Science is ever-evolving, always being shaped by the next big thing to come about in terms of invention or discovery. Yet neither could really exist without first having some specific discoveries first. Everything builds upon itself in science, nothing is from nothing else and everything is from something.
We must remember this when it comes to the greatest discoveries ever. To count as a discovery that could be considered great or iconic, you must have changed how things were done before this discovery occurred. What was the original theory or how did you handle something prior to it? Is this considered to be useful to mankind compared to what was known prior or can the prior knowledge still work well or better?
These questions are important to ask, as it narrows down a list of potentially hundreds of discoveries and brings us to a final set of the most important or iconic. When we say “discovery,” by the way, we mean in terms of what humans came across randomly. This has nothing to do with inventions, although we will reference some inventions that came about due to specific discoveries.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Dr. Oscar Minkowski, Dr. Josef von Mering, University of Toronto Researchers
The Discovery of insulin happened by a complete accident. This happened when two doctors at the University of Strasbourg were trying to find out how the pancreas affected digestion. Thus, in 1889 they decided to remove the healthy pancreas of a healthy dog. In doing so, they accidentally gave the dog diabetes. They found this out several days later when they realized flies were swarming alarmingly around the dog’s urine. Curious about this, the doctors decided to test the urine to see if any abnormalities came back.
They found sugar in the urine, but the two men never actually found out why this happened nor how the pancreas regulated blood sugar. Then in 1922, researchers from the University of Toronto decided to do some tests on the organ. They were able to discover that by isolating pancreatic secretion, one could create insulin. This won the team a Nobel Prize and just one year later, Eli Lily Pharmaceutical Company began selling insulin that would save the lives of millions affected by Diabetes.
Year(s) Officially Discovered:Roughly 3000-1800 BCE, Others Between 500 to 50 BCE, & 16th Century AD
Discovery Put Into Action:Immediately, Since Its Discovery
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Euclid of Alexandria, Archimedes, Isaac Newton, Pythagoras, The Maya
The organized, agreed-upon form of Mathematics was discovered around 3,000 B.C. in the Mesopotamian states of Sumer, Akkad, and infamous Assyria. They along with Ancient Egyptians began using basic math such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. This was clearly efficient, as it was at helping them keep track of supplies, animals, and workers. They eventually began using math to help with taxation, trade, commerce, and even patterns in nature. The Ancient Mayans, for example, used math to help them form their ideology around Astrology.
This also allowed us to create a recorded time and calendar. The oldest two documents on early mathematics are the Babylonian Plimpton 322 & the Egyptian Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. The Moscow Mathematical Papyrus came out of this too. Each mentions the Pythagorean Theorem. This was referenced in Pythagorean Triples. This means Pythagoraous’ math is the oldest widespread math development after basic arithmetic and geometry. Of course, Archimedes would expand Geometry and he pretty much wrote the book on Algebra. Yet it was not until Issac Newton that the world was blessed with Calculus and thus, Geometry took off to a whole new level afterward. All of this goes down as some of the world’s greatest discoveries ever!
Year(s) Officially Discovered:230 to 260 BCE, 40 to 10 BCE, 16th to 17th Centuries A.D.
Discovery Put Into Action:Late B.C. Period, With Modern-Gravitational Theory Being Used By the 17th Century
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Archimedes, Vitruvius, Galileo Galilei, Sir Issac Newton
A lot of people only think about Issac Newton when it comes to the discovery of gravity, but mankind knew about gravity for hundreds of years before this. In fact, Archimedes of Syracuse actually discovered the center of gravity of a triangle. Based on Mathematics, which he also pioneered, he hypothesized that if two equal weights did not have the exact same center of gravity…then the center of gravity regarding the two weights would meet in the middle of a line they combine their gravity.
However, it was the modern-form of the gravitational theory that truly revolutionized everything…and that started with Galileo. He dropped balls as well as other objects off the Tower of Pisa to prove a point about gravity. Air Resistance is to blame for objects with less mass falling slower than heavier objects. All of this opened up one of the greatest discoveries in modern history, where Issac Newton came into play.
In likely the greatest Mathematics book ever published, Principia, Newton established the universal law of gravitation. He wrote:
“I deduced that the forces which keep the planets in their orbs must [be] reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about which they revolve: and thereby compared the force required to keep the Moon in her Orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the Earth; and found them answer pretty nearly.”
