Most Influential Inventors in Recorded History

by Jonathan Hobratsch

The following are list of influential inventors from world history .  Anyone listed in my scientist, philosopher or leader lists will not be mentioned here. Everyone on this list is a candidate for inclusion for my eventual list of top 100 most influential people of all time. Others could be added to this list at some point. 

This list was particularly difficult since it wasn’t clear who was more important, the person that conceived of the invention (but never put it together), or the person that put together a primitive version of the invention that did not work well, or the person who created the first successful and practical version of the invention. In most cases, I went with the latter; although, in some instances, it felt more natural to take someone earlier in the process. 

You may notice that the list is very Western-centric and that it lacks ancient inventors. There are many reasons for this. For the great ancient civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Central America, the names of their groundbreaking inventors are mostly unknown. It is a shame we do not know who invented the wheel, the number zero, or methods for practical agriculture. Also, a lot of ancient inventors are legendary, and I only include historical people. Some older inventors are on my previous list for scientists and philosophers. Some inventions from civilizations outside of the West did not spread outside their region; therefore, the influential–and independently invented–Western variation proved to be more influential. 

As with my previous list, to be considered one of the most influential people in world history, a person must obviously have done three things: a) done something to significantly and permanently alter the world, b) left an influence that is still greatly felt in 2016, and c) the influence must be directly or indirectly worldwide, and not just regional or national. 

Please let me know if I am missing someone from this list and/or if I am missing something from my criteria for inclusion. Here is the list below:

Cai Lun (50-120) invented paper.

Zhang Heng (78-139) invented the seismometer.

Yi Xing (683-727) for the celestial globe and the mechanical clock.

Fatima al-Fihri (c. 859) founded the first university.

Bi Sheng (990-1051) invented the first known movable type for printing. Although, it was not as practical as a mass-producing printers, such as the one invented later by Gutenberg.

Johannes Gutenberg (c.1398-1468) for introducing mechanical moving type to Europe with his printing press. Also, he was the originator of numerous printing press contributions. He is famous for creating and printing the Gutenberg Bible, the first famous mass-produced book in history.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) came up with early designs for the tank, parachute, helicopter, concentrated solar power, the adding machine and more. However, none of these were made until centuries after his death. He is much more known as one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance. His Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous portrait in history.

Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) invented the piano.

William Addis (1734-1808) invented the toothbrush.

James Watt (1736-1819) invented the first practical steam engine and developed the concept of horsepower.

Joseph-Michel Montgolfier (1740-1810) and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier (1745-1799) invented the hot air balloon.

Nicolas Appert (1749-1841) invented canned food.

Robert Fulton (1765-1815) developed the first commercially successful steamboat.

Eli Whitney (1765-1825) invented the cotton gin.

Nicephore Niepce (1765-1833) invented photography.

Jacob Perkins (1766-1849) invented the first practical refrigerator.

Humphrey Davy (1778-1829) invented the mining lamp for miners. It should also be noted that he found several alkali and alkali earth metals, such as sodium, potassium and calcium.

Rene Laennec (1781-1826) invented the stethoscope.

George Stephenson (1781-1848) invented the first inter-city public railway line to use a steam locomotives.

Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) invented the daguerreotype.

Samuel Morse (1791-1872) invented Morse code.

Rowland Hill (1795-1879) invented the postage stamp.

Charles Goodyear (1800-1860) for vulcanizing rubber.

Louis Braille (1809-1852) for inventing braille.

Henry Bessemer (1813-1898) for the Bessemer steel-manufacturing process.

Samuel Colt (1814-1862) invented the first mass produced revolver that was commercially viable.

Richard Jordan Gatling (1818-1903) invented the first successful machine gun.

Elias Howe (1819-1867) invented the sewing machine.

Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891) for the creation of the first urban sewer system.

Nikolaus Otto (1832-1891) invented the internal-combustion engine.

Gottlieb Daimler (1834-1900) invented the first high-speed petrol engine.

Louis Le Prince (1841-1890) invented the first movie camera and shot the first movies.

Karl Benz (1844-1929) invented the first automobile that used an internal combustion engine.

Fyodor Pirotsky (1845-1898) invented the first railway electrification system.

Whitcomb Judson (1846-1909) invented the zipper.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) invented the first practical telephone.

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) invented the first practical incandescent light bulb and the phonograph.

Charles Dow (1851-1902) invented the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

George Eastman (1854-1932) invented roll film.

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) designed the modern alternating current (AC) electric supply system.

Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) invented the diesel engine.

Willem Einthoven (1860-1927) invented the first practical electrocardiogram.

Waldemar Haffkine (1860-1930) invented a vaccine for cholera and bubonic plague.

Orville Wright (1871-1948) and Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) invented the first successful airplane.

Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) invented the radio.

Willis Carrier (1876-1950) invented the air conditioner.

Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945) invented the first liquid-fueled rocket.

Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956) invented the process for modern frozen foods.

John Loglie Baird (1888-1946) invented the color television.

Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972) invented the first successful mass produced helicopter.

Percy Spencer (1894-1969) invented the microwave oven.

J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) developed the atomic bomb.

Philo Farnsworth (1906-1971) invented the first fully functioning television.

Sergei Korolev (1907-1966) is the “Father of Practical Astronautics” for his development of Sputnik.

J. Presper Eckert (1919-1995) and John Mauchly (1907-1980) invented the first general-purpose electronic digital computer (ENIAC).

Nikolay Basov (1922-2001) invented the laser and maser.

Ralph Baer (1922-2014) the “Father of Video Games”

Jack Kilby (1923-2005) invented the integrated circuit and the handheld calculator.

Martin Cooper (1928) for the first handheld cell phone.

Pier Giorgio Perotto (1930-2002) invented the first personal computer.

Charles Kao (1933) known as the “Godfather of Broadband” for development of fiber optics in telecommunications.

Thomas Chang (1933) invented the first artificial cell.

Chuck Hull (1939) invented the 3-D printer.

William Dobelle (1941-2004) invented the artificial eye.

Vic Hayes (1941) is considered the “Father of Wi-Fi”

Tim Berners-Lee (1955) invented the World Wide Web.

Jimmy Wales (1966) creator of Wikipedia.

Andrew Weinreich (c.1970) created the first successful social networking site.

Sergey Brin (1973) and Larry Page (1973) for Google search engine.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Great job! Glad you mentioned Le Prince. I think even Godard failed to mention him in his Histoire(s) du cinema (my favorite film ever), but that may be because less was known about Le Prince at the time of its making (1988-1998).



    Liked by 1 person

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