Over the past two centuries, many people have used their knowledge, skills, and experience in order to create a host of inventions that have made the world a much better place for us to live.
Here are eight paramount discoveries and innovations that have improved our standard of living and have given us the opportunity to pursue our personal and business endeavors in a more comfortable and prosperous fashion.
- Paper money, invented by China, kickstarted economies by removing the need to barter with goods.
- Vaccinations helped reduce illness and deaths, and local anesthesia made surgeries easier for patients.
- The first automobile is believed to have been invented by Karl and Bertha Benz.
- The first digital computer was created in 1937.
Banknote (Paper Currency): Tang Dynasty of China—7th Century
China is not only credited with having invented paper, but it is also generally recognized as the first country in the world to use paper money. The paper money system helped improve economies worldwide by moving them away from bartering.
Vaccinations: Edward Jenner—1796
Edward Jenner's work is widely regarded as the foundation of immunology. Jenner is well renowned worldwide for his innovative contribution to immunization and the ultimate eradication of smallpox.
Local Anesthesia: William Morton—1846
William Morton was one of the first individuals to demonstrate how ether could be used to remove the pain of operations. His use of anesthesia was displayed at a public demonstration to the surgeons of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Oct. 16, 1846, where John Collins Warren excised a tumor from a patient's neck. William Morton wasn't necessarily the first to discover or invent anesthetics, but his name is most commonly referenced when speaking of the first practitioners to use the drug. In fact, for several years, various controversies and litigation surrounded the credit for the development of anesthesia.
Antibiotics: Alexander Fleming—1928
Alexander Fleming discovered the active substance he termed "penicillin" while working on the influenza virus. Fleming made this discovery by observing that mold had developed accidentally on a staphylococcus culture plate and that the mold had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. He was inspired to experiment further and found that a mold culture prevented the growth of staphylococci, which verified his discovery. To this day, penicillin is used to treat a host of bacterial infections.
Food and Drink
Pasteurization: Louis Pasteur—1862
Louis Pasteur developed the process now known as "pasteurization," which is a process of heating food to a specific temperature for a definite length of time and then cooling it immediately to reduce the number of viable pathogens that may cause disease. Dairy products, canned foods, juices, syrups, water, and wines are the primary products that are pasteurized today.
Modern Automobile: Karl Benz—1886
Karl Benz patented all of the processes that made the internal combustion engine feasible for use in cars. Karl Benz and his wife, Bertha Ringer Benz, were the founders of the Mercedes-Benz automobile manufacturing company.
Modern Alternating Current Electrical Supply System: Nikola Tesla—1891
Nikola Tesla filed for seven U.S. patents in the field of polyphase alternating current motors and power transmission. Tesla's patents comprised a complete system of generators, transformers, transmission lines, motors, and lighting. Tesla is also credited with the invention of the radio. However, a patent dispute with the Marconi Company resulted, ultimately leading to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for Tesla after his death.
Electronic Digital Computer: John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry—1937
John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry constructed the first electronic computer with vacuum tubes while working for Iowa State College. The Atanasoff-Berry computer was the first digital computer. It introduced the concepts of binary arithmetic, regenerative memory, and logic circuits. The Atanasoff-Berry machine never reached the production stage and remained a prototype.
While this list consists of well-known and distinguished inventors, it is important to note that their works were built upon the ideas and labor of many people in order to create the final product or service that we enjoy and use today. Many of the contributors to a key invention or innovation often go unremembered and uncompensated. Hopefully, governments worldwide will strive to resolve this problem by implementing a more equitable patent system.
The most recent significant step toward accomplishing this goal in patent law was the passage of the America Invents Act on Sept. 16, 2011. The passage of this Act moved the U.S. patent system from a "first to invent" to a "first to file" system, which means that all parties know upfront that if they have a good idea for an invention, they need to be the first to file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to protect their intellectual property rights. Passage of this Act also eliminated delays previously experienced through interference proceedings and allowed a patented product to come to market in an expedited manner.
What Can Be Invented To Make Life Easier?
If you can think of something that makes life easier, you can probably create it. Computers, design applications, three-dimensional printers, and other technological innovations make the creation process much easier now than in the past.
What Is One Invention That Makes Life Easier?
It depends on your outlook and life circumstances. Not everyone would agree on a single invention; however, life without chairs to sit on would indeed be uncomfortable.
What Inventions Changed Life?
There are hundreds of inventions that have changed the way we live. One of the most significant was agriculture, which moved us from hunter/gatherers to farmers and reduced human migratory patterns.
The Bottom Line
For current entrepreneurs, the 2011 change in U.S. patent law, with the use of low-cost, powerful personal computers and the affordability of the ever-expanding internet, should provide a much greater business environment for establishing a successful small business.
We have already seen a number of relatively new and successful companies that have benefited from online intangible business models. Examples include Google, Amazon, eBay, YouTube, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Wikipedia, and PayPal, to name a few. With the U.S.'s progressive patent law, new online businesses have an additional advantage for establishing a successful small business operation.