Quick….when you hear the term “best inventors of all time,” who immediately comes to mind? Ben Franklin might be one, Thomas Edison, or even daVinci. Oh, but the Wright Brothers were also innovative geniuses, and who could forget about the great Nikola Tesla? The point is this: a list of the best inventors in all of history is an incredibly subjective one, and could vary wildly depending on who you ask – and depending on that person’s interpretation of the best-ever inventions. Below is Quirky’s list of mankind’s smartest and most successful minds who dreamed up, innovated and invented products that not many of us could or would not want to live without.
Let’s start from the beginning…
Archimedes – first on our list, this genius scientist and engineer was born in Syracuse, Sicily, in the year 287 B.C. Not much is known about Archimedes’ family or life in general, but it is documented that he traveled to the city of Alexandria in Egypt to study under other great minds of the time and then returned to Syracuse where he began inventing mathematical and industrial miracles. Sadly, in 212 B.C.,
Archimedes was struck dead by a soldier of the Roman general Marcellus during a siege in Syracuse when he refused to be taken away while ruminating on a mathematical problem. Among his many achievements, most notably, Archimedes helped to create the science of mechanics, the estimation of Pi as well as the concept of center of gravity and the Archimedes Screw, a hollow cylinder containing a handled winding screw that was used to pump water out of sinking ships as well as pumping water from flat lands into irrigation systems without much effort. Archimedes invented both physically useful inventions and theories of thought that helped to mold the modern world, which makes him a great inventor and innovator in our book.
Leonardo da Vinci – born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy, this world-renowned artist, intellectual and inventor during the Renaissance era concocted futuristic ideas and inventions that were far beyond his day and age. After a lifetime of traveling around Italy, learning, painting and inventing, da Vinci died at the age of 67 in France on May 2, 1519. Da Vinci is most famous for his artistic masterpieces like the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, but was actually a brilliant inventor who dreamed up ideas centuries beyond his current day’s technology. There were many, many inventions, including the basic engineering plans for a helicopter, parachute, clock and idea city. Many during da Vinci’s time believed he was crazy for his outlandish ideas, but hundreds of years later many of the workings of his imaginations have come true. So, the glory goes to da Vinci and all his haters have long been left in the dust.
Benjamin Franklin – Ben was born in Boston on January 17, 1706, to a soap maker and was one of his father’s 17 total children. He lived a life of philanthropy, public service, invention and constant learning, and passed away in 1790 at the age of 84 in Philadelphia. With an ever-present zest for bettering the lives of mankind, his greatest innovative contributions to society ranged from mapping the Gulf Stream, to bifocal glasses, to his claim to fame, the lightning rod. He was also one of the Founding Fathers of our great country – if inventing a country doesn’t count towards Franklin’s elite inventor status, nothing else will! He never patented a single one of his inventions and cherished the creative spirit of the American people, saying, "we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”
Thomas Edison – He was born on February 11, 1847, to a middle-class family in Milan, Ohio. He did not learn to speak until four years of age, but once the learning began, there was no stopping this brilliant mind. Edison died on October 18, 1931 in New Jersey at the age of 84, the same age as his inventor predecessor, Ben Franklin. A sort-of heavyweight in the realm of inventions, Edison created products that literally changed the world he lived in and our modern day society, producing mind-blowingly innovative inventions such as the phonograph, the light bulb and the original motion picture, plus many more. It should be obvious to see why Edison made it to our list of the greatest inventors of all time.
Nikola Tesla – Tesla, who patented 700 inventions, was born in what is now Croatia on July 10th in 1856 and died in New York City in 1943. His greatest invention, the alternating current, is the foundation of our modern electrical system. He sold the patent for AC to inventor George Westinghouse who produced Tesla’s system and and partnered with the brilliant inventor, changing the course of the world forever. An intellectual war broke out between Tesla/Westinghouse and another great inventor on our list, Thomas Edison, who did everything in his power to prove that Tesla’s current was a killer current by electrocuting hundreds of animals. Nikola stayed true to his invention and continued on to invent a hydroelectric alternating current system at Niagara Falls, the wireless transmission of electricity and far more.
The Wright Brothers – Wilbur, the oldest of the pair, was born in April 1867, and Orville was born almost five years later in August of 1871. The two always had a love for bicycles and created their own design – mechanical knowledge which undoubtedly assisted their miraculous invention. Unfortunately, Wilbur’s life was cut short when he contracted typhoid fever and died in April of 1912. Orville outlived his brother by more than 30 years, passing away in January of 1948. Between 1899 and 1905, the brothers created the first “practical airplane” after many trial and error flights and reconstructions of their original glider plane, among other inventions, but none as obviously life-altering as the airplane. The two brothers single-handedly changed the future of travel for people all over the world for years to come.
Of course, there are numerous other inventors whose achievements are incredibly noteworthy who aren’t identified on this list – you could even join the club one day as a future great inventor! Let us know in the comments below which other bright minds would be highlighted on your list of our world’s greatest inventors. We tip our hats to our history’s most brilliant, talented and determined innovators, and to the inventors and inventions yet to be!
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