Discovery Put Into Action:Not Officially Until Hundreds Of Years Later
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Aristarchus of Samos
For many years, there had been a theory that the world was not flat but rather, round. The idea of this came through numerous tests where Ancient scientists were consistently seeing what could only be considered a round appearance. This was especially apparent among astronomers. Yet the idea that we could be a sphere that gravitated around something was crazy. It was weird to assume that we were moving as it’s clear everything moved around us, right?
Sadly for the Geocentrists, this just is not the case. The first to make this claim was Aristarchus of Samos back in the 3rd Century B.C. or 300s. A lot of his work was lost during the Hellenistic Period among others in that timeframe. It would take over 1,000 years for a physical model to be used that helped to further prove his concept. Moreover, this was also the era that was able to prove Aristarchus right on the ever-needed mathematical level.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Nicolaus Copernicus
Sadly, Aristarchus would not have had access to the type of Mathematics needed to prove his concept. It had not really been invented yet. However, by the 16th Century AD, a man named Nicolaus Copernicus did. He was the one who discovered and mathematically proved the Heliocentric System. This discovery was groundbreaking, and even the Catholic Schools taught Copernicus’ discovery for years to come. This might very well be why the Copernican Revolution happened so easily.
Of course, later on, people like Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei helped to support Copernicus’ and Aristarchus’ concepts. They observed moons and planets in our own solar system. Yet it was not until later on when William Herschel, Friedrich Bessel, and others found that the Sun was not the center of our universe. This is in spite of previous models putting it at the center. Although it is close, as it’s near the barycenter. Clearly, these are some of the greatest discoveries in history.
Discovery Put Into Action: Inbreeding Knowledge & Warnings Became Even More Widespread
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Howard Carter (funded by Lord Carnarvon)
While on the surface this discovery may not seem impactful, it truly was in numerous ways. Pharoah Tutankhamun, known by many as the “Boy King” was said to have ruled over Egypt from 1334 to 1325 BCE. He comes from a long line of royal family members, especially in Egypt, that was incredibly inbred. Egyptian Royals often had sexual relations with each other, causing severe inbreeding that would be quite noticeable among many. Yet we did not realize how significant this was until King Tut. Sadly, many of the tombs of some of the iconic Pharaohs had been robbed with many bodies being messed up in the process. Yet Tut’s tomb was completely filled.
This was due to his connection to Akhenaten (his father) and thus, his successors struck his name from the records. In this attempt to re-write history, they preserved his legacy. Thieves would not rob a tomb that they did know existed nor knew the name of. That led Tut’s tomb to be well-preserved and untouched for 33 centuries! Howard Carter would find Tut along with 5,000 artifacts, many of which are still in museums all over the world. Through examination, scientists found that Tut’s parents were siblings. In 1922, we knew inbreeding had drawbacks but did not realize just how many there could be. The Tut Study proved years of inbreeding leads to poor health and several deformities. Further study into royals of the past also led to knowing which were likely inbred as well as even the forms of inbreeding involved.
Discovery Put Into Action:Not For Hundreds Of Years
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Aristotle
Meteorology is the study of the weather as well as weather patterns. Funny enough, it was actually the great philosopher Aristotle that is the inventor of not only the term but also pioneered the first studies within meteorology. The term is Greek for “the study of things high in the air.” Yet it cannot be ignored just how close it is to astrology too. You’ll likely already be aware of how important astrology was to Ancient people.
Therefore, it should not come as a shock that they had a term at the ready for the study of our weather. Aristotle wrote the first material on this in his book appropriately titled, Meteorology. He felt by studying the weather, we could better plan for severe issues it caused, rather than be taken by surprise. In the book, he discusses water evaporation, earthquakes, and other weather-related material that he knew of at the time this was said to have been written, 350 BCE. Sadly, we did not have major breakthroughs in the field until hundreds of years after Aristotle’s work was published. Today, however, we have the best weather for studying data and equipment in history!
Year(s) Officially Discovered:Roughly 3000 to 2700 B.C.
Discovery Put Into Action:Inventions Using Electricity Took Thousands Of Years To Form
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Ancient Egyptians, Thales of Miletus, Ben Franklin, Heinrich Hertz, Michael Faraday, Nikola Tesla
Sorry Grade School teachers, Benjamin Franklin was not the one to discover electricity. Ancient Egyptians knew of it, even referencing what we’d one day call “Electric Eels” as the “Thunderers of the Nile.” They realized how close this was to lightning even back then. In fact, the first man to actually do extensive studies on it was a man by the name of Thales of Miletus. He was the first to study and pioneer our most common knowledge of static electricity and how it operates.
