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Timeline of historic inventions

File:Handtiegelpresse von 1811.jpg
The 15th-century invention of the printing press with movable type by the German Johannes Gutenberg is widely regarded as the most influential event of the modern era.[1]

The timeline of historic inventions is a chronological list of particularly important or significant technological inventions and the people who created the inventions.

Note: Dates for inventions are often controversial. Inventions are often invented by several inventors around the same time, or may be invented in an impractical form many years before another inventor improves the invention into a more practical form. Where there is ambiguity, the date of the first known working version of the invention is used here.


Note that the dates in the Paleolithic era are approximate and refer to the earliest discovered use of an invention, and are likely to change as more research is done and older sites are found. Similarly, the locations listed are for the site where the earliest example to date has been found, but in most cases there is little certainty how close that may be to where the invention actually first took place.

1st millennium BC

6th century BC

File:Trispastos scheme.svg
With the Greco-Roman trispastos ("three-pulley-crane"), the simplest ancient crane, a single man tripled the weight he could lift than with his muscular strength alone.[31]

5th century BC

3rd century BC

File:Making Paper 4.PNG
An illustration depicting the papermaking process in Han Dynasty China.

2nd century BC

File:Museum für Antike Schiffahrt, Mainz 02. Spritsail.jpg
The earliest fore-and-aft rigs, spritsails, appeared in the 2nd century BC in the Aegean Sea on small Greek craft.[50] Here a spritsail used on a Roman merchant ship (3rd century AD).
  • 2nd century BC: Paper in Han Dynasty China: Although it is recorded that the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) court eunuch Cai Lun (born c. 50 – AD 121) invented the pulp papermaking process and established the use of new raw materials used in making paper, ancient padding and wrapping paper artifacts dating to the 2nd century BC have been found in China, the oldest example of pulp papermaking being a map from Fangmatan, Gansu.[51]

1st century BC

1st millennium AD

2nd century

3rd century

File:Römische Sägemühle.svg
Schematic of the Roman Hierapolis sawmill. Dated to the 3rd century AD, it is the earliest known machine to incorporate a crank and connecting rod mechanism.[68][69][70]

4th century

  • 4th century: Field mill in Ancient China, first mentioned in the Yezhongji, or 'Record of Affairs at the Capital Ye of the Later Zhao Dynasty' written by Lu Hui in the 4th century, describing a field mill built by two engineers, Xie Fei and Wei Mengbian.[75]
  • 4th century: Fishing reel in Ancient China: In literary records, the earliest evidence of the fishing reel comes from a 4th-century AD[76] work entitled Lives of Famous Immortals'.[77]
  • 4th–5th century: Paddle wheel boat (in De rebus bellicis) in Roman Empire[78]
  • 4th century: Stirrups in Ancient China: The first dependable representation of a rider with paired stirrups was found in China in a Jin Dynasty tomb of about AD 322.[79][80][81] The stirrup appeared to be in widespread use across China by AD 477.[82]

5th century

6th century

7th century

  • 7th century: Porcelain in Tang Dynasty China: True porcelain was manufactured in northern China from roughly the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century, while true porcelain was not manufactured in southern China until about 300 years later, during the early 10th century.[96]

9th century

File:Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba.jpg
A Mongol bomb thrown against a charging Japanese samurai during the Mongol invasions of Japan after founding the Yuan Dynasty, 1281.
  • 9th century: Playing cards in Tang Dynasty China: The first reference to the card game in world history dates no later than the 9th century, when the Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang, written by Su E described players enjoying the "leaf game" in 868.[102][103]
  • 9th century: Numerical zero in Ancient India: The concept of zero as a number, and not merely a symbol for separation is attributed to India.[104] In India, practical calculations were carried out using zero, which was treated like any other number by the 9th century, even in case of division.[104][105]

10th century

  • 10th century: Fire lance in Song Dynasty China, developed in the 10th century with a tube of first bamboo and later on metal that shot a weak gunpowder blast of flame and shrapnel, its earliest depiction is a painting found at Dunhuang.[106] Fire lance is the earliest firearm in the world and one of the earliest gunpowder weapon.[107][108]
  • 10th century: Fireworks in Song Dynasty China: Fireworks first appeared in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), in the early age of gunpowder. Fireworks could be purchased from market vendors; these were made of sticks of bamboo packed with gunpowder.[109]

