50 Revolutionary Breakthroughs

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From contraceptives to a device that showed us the stars, we count fifty revolutionary breakthroughs that have changed the world!

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Invented in the 12th century, the compass had a huge impact on early navigation and exploration. Prior to this invention, mariners used the stars to navigate. Of course, nowadays compasses have been rendered obsolete by GPS.

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49The contraceptive pill was approved by the FDA in the early 1960s and it quickly launched a sexy social revolution. For better or worse, attitudes towards promiscuity and pre-marital sex changed radically with this invention, and it is thought to have given millions of women more options.

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48Before its début in 1876, the telephone must’ve seemed like some crazy sci-fi concept. The device allowed our voices to travel, radically improving how connected we were with other communities.

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47In 1913, the assembly line turned a craft-based economy into a mass-market one. Productivity increased exponentially with this innovation, and the human race became a little more drone-like.

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46Man has manipulated plant species almost as long as he’s grown them, but early in the 20th century scientists discovered a forgotten 1866 paper by Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel that unlocked the secrets of plant breeding.

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45Alcohol and herbal remedies were technically the first forms of anaesthesia. However, in 1846 the thing we now know as general anaesthesia was created, bringing significant advances to surgical technique. Before anaesthesia, many patients chose death over surgery because the pain was unbearable.

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44Conceived sometime in the second millennium B.C., nails revolutionised the world by allowing us to build sustainable shelter. This improved productivity and contributed to longer life expectancies. Things have gotten better because of nails; however, we must be wary not to create a board with a nail in it so big it destroys us all.

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43This one may seem like a mere luxury, but air-conditioning, invented in 1902, actually saves lives during heatwaves. Would anyone start a business in Houston or Bangalore without one?

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42Invented in the third millennium b.c., the abacus is one of the first devices to augment human intelligence. It’s a deceptively simple calculating tool still used the world over and is an especially useful learning device for the visually impaired.

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41In early human history, money came in the form of precious metals, coins or raw materials like crops or livestock. The 11th century introduction of paper money ushered in a bold new era. Although the object itself isn’t worth much, paper money is the abstraction at the core of the modern economy.

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