This was done sometime around 600 B.C. and his studies laid the groundwork for those that studied electricity after him. Ben Franklin did not study it until the 18th Century but was a major asset to the field. Others like Heinrich Hertz, Michael Faraday, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla were all major students of electricity. Obviously, some of them invented things within this world that we still use today. Electricity is clearly one of the greatest discoveries in history and we keep learning more about it as time goes on.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Andeans, South American Jesuit Missionaries
Quinine is an anti-malarial compound that comes from Quina-Quina Tree bark, yet somehow also made its way into tonic water over the years. We now use it in malaria-fighting drugs with great success. Jesuit Missionaries used Quinine to treat malaria in South America dating back to around 1600 AD. Yet they were not the first to even know about it. They claimed as well as several legends surrounding the tree bark that it was used to treat malaria among the native Andean population.
However, the discovery that it helped malaria was really just luck. A tale surrounding it claims that an Andean man with a fever was lost in the jungle, as he suffered from malaria. He then drank from a pool of water near the Quina-Quina tree, which seemed to help him. While it tasted bitter, his fever lessened from the water and once he made his way home, he told his people about it. This is clearly one of the greatest discoveries ever, regardless of who discovered it.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:George de Mestral
Sometimes, you stumble across something amazing when you least expect it. At least, that was the case for the Swiss Engineer, Georges de Mestral. He did not think he was going to make one of the greatest discoveries in history back in 1941, but he did just that. Essentially, George took his dog out for a walk in the Swiss Alps. Once he came home, he realized there were some small burdock burrs stuck to his clothing. He realized that they were connected due to the little seeds on them that were completely covered with small hooks.
This is clearly how they attached the fabric and fur together. This gave George an idea. What if the same types of things could be engineered into a fastening system? He saw how firmly the burrs attached and if this could be replicated into something, then boom! He did just that, effectively creating what we know today as the brand name VELCRO. It has since been used by several clothing companies as well as NASA, several Military, Fire Department, Paramedic, and Police Forces all over the world! Just to think, one of the greatest discoveries ever randomly happened after walking the dog.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Harry Coover, Jr. & Fred Joyner
In 1951, Harry Coover, Jr. made one of the single greatest discoveries in history. Yet it was not exactly his intention to discover or make Super Glue. He was actually working with clear plastic signs that were used in World War II. Mostly, he was working with a class of chemicals known as Acrylates. Yeah, the same type of stuff you see fake nails made from, ladies! While working with the stuff, Coover found that the formula he was using was far too sticky and it completely abandoned the substance it was on.
During an infamous experiment in 1951, Harry yet again worked with the acrylates. Yet during this period, he was checking into it for use on heat-resistant coating for jet cockpits. However, his colleague Fred Joyner spread one of the acrylates compounds between two lenses to examine it with a refractometer. Yet could not pull them apart afterward. Coover realized they had stumbled across something incredible. A few years later they were able to make it into a working adhesive they called “Loctite.” Today, we know it as simply, Super Glue.
Discovery Put Into Action:Around The 1860s or 1870s
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Robert Chesebrough, Pennsylvania Oil Rig Workers
Vaseline has been around for an incredibly long time. In fact, it is likely your great grandparents used it at some time or another in their lives. For years, it stood out as one of the best First Aid items everyone needed in the home. Yet this only happened because of its discovery. The man behind one of the greatest discoveries ever is Robert Chesebrough. At the time, this 22-Year-Old Chemist was investigating an oil well in Pennsylvania. Workers had complained that there was some sort of jelly-like substance called “rod wax” that had been messing with the machine.
It would get inside them, making them malfunction and thus stopping crucial oil work. Chesebrough wanted to see what he could do to remedy the problem. To his surprise, when small cuts, burns, or sores occurred on the job, workers were often putting the Rod Wax on the affected areas. It did not make a lot of sense, so he took some of it home to experiment with it. He found that the substance did indeed actually treat burns and cuts on the skin and could be used medically. This Petroleum Jelly is called Vaseline today, and has treated cuts and burns for over 150 years!
Discovery Put Into Action:Though Theorized For Decades, It Was Applied By The 1960s For NASA
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Albert Einstein
Many believe Albert Einstein is one of the single greatest thinkers and geniuses in world history. It is not hard to see why through his impressive work. One of which involves the Theory of Relativity. Honestly, it is not really even a theory anymore as it has been proven factual. It actually involves two different concepts: General Relativity & Special Relativity. They basically work hand-in-hand with each other, so we loop them into the entire Relativity sector.