2nd millennium

11th century

12th century

  • 1119: Mariner's compass (wet compass) in Song Dynasty China: The earliest recorded use of magnetized needle for navigational purposes at sea is found in Zhu Yu's book Pingzhou Table Talks of 1119 (written from 1111 to 1117).[112][116][117][118][119][120][121] The typical Chinese navigational compass was in the form of a magnetic needle floating in a bowl of water.[122] The familiar mariner's dry compass which used a pivoting needle suspended above a compass-card in a glass box was invented in medieval Europe no later than 1300.[123]

13th century

  • 13th century: Rocket for military and recreational uses date back to at least 13th century China.[124]
  • 1277: Land mine in Song Dynasty China: Textual evidence suggests that the first use of a land mine in history was by a Song Dynasty brigadier general known as Lou Qianxia, who used an 'enormous bomb' (huo pao) to kill Mongol soldiers invading Guangxi in 1277.[125]
  • 1286: Eyeglasses in Italy[126]
  • 13th century: Dominoes in Yuan Dynasty China: The earliest confirmed written mention of dominoes in China comes from the Former Events in Wulin written during the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368).[127] Dominoes first appeared in Italy during the 18th century, and although it is unknown how Chinese dominoes developed into the modern game, it is speculated that Italian missionaries in China may have brought the game to Europe.[128]
  • 13th century: Explosive bomb in Jin Dynasty Manchuria: Explosive bombs were used in 1221 by the Jin Dynasty against a Song Dynasty city.[129] The first accounts of bombs made of cast iron shells packed with explosive gunpowder are documented in the 13th century in China and were called "thunder-crash bombs,"[130] coined during a Jin Dynasty naval battle in 1231.[131]
  • 13th century: Hand cannon in Yuan Dynasty China: The earliest hand cannon dates to the 13th century based on archaeological evidence from a Heilongjiang excavation. There is also written evidence in the Yuanshi (1370) on Li Tang, an ethnic Jurchen commander under the Yuan Dynasty who in 1288 suppressed the rebellion of the Christian prince Nayan with his "gun-soldiers" or chongzu, this being the earliest known event where this phrase was used.[132]

14th century

15th century

File:Conical Parachute, 1470s, British Museum Add. MSS 34,113, fol. 200v.jpg
The oldest known parachute is depicted in this anonymous Italian manuscript dated to the 1470s.[134]

16th century

17th century

File:Relation Aller Fuernemmen und gedenckwuerdigen Historien (1609).jpg
A 1609 title page of the German Relation, the world's first newspaper (first published in 1605)[139][140]

18th century

19th century



  • 1822: The pattern-tracing lathe (actually more like a shaper) is completed by Thomas Blanchard for the U.S. Ordnance Dept. The lathe could copy symmetrical shapes and was used for making gun stocks, and later, ax handles. The lathe's patent was in force for 42 years, the record for any U.S. patent.[145][146]
  • 1825: George Stephenson invented the railroad locomotive.
  • 1826: The friction match is invented by John Walker[147]



  • 1856: Refrigeration: Using the principle of vapour compression, James Harrison produced the world's first practical ice making machine and refrigerator in Geelong, Australia.[148]



20th century

  • 1900: Human voice transmitted wirelessly (by radio) for the first time by Roberto Landell de Moura. The first AM radio factory was opened in 1912.
  • 1903: First manually controlled, fixed wing, motorized aircraft takes place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina by Orville and Wilbur Wright. First modern fixed wing aircraft. 1901: Gustave Weisskopf (Whitehead), a German-American immigrant, is credited with motorized aircraft flight in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Flights were witnessed by citizens and other associates, were recorded in the Bridgeport Herald, a local newspaper, but were not mentioned in a 1904 article in Scientific American.[153] In 2013 Jane's All The World's Aircraft recognized Whitehead as first to make a manned, powered, controlled flight.


  • 1915: The tank was invented by Ernest Swinton,[154] although the British Royal Commission on Awards recognised a South Australian named Lance de Mