie Statue In Edinburgh, Scotland [Image via Moomusician/Shutterstock.com]

18. Marie Curie

  • Most Famous For Discovering/Inventing: Radium, Polonium, Radioactivity, & How It Could Treat Cancer 

Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist who literally gave her life to do scientific research on radioactivity. Due to her amazing work during her life, she became the first woman to ever win the Nobel Prize. She is actually the first and only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice and the only woman to do it in two different sciences.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Newscientist]
If you are looking for a great female role model, Curie is certainly one to look to. Marie actually was the one to discover radioactivity, to begin with. Then along with her husband, found the elements of Radium & Polonium. Marie also discovered that the rays from radioactivity could be used to treat cancerous tumors. The Curie family even chose not to patent this so that it could be used easily for as many people as possible.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Steve Jobs Speech At Press Event [Image via ZDNet]

17. Steve Jobs

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Apple Macintosh, iPod, iPad, iPhone, iTunes

Steve Jobs was not exactly someone you could look to as a technical genius. However, his ideas and designs were revolutionary. Along with Steve Wozniak, Jobs co-founded Apple Inc. He helped to create most of Apple’s major devices. This includes the original Macintosh computer that turned into things like the MacBook.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Inc]
Jobs also co-created the iPod, iPad, and of course the iPhone. He also revolutionized music by coming up with iTunes where people could buy one song at a time instead of entire albums. He came up with a lot of these ideas and devices while Wozniak and crew built them. Jobs had a passion that made customers feel they had to have the devices he spoke of, allowing them to succeed massively.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Henry Ford Wax Statue At Madame Tussaud Museum [Image via Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com]

16. Henry Ford

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Model T, Affordable Mass Production

While Karl Benz invented the first automobile, Henry Ford and his Model T changed the industry forever. Ford made his automobiles at a reasonable price, making it affordable for the average person to own. Due to his wild success, that could be why so many assume he invented the automobile. While he didn’t, he actually sponsored the making of the assembly line in his factories.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Azcentral]
This was the first time the modern industrial form of the assembly line we know today was implemented, minus the machines. There were versions of it beforehand, but nothing to this scale. As a result of the assembly line, mass production became affordable for the industry for the first time. That, in turn, made it to where Ford could price the Model T at a lower cost.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Wax Statue Of Isaac Newton At Madame Tussauds Museum [Image via Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com]

15. Isaac Newton

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Calculus, Counterfeit-Proof Coins, Reflector Lens In Telescopes

Isaac Newton today is most known for his discovery of how gravity worked. However, he invented a lot of things that we use in some form today. One of those is Calculus, yes, the math. He used this type of math to help with his overall scientific research. Newton also invented the reflector lens for telescopes, providing them with a clearer image.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Jakubferencik.medium]
Isaac is also credited with inventing various ways to eliminate counterfeiting coins. The ridges you see on some coins to this day was his concept for eliminating the counterfeits. He wrote the Principia, which many consider the greatest science book ever written. It told the world about how gravity and motion truly operated. Newton had a lot of ideas or concepts that he did not have the chance to make but did make notes about. This includes an orbital cannon, which operated similarly to how a rocketship does today.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Painting Of Alexander Fleming [Image via Encyclopedia Britannica]

14. Alexander Fleming

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The First True Antibiotic & The Enzyme Lysozyme

Alexander Fleming was a brilliant biologist, physician, and pharmacologist. We know Fleming more for his discoveries than inventions but they work hand-in-hand. Alexander randomly discovered the infamous mold known as benzylpenicillin had bacteria-fighting power. He had been doing research on staphylococci beforehand.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Time]
This is a very dangerous bacteria that Fleming wanted to learn more about, ideally to fight it. He stacked all of his staph cultures in the corner of his lab but upon returning, one had a fungus on it that completely destroyed the bacteria. This benzylpenicillin mold was the key to fighting bacteria. As a result, he invented the first antibiotic we know today as Penicillin. He earned the Nobel Prize for this along with his colleagues in 1945, despite having discovered and invented everything years prior.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Humphry Davy Portrait [Image via Biography.com]

13. Humphry Davy

  • Most Famous For Inventing/Discovering: Davy/Arc Lamp, Laughing Gas, Multiple Scientific Elements 

Humphry Davy is one of the greatest inventors in history but technically one of the best discoverers too. Davy came up with ingenious concepts to actually make major discoveries. He often worked with electricity, allowing him to make lamps such as the now infamous Davy & Arc Lamps that miners used while mining. Through electricity, he was also able to isolate major elements for the first time.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Sciencehistory]
He essentially discovered Potassium, Sodium, Calcium, Strontium, Barium, Magnesium, & Boron. He then discovered the elemental nature of Chlorine & Iodine as well. Doing this, Humphry invented a new form of electrochemistry. Davy also worked and experimented with nitrous oxide, claiming it made him laugh yet also had pain-relieving properties. He nicknamed it, “laughing gas.”