Special Relativity involves an absence of gravity, while General Relativity explains the law of gravitation itself and how this relates to other forces of nature. With this, Einstein figured out that time & space were interwoven into one, single continuity that we call it Space-Time. Basically, things that happen for one viewer of an astrological event may happen at a different time for another. This same theory found that massive objects cause distortions to space-time. All of this was figured out beginning with one, iconic equation: E=MC2. This is clearly one of the world’s greatest discoveries, which even helped us go into space!
Discovery Put Into Action:Most Medical Institutions Had One By The 1900s
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Wilhelm Roentgen
A German physicist named Wilhelm Roentgen was working on a cathode ray tube one day in 1895. In spite of the tube being covered, Wilhelm noticed that a nearby fluorescent screen would glow when the tube was on, and when the room itself was dark. He was clearly seeing the rays were somehow lighting up the screen. He tried to block the rays, but most stuff he placed in front of them did not seem to stop anything.
Feeling this was weird, he would place his hand in front of the tube. In doing this, he could see the bones of his hand projected on the screen near him. Roentgen then decided to replace the tube with a photographic plate to catch these images. By doing this, he created the very first X-Rays. This technology was soon used in multiple medical institutions worldwide and would expand in the form of CAT Scans and MRIs later on. Sadly, Wilhelm and others did not realize the radiation harm of X-Rays at the time. Today, thankfully, we do and account for it. In fact, your doctor’s office or hospital will likely have a radiation exposure chart that notes how often you’ve been scanned or x-rayed to keep track of things.
Year(s) Officially Discovered:Around Roughly 1900 to the 1930s
Discovery Put Into Action:Almost Immediately, The Curie’s Knowledge Was Shared Publicly
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Marie & Pierre Curie
Both Pierre & Marie Curie made some of the greatest discoveries ever, mostly within the world of radiation. Sadly, both were drastically affected by their exposure, dying far younger than they should. Pierre died several years before Marie, but while both were alive together they discovered the elements Polonium & Radium. They’d also win a Nobel Prize for their work. Their studies on radiation went on for decades together but Curie worked for a long time without her husband too.
Her groundbreaking work in radiation led to another Nobel Prize, making her the first woman to ever become a two-time winner of the award. Among the discoveries Pierre and Marie found was that radiation could kill cancer cells. Pierre and Marie never patented anything they did together, allowing their discoveries or inventions to be used by anyone who needed it. Marie kept to this after Pierre passed, as she made the first mobile radiography units for use during World War I. We still use a form of this today, and Marie never patented the design. Both were responsible for some of the greatest discoveries in this world and aided the medical community, as well as other scientific fields for years to come.
Discovery Put Into Action:Evolution Became Known, Mostly Accepted Science By The Mid-1900s
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, Ancient Greeks
Once known as the “Theory of Evolution,” we now know it largely as a fact. Two men are most responsible for bringing evolutionary knowledge to the world. That is Alfred Russel Wallace and the infamous Charles Darwin. Both men had their theories and discoveries in the field. They came largely to the same conclusions with their work in the end. Yet neither man worked with the other on evolutionary science, funny enough. In the world of evolution, “only the strong survive.”
This means that a species must develop key traits for survival, which will only improve and/or expand for several generations. Both men were able to tell us how humanity formed and how life came to be. Clearly, this has to be among the greatest discoveries in history. Science Sensei has written extensively about Evolution in the past. If you’d like to read pretty much anything one needs to know about the field, check out our article on it.
Year(s) Officially Discovered:Late 1800s Through The 2000s
Discovery Put Into Action:The 1910s To 1940s
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Alexander Fleming, Gertrude Elion
Every antibiotic we see in the medical community today would likely not be present if not for the very first that was accidentally created/discovered by Dr. Alexander Fleming. The story goes that the Biologist was working with some Staphylococci in an effort to learn more about it and how it could be fought. He was using the fungus, Penicillin sp, at the time. Yet not with the Staph. Rather, it was simply close to it. Fleming accidentally left one of the Staph sectors exposed and the Penicillin apparently got on it, killing the Staph. He used this knowledge to create a drug that could potentially kill possible infections in humans. He’d manage to do so, releasing Penicillin and potentially saving billions of lives worldwide.
