The twentieth century was a remarkable time for inventions. It was the century when life as our grandfathers and great-grandfathers knew it would change beyond recognition. So who were the most influential inventors of the 20th century?
Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931)
Thomas Alva Edison is rightly revered as the man who brought electricity to the world. However, that’s not all Edison did – he registered 1,093 patents in his life time. Edison also developed the Vitascope, which was the first step towards motion pictures, and produced the first reliable dictaphone, as well as inventing the storage battery.
He almost invented the telephone, but Alexander Graham Bell got there first. Well, it’s only fitting that someone called Bell should invent the telephone! When Edison died in October 1931, people all over the world dimmed their lights or turned off their electric as a tribute to the man who lit up the 20th century.
Orville (1871 – 1948) and Wilbur (1867 – 1912) Wright
If Edison shone a light on the 20th century, then the Wright Brothers – Orville and Wilbur – took it to the heights. In 1903, the Wright Flyer became the world’s first successful aeroplane, and on New Year’s Eve 1908, Wilbur flew for a record 2 hours, 19 minutes over Le Mans, France. These days, it’s possible to fly all over the world, thanks to the Wright Brothers’ foresight.
Alexander Graham Bell (1847- 1922)
Although Bell actually invented the telephone in 1876 and died when the 20th century was still fairly new and shiny, his work on telecommunications paved the way for the Internet. Telecommunications have come a long way since Bell made his first long distance call in 1884, between Boston, Massechusetts and New York City.
Bell also invented the microphone – you know, the thing that becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of karaoke wannabes all over the world. However, we shouldn’t hold that against him!
Tim Berners-Lee (1955 -)
Berners-Lee was only one of the people responsible for bringing the Internet into homes all over the world, but it was his work that gave us the Internet as we know it today. He developed Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and came up with the Universal Resource Identifier (URI), which later became known as the Universal Resource Locator (URL), as well as a web browser and web server.
Tim Berners-Lee’s influence on the twentieth, and twenty-first centuries cannot be overstressed. He has changed the working, studying and leisuretime habits of an entire generation. The Internet as we know it has been around for a mere 20 years, yet its impact on daily life all over the world is significant.
These inventors are particularly influential because their work has shaped the twentieth century as we know it, and their original inventions have enabled giant leaps in technology over the last fifty years or so. Apart from Tim Berners-Lee, they are now dead, but their influence will live forever.