Most Influential Inventors of the 20th Century

Thomas Edison became known as the father of invention from the time he created the incandescent light bulb in the late 19th century. As the 20th century commenced, other inventors began creating items to make life easier for the working man, as well as creating a society where leisure activities became the norm for all. The most influential inventors of the 20th century helped pave the way for items used in the 21st century.

Wright Brothers

Orville and Wilber Wright changed the way people traveled from one place to another with they invented the first flying machine. These small-town boys from Dayton, Ohio, always had an imaginative spirit and jacks of all trades. Before becoming the “Firsts in Flight,” they constructed a printing press and worked in a bicycle repair and sales shop. Their bike business helped fund their flying experiments. Their early flying inventions included an 1899 kite and gliders. The Wright Brothers headed to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903 and tested their flying machine. They performed four flights, with the best cleared 852 feet in 59 seconds.

George Washington Carver 

George Washington Carver was born in 1864, just as the Civil War drew to a close. Carver became one of the greatest African-America farmers, inventors and scientists. At the turn of the 20th century, he conducted numerous experiments using sweet potatoes and, of course, peanuts. He created 325 products from peanuts, more than 100 products from sweet potatoes and hundreds of products from other plants. Some peanut-based products include cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics gasoline and nitroglycerin. He was one of the first farmers to advocate sustainable agriculture as a way of preserving soil. One of his peanut products even protected farms from boll weevils. He met three presidents in his lifetime – Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt.

Henry Ford 

Henry Ford, the man responsible for classic cars like the Model T, invented the conveyer-belt assembly line, revolutionizing the automobile industry. Thanks to his invention at the beginning of the 20th century, workers produced more cars, learned specialized skills needed on the line and decreased work hours. Before becoming a great inventor of the century, he grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, spending his days in school or working on the farm. He left his small town and headed to Detroit in 1879, where he worked as a machinist and owned a sawmill. He worked for Edison Illuminating Company. He incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and the modern-day auto industry was born.

Philo T. Farnsworth

Though Scottish inventor and engineer John Logie Baird developed a television and demonstrated a moving object in 1927, Philo T. Farnsworth developed many important components, holding more than 300 patents in the United States and other countries. While he was still in high school, he sketched an image dissector vacuum tube for his chemistry teacher, the tube that would later change television. Other objects he created included the focusing systems, controls, cold cathode ray tube and all-electric camera tube. Farnsworth successors added to his inventions. Even HD, digital and satellite television still have components invented by him. 

The 20th century experienced a surge of inventions, making it hard to narrow it down to select individuals. The inventors mentioned above, though, paved the way for inventors of the late 20th and early 21st century. Where it not for them, we would still be living in the dark ages and traveling by horse and buggy.