Antibiotics do not actually get rid of infections in the human body, however. For humans, they help us with the symptoms of the infection while our body removes the infection itself. This same knowledge applies to Antivirals too. There have been experimental versions of antivirals for years, but they did not ramp up until the 1980s. The originals were for treating Herpes, HIV/AIDs, and other STDs. Today, we have some that treat the flu among other viruses. Yet they have a long way to go to be as effective as antibiotics are on infections. Yet they work the same way, effectively helping with symptoms while the body rids itself of the virus.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Luc Montagnier & Robert Gallo
While we all connect HIV & AIDS today like it’s nothing…many people might forget that we did not always know the two were connected. In fact, for years we could not seem to treat AIDS because we did not really understand how it came to be. That was before the mid-1980s when France’s Luc Montagnier and the United States’ Robert Gallo made a major discovery. Through vast testing, the two men discovered the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was the ultimate cause of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome(AIDS).
This affects your body by destroying the immune system, making it next to impossible for your body to fight off any infections or disease as it should. What Montagnier & Gallo discovered was literally life-altering for millions of people affected by HIV. We can do blood tests to determine if someone has HIV. If they test positive, doctors can give them proper things to do to take precautions for themselves and avoid the spread of the disease. Today, we have drugs that help to keep the two under control with many still working on a cure for it. This is one of the greatest discoveries ever, as we’ve now been able to limit the spread…saving potentially millions of lives.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Ancient Greeks & Chinese
Painkillers in some form have been around for thousands of years. A lot of our early knowledge regarding painkillers comes from a few specific areas, Ancient Greece & Ancient China. Originally, painkillers were truly only in use for surgical procedures. Keep in mind, that they could not put people to sleep back then. This was when the Poppy Plant came into play, allowing them to create Opium. The Ancient Greeks would use it to help with surgical pains yet abuse of Opium was not really as common.
It was not until the 1500s and beyond that we would see the recreational use of Opium and major abuse issues regarding it along with other painkillers. Today, Opium is not commonly in play. Yet we have dozens of painkiller types that, in America, are over-the-counter or require a prescription. Abuse has also been lessened the last number of years due to Pain Management doctors, cutting abuse of pharmaceutical drugs immensely in the U.S. However, in spite of the problems they cause….it is clear that this is one of mankind’s greatest discoveries. Being able to treat pain is incredibly useful.
Year(s) Officially Discovered: Between 3,000 BCE to 1900s AD
Discovery Put Into Action:Immediately
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Ancient Greeks & Chinese, Hippocrates, Galen, Andreas Vesalius
Human Anatomy has been a major topic for mankind since the world can remember. Yet the biggest issue is that a lot of problems came into play. People were not being opened up and examined, and those that did open people up were not sharing a lot of those results. That was until the great doctor, Hippocrates, began opening people up for surgical procedures. He’d do so out of theories he had regarding the body, which he was right and wrong about.
Some of his surgical procedures are still in play today. Of course, we should thank several others for their work and discoveries. Galen, in spite of how wrong he was…also had some good ideas. Yet the man who likely changed the came the most is Andreas Vesalius. Not only did he prove several concepts of Hippocrates by opening up the human body, but he also disproved the ideology of Galen & Aristotle before him. By fully examining the body, Vesalius changed the game. Today, we know some of our biggest anatomical facts due to Andreas’ work. Clearly, human anatomy knowledge is one of mankind’s greatest discoveries ever!
French Chemist & Biologist Louis Pasteur made one of the greatest discoveries in world history that we still use today. He was working with dairy products and wanted to figure out how to remove some of the things that made them intolerable for people as well as why they go bad so quickly. This was when he went into his lab and figured out how to stop the problem. He found that water and specific packaged or unpackaged foods could be treated with heat to completely destroy harmful pathogens.
His concept killed bad bacteria and ultimately extended the shelf life of several items. From here, we can eliminate the risk of disease but not kill the harmful bacterial spores. Therefore, one must apply the second round of heat. Upon doing this, numerous products (mostly dairy), are now safe to eat or drink for a long time after their shelf-life. Milk and Fruit Juice, for example, are safe to drink for life! Yet they might not taste great after a while. Louis would reference his concept as Pasteurization. We still employ it today, as it is one of the greatest discoveries ever!
Discovery Put Into Action:Knowledge Was Passed On Almost Immediately
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Friedrich Miescher, Phoebus Levene & Erwin Chargaff, James Watson & Francis Crick
Not only does DNA help people in the medical world, but people apply it to Criminal Justice too. The value of DNA is not possible to measure. Let’s just say not only is it one of the greatest discoveries in world history….it is quite literally life-altering for us to know about today. There is a mixed history regarding when it was discovered. DNA itself was first identified by a Swiss Chemist named Friedrich Miescher sometime in the 1860s. Yet he did not dive into major testing on it. Two others came along after to do far more, Phoebus Levene & Erwin Chargaff.
They discovered the DNA molecule, especially its primary chemical components along with how and why they joined with each other. Two other men discovered one of the biggest parts of DNA in the 1950s. American biologist James Watson & and English biologist Francis Crick used the work of their previous biologists in DNA to find the most well-known parts of DNA today. Upon further testing, they found out the DNA molecule exists in the now-iconic form of a three-dimensional double helix. Clearly, this is one of the greatest discoveries in history, and has allowed us to do so much!
Year(s) Officially Discovered:10th Century, 1880-1885, 1922, 1933, 1952, 2006
Discovery Put Into Action:Immediately Upon Discovery
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Louis Pasteur, Jonas Salk, Albert Calmette, Camille Guerin, Edward Jenner, David Smith, Ian Frazier
Immunization concepts date back thousands of years. Ancient cultures used to isolate men, women, and children that were sick from other people. They might be visited by doctors/medicine men, or they might not. Once people died from something, they were often burned in hopes they would not spread disease. People would burn some entire villages down. That was until the Ancient Chinese would form ways to help in the 10 Century regarding Smallpox. Yet, a smallpox vaccine would not come into play until 1976 due to Edward Jenner. Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine for Cholera in 1880, Anthrax in 1881, and Rabies in 1885.
Year(s) Officially Discovered:??? to 20,000 B.C. For Speaking, Roughly 3,500 to 3,000 For Writing
Discovery Put Into Action:Immediately
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Unknown For Speaking, Someone From Urak For Writing
Discovering how to communicate with your fellow man is something we have been capable of for a long time. However, it is uncertain how long we’ve had languages where many understood what was being said or signaled. Many believe this dates back to at least 20,000 B.C. at the latest. However, while we did make drawings that were supposedly present to communicate specific material to people, actual written language would take several thousands of years to develop.
The first known written language was Cuneiform, which was developed somewhere between 3,500 to 3,000 B.C. It seems to have been formed by someone from the Sumerian City of Urak. Everyone in the Mesopotamian area used it from the Sumerians to the Akkadians, Babylonians, Elamites, Hatti, Hittites, Assyrians, and Hurrians. It was the main language used in the territory until roughly 100 B.C. Yet other written languages were present for years.
Year(s) Officially Discovered:Over 1 Million Years Ago
Discovery Put Into Action:Immediately
Team/Person Behind The Discovery:Unknown Homo Erectus Species
“Fire” has been around for millions of years, but humans did not discover its use of it immediately. In fact, Homo Sapiens did not discover fire at all. It is said that we can date fire being used to cook food as far back as 1 million years ago, which means Homo Sapiens would not have been present at the time. Rather, we were the Homo Erectus species at the time. It was widespread in use 50 to 100,000 years ago for cooking food and staying warm, along with keeping predators away from us.
With the ability to control fire, we were able to grow and eventually combine small tribes into larger ones as time passed. This revolutionary change is likely what ultimately separated humans from the rest of the Hominina family. This is important to reference, as mankind would not be in the place we’re in today without the discovery and control of fire. It is not just one of the greatest discoveries ever… it is the officially greatest, full stop!
EVEN MORE OF THE GREATEST DISCOVERIES THAT CHANGED SCIENCE FOREVER
Gene Editing (CRISPR)
Year(s) Officially Discovered:1990s
Discovery Put Into Action: By 2015
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans, Oliver Smithies, Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Feng Zhang
Genome or Gene Editing is one of the world’s greatest discoveries that we’re now trying to perfect with new technology on a consistent basis. Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans, and Oliver Smithies used a form of gene-targeting, which used embryonic stem cells on mice to perform Homologous recombination. Essentially it recombines genetics, allowing one to alter genes and put them back into working order. It won them the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
While gene-editing was initially discovered in the 1990s, then impressive things happened within the community, it would not become a prominent area until around 2012 when something known as CRISPR-Case9 was developed. We now just refer to it as CRISPR, but using the gene-editing discovery, American scientist Jennifer Doudna & French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier developed the technology. We can now alter genes, possibly allowing for some amazing changes in humanity.