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Louis Pasteur Photograph [Image via ThoughtCo]

12. Louis Pasteur

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Pasteurization, Germ Theory, Vaccines For Rabies & Anthrax

Before French chemist & biologist Louis Pasteur came along, drinking milk or wine was a gamble. He invented a treatment to rid both of possible bacterial contamination. This makes them safer and able to last forever nearly, as well as many of the products they are used in. Pasteurization as it came to be called, is now in use all over the world. Yet Pasteur did far more than this.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Fee]
He invented the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax, something we still use today. He even found a way to reduce the death rate of puerperal fever, which is a postpartum infection that affects a child or mother. Louis also invented and proved the case of Germ Theory, in that germs are what lead to disease.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Albert Einstein Wax Figure At Madame Tussauds Museum [Image via Nuamfolio/Shutterstock.com]

11. Albert Einstein

  • Most Famous For Inventing/Proposing: Theory Of Relativity, Quantum Physics

The brilliant scientist and theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein is also one of the greatest inventors in world history. This truly has to do with his scientific breakthroughs that allowed other ideas to spark. His Theory of Relativity nowadays is not so much a theory than a fact. This connects to Special Relativity and General Relativity. He is also famous for the invention of Quantum Physics. Einstein also discovered the Cosmological Constant & the Unified Field Theory.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Biologos]
During his work on the Manhattan Project, he assisted the Allies scientifically during World War II. Einstein’s equation (E=mc2) made the bomb theoretically possible, starting the bomb research by the Americans. His work led to the invention of the atom bomb, which was developed during the Manhattan Project, even though Albert did not make it himself.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Hedy Lamarr Photographed While Filming Movie [Image via Best Of Comicbooks]

10. Hedy Lamarr

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Spread-Spectrum Technology (The Basis Of Wireless Technology)

Hedy Lamarr was known as one of the world’s most beautiful women. Yet one couldn’t overlook her brilliance, as she went on to invent something we still use to this day. During World War II, Hedy invented a radio guidance system that was designed for Allied torpedoes. It works on frequency-hoping spread spectrum technology that made jamming torpedoes impossible.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Kaspersky]
Yet the United States Navy did not adopt this technology until the 1960s!! This spread-spectrum tech was more important than anyone ever realized, as it actually changed communication technology forever. It is the true technological backbone in all Wireless technology, including Wi-Fi. We also see it in Bluetooth technology, fax machines, and cell phones.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
James Watt With His Steam Engine [Image via ThoughtCo]

9. James Watt

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Watt Steam Engine, International System Of Units (SI Unit Of Power)

James Watt is a chemist and mechanical engineer that became one of the world’s greatest inventors during his life. He invented the Watt Steam Engine, a major improvement on previous steam engines. The way it differed was through his separate condenser. This helped to make the steam engine more energy efficient as it had been wasting more by having to repeatedly cool and heat the cylinder.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Telegraph]
Although his steam engine was a massive innovation, it took time to become a commercial success. Companies had to give it a try, which they were hesitant to do. Upon doing so, people loved it and it became THE steam engine used throughout Europe. In his later years, he developed the concept of horsepower as well as the International System of Units and its unit of power, known today as the SI unit of power. “The Watt” would be included later on as part of this, which is to honor SI’s founder.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Michael Faraday Statue In London, England [Image via Claudio Divizia/Shutterstock.com]

8. Michael Faraday

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Electromagnetic Rotary Devices, System Of Oxidation Numbers

Michael Faraday is one of the greatest inventors and scientists in world history. He often worked alongside Humphry Davy, where the two worked in the electrical field. Yet it was Faraday who discovered the electromagnetic field. He also proved that magnetism can affect rays of light. Faraday then discovered the principles of electromagnetic induction and diamagnetism.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Londontopia]
Through this, he learned the laws of electrolysis, allowing him to invent various electromagnetic rotary devices. This is the main concept behind electric motor technology. Faraday’s work with electricity ultimately made it an energy source possible to use for everyone. He also invented the system of oxidation numbers and even popularized terms like Anode, Cathode, Electrode, and Ion.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
George Westinghouse Photograph [Image via Heinz History Center]

7. George Westinghouse

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Railway Air Brake, Alternating Current Distribution System

George Westinghouse was a brilliant man and one of the world’s greatest inventors during his time. Working as an engineer, he invented the railway air brake, something that helped all trains stop. In fact, this essential fail-safe system is still in place today in both trains and subways. This made him a wealthy man, allowing him to get in the electrical game with Nikola Tesla.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Biografieonline]
This allowed Westinghouse to develop the electrical distribution system for alternating current. It’s actually in use today every time you plug something in at home. His AC electrical concept was far better than the direct current because it could flow both ways while DC could only flow one way. George’s AC system is what we all use to power things today.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Robert Fulton Statue In Lancaster, PA [Image via George Sheldon/Shutterstock.com]

6. Robert Fulton

  • Most Famous For Inventing: First Commercially Successful Steamboat, The Submarine

When you talk about the world’s greatest inventors, the list could not be complete without Robert Fulton. While Fulton did not invent the steamboat, but he did invent the first commercially successful version that could travel long distances.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Diyhomeschooler]
He was even commissioned by former French General & Emperor Napolean Bonaparte to build what would become the first-ever submarine. He called it the Nautilus and it actually worked very well. On top of this, Fulton invented the first successful naval torpedoes for the British Royal Navy. The man changed travel and how militaries operated forever.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Thomas Edison Old Photograph [Image via Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com]

5. Thomas Edison

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Phonograph, Movie Camera, Direct Current, The Light Bulb

Thomas Edison is not only one of the greatest inventors in history, but possibly the greatest ever. It is not hard to see why. Edison held over 1,000 patents for his inventions during his life. This includes the Phonograph, which was the first sound recorder and player. He also invented the first motion picture camera and opened the first film studio.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Nationalreview]
Edison used his knowledge of sound to make the first automatic telegraph. He then improved on Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone design by inventing a better transmitter, the “Carbon Telephone Transmitter.” Edison also improved the automobile with his invention of the Alkaline Storage Battery. Thomas is also responsible for inventing direct electrical current for commercial energy use. This helped in his invention of the light bulb, likely his most notable invention.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Leonardo Da Vinci Statue In Florence, Italy [Image via vanhurck/shutterstock.com]

4. Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Helicopter, Parachute, Diving Suit, Machine Gun, Tank

People know Leonardo Da Vinci most for his paintings usually. He painted masterpieces like the Mona Lisa & The Last Supper. Both of these are some of the best artworks in world history. However, Da Vinci was a genius who invented several different yet important things. This includes The Parachute, The Tank, The Machine Gun, Diving Suits, and multiple flying machines.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Artlistr]
Da Vinci’s most notable flying machine, the Ariel Screw, is the basis for how helicopters work today. He also invented a robot but passed before building it. We know of this due to the discovery of his notebooks with multiple drawings of inventions he had planned. Leonardo also invented the Revolving Bridge, those bridges that open up to let boats go underneath them when the ship is too large.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Assumed Appearance Of Hero Of Alexandria [Image via Toasters-YouTube]

3. Hero of Alexandria

  • Most Famous For Inventing: The Syringe, Force Pump, First Wind-Powered & Automatically Powered Machines

Hero of Alexandria lived during the Greco-Roman era in Alexandria, Egypt. He is notably a skilled machine maker and mathematician. Hero invented the force pump, the hose firemen use today. The first Syringe was his making, which holds and delivers liquid or air of various types. He is also responsible for the first vending machine!

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Enacademic]
Hero also invented the first wind-powered machine & the first truly automatic machine. The latter was a fountain that worked on hydro-static energy, now called Heron’s Fountain. He also invented a programmable cart that was powered by a falling weight, which consisted of strings wrapped around a drive axle. The man was even was able to uncover the principle for the shortest path of light. This later became the basis for Alhacen’s principle of reflection & refraction.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Nikola Tesla Off Of Vintage Paper Banknote [Image via vkilikov/shutterstock.com]

2. Nikola Tesla

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Alternating Current Tech, Hydro-Electric Energy, Tesla Coil, The Remote Control 

Many consider Nikola Tesla to be one of the greatest inventors in history due to inventing multiple things we use in some form today. While working for Thomas Edison, Tesla came up with alternating current technology. Deciding to leave Edison behind, he met with George Westinghouse who financed Tesla’s AC ideas, allowing both men to eventually win the “Current War.”

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Medium]
Yet Tesla knew other ways energy could be utilized. This was when he came up with Hydro-Electric Energy, which he used to power the city of Buffalo, NY at one point. Many feel his Telsa Coil is his most notable invention, however. It laid the foundation for wireless technology, with the radio world still using a form of it today. Oh yeah, and he invented the remote control & discovered Violet Rays.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
Archimedes of Syracuse Statue In Syracuse, Italy [Image via Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/Shutterstock.com]

1. Archimedes of Syracuse

  • Most Famous For Inventing: Geometry Of Shapes, Pi, Compound Pullies, Archimedes Screw

Any list of the world’s greatest inventors is not complete without the inclusion of the infamous Archimedes of Syracuse. He invented geometric algorithms, lying the foundation for Calculus among other math forms to work. This includes being the first to use theorems like the area of a circle, surface area, volume, sphere, and the area under a parabola.

40 Greatest Inventors In World History And What They Invented
[Image via Sciencesource]
He used this to come up with “Pi” too. These theorems allowed him to discover and found statics and hydrostatics, including the entire concept of how levers operated. Later on, people credited him for the invention of compound pullies and the screw pump. The Principle of Buoyancy is credited to him, referred to as the Archimedes Principle. He is also known for, of course, the Archimedes Screw.

 

Sources: [Live Science, National Geographic, Britannica, Biography.com, History.com, InterestingEngineering.com, AllThatsInteresting.com]

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