Year(s) Officially Discovered: Between 5,000 to 2,000 B.C.
Discovery Put Into Action: Immediately
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Eratosthenes, Claudius Ptolemy, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, Galileo Galilei, Giovanni Cassini, Isaac Newton, Christiaan Huygens, Edmond Halley, Charles Messier, Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Henrietta Swann Leavitt, William Herschel, Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein, Frank Drake, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking
We should first reference that Astrology and Astronomy are not the same things. However, they used to be heavily connected and you could claim they were the same thing for centuries. Yet we eventually separated from this to create two different fields. A lot of people are to thank for Astronomy today, especially as it began to enter the world of Astrophysics. It seems that the major change and separation happened in the late B.C. era and by the ADs, Astronomy was a huge scientific field.
That is where you see the likes of Newton, Halley, Kepler, Hubble, Hawking, and Einstein come into play. To them, anything related to space overall as well as a lot of the things having to do with the planet was connected to Astronomy. In the original meaning, Astronomy was merely the study of the stars. This clearly expanded and allowed us to see some of the most critical things related to life, how we’re here, what keeps us here, plus much much more.
Year(s) Officially Discovered: The 16th Century Roughly, But Forms Of Both Go Back To Ancient Greece
Discovery Put Into Action: Immediately
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: [Probability]Blaise Pascal, Pierre de Fermat, Christiaan Huygens, Jakob Bernoulli, Abraham de Moivre, Pierre de Laplace, A. Kolmogorov [Statistics] Al-Khalil, Ibn Adlan, Giovanni Villani, Karl Pearson, Francis Galton, William Sealy Gosset, Roger Cotes, Tobias Mayer, Roger Joseph Boscovich, William Playfair, Florence Nightingale, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, Ronald Fisher, Egon Pearson, Jerzy Neyman, Charles Spearman
Several people contributed to both Probability & Statistics. While the two are both different forms of mathematics, they are essentially something that goes beyond math itself. Since they can be applied to so many things on a specific level, they are key to numerous areas of science, politics, and much more. They are not the exact same thing, but they work very well together which is why they are often looped.
You need probability to make a lot of statistical analysis work, so they must be connected a lot. That said, they were discovered at different points. Probability would not come about until the 17th Century officially while Statistics, as we know them today, was not discovered until the 19th Century. Their co-mingling has led to several advancements in numerous areas, and it’s all thanks to the people we referenced above. Clearly, these are some of the greatest discoveries ever.
Year(s) Officially Discovered: Between 384-322 B.C.
Discovery Put Into Action: By The Late B.C. Era
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Ancient Greeks, Ancient Egyptians, Aristotle
Biology, in the way we know it today, is a natural science that studies life and all living organisms. This includes their molecular structure, physical structure, physiological mechanisms, chemical processes, and overall development/evolution. In Biology, the cell is the basic unit of life, genes, and all known things that allowed for the creation & evolution of all species. While Ancient Greeks & Egyptians were the first to do any studies on numerous areas of Biology, they did not invent it.
Rather, the person most responsible for the invention of Biology is the great teacher himself, Aristotle. He began writing about Biology in the 300s B.C. era. His first write-up on Biological material was his book on the History of Animals. In it, he focused on biological causation and the diversity of life in general. His work would, obviously, be added to extensively over the next few thousand years. Yet without him, a lot of our initial biological knowledge might have taken far longer to come along.
Year(s) Officially Discovered: 8,000 to 5,000 B.C.
Discovery Put Into Action: Immediately
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Aristotle, Archimedes of Syracuse, Leonardo da Vinci, Heron of Alexandria, Issac Newton, Richard Arkwright, Issac Newton, Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Nikola Tesla, Karl Benz, Michael Faraday, Thomas Edison, Zhang Heng
Mechanics of any kind date back thousands of years, all the way to some of the first Ancient Societies. Some first cities like Jericho were completely invested in mechanics. In fact, Jericho’s historic wall had sections where you had to lower a portion so people could get in and out. That takes a level of mechanical or engineering knowledge. While they were huge in the field, several other Ancient societies were too. Most notably, the Ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Egyptians.
Mechanics and early engineering are connected heavily to physics, which is an area of study with numerous amazing scientists involved. Yet those who truly stood out in mechanics overall include the likes of Aristotle, Archimedes of Syracuse, Leonardo da Vinci, Heron of Alexandria, Issac Newton, Richard Arkwright, as well as numerous inventors of some of our most notable tech. Galileo, Kepler, Einstein, and so many others helped us even perfect the industry to what we see today.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Kitab al-manazir, Albert Einstein, Issac Newton, Michael Faraday, Hermann von Helmholtz, Roger Bacon, Joseph Priestley, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Joseph Lister, Peter Barlow, Lord Ralyeigh
When you hear about “optics,” many think of it as what we see. But rather, it is from the realm of physics and has to do with the behavior and properties of light itself, as well as its interaction with matter & the construction of instruments used to detect it. Specifically, optics target the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Of course, light is connected to electromagnetic waves, therefore, it is connected to electromagnetic radiation such as x-rays, microwaves, and radio waves.
We utilize optical knowledge to develop scopes for guns, eyeglasses, and even cameras. We figured out a long time ago how light operates with other properties like crystal and even glass. Due to this, we are able to make devices that, in a way, manipulate light to give us things we view other things through. However, lasers are also born from optics knowledge as they too have to use some form of light to operate. From the non-lethal light version to those used in surgeries, all optic-connected.
Year(s) Officially Discovered: Roughly, the 19th Century
Discovery Put Into Action: Most Work In The Field Began By The 1970s/80s
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Noam Chomsky
Some might assume that Linguistics is as old as writing or discussion, yet it’s not. However, it is one of our greatest discoveries and essentially inventions. Linguistics happens to be the study of language, full stop. Yet this study involves a lot of things, such as language form, meaning, and context. It also involves the analysis of how language is used in social, anthropological, historical, and political sectors. It is especially concerned with how language influences others.
Traditionally, a specific Linguist would study how humans interact by observing the relationship between sound and the meaning behind it. Linguistic knowledge has given us critical information regarding these connections, such as the field of semantics, sarcasm, and the principle discipline of pragmatics. Then you have theoretical linguists who try to understand patterns and structures that allow them to describe something specific. Such as a person’s true belief versus a lie.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Ancient Greeks & Egyptians, Adam Smith
Economics is truly a huge field and likely one of our greatest discoveries ever. Unlike others on this list, it is connected to the world of social science rather than natural science. It involves the study of how people interact with value overall. That includes production, distribution, and even consumption of goods and services. Economists tend to study how the behavior and interactions of economic agents & economics in general connect.
This can involve the larger world of economics (Macroeconomics) such as how the world handles trade, tariffs, GDP, labor, land, capital, inflation, economic growth, etc. Meanwhile, in Microeconomics, you’ll study the household, firms, buying and selling, etc. It was Adam Smith, the Father of Capitalism, that truly helped us separate Economics as its own thing. While the Ancient Greeks & Egyptians understood the basics of it, Smith was truly the pioneer of what we connect to economics today.
White Light Spectrum Is A Mixture Of Distinct Colored Rays
Year(s) Officially Discovered: 1666
Discovery Put Into Action: It took over 100 more years
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Issac Newton
People often miss the fact that a lot of major inventions and discoveries came out of the greatest discoveries ever by Issac Newton. He found that the white light spectrum is a mixture of distinct colored rays. We know that might seem like gibberish, but this is what it means. Using a prism, Newton was able to find that the red light deviated consistently less than the violet light, which is pretty big.
It meant that when white light passes through something transparent (such as air), into another (such as glass), light components are deflected for the first time all based on color. The same occurs when they reemerge. That, in turn, makes colored light rays from red to violet. From this, Newton developed the White Light Spectrum, which consists of the colors red, orange, green, blue, & violet. In spite of his work, Newton did not know why it did this. Thomas Young would come into play 100 years later to give us the answer.
Team/Person Behind The Discovery: Michael Faraday & James Stoddart (only for the steel)
Michael Faraday is one of the world’s greatest inventors, yet he also discovered a lot of important things too. One of the first he along with James Stoddart found was massive. The two discovered that alloying iron with chromium will produce a form of stainless steel that is resistant to oxidizing elements (basically, rust). This was huge and became a staple for several knives and other cutlery that we use today both outdoors and indoors. That’s along with a wide variety of other things too.
Alone, Faraday found that the production of an electromotive force across an electric conductor will change the magnetic field. This became known as electromagnetic induction and helped to give rise to numerous machines that Faraday would later be credited with creating. Moreover, his work pioneered what we see in mechanics and engineering, as this helped us form motors. Basically, all travel we know today is thanks to Faraday’s work. Clearly, these are some of the greatest discoveries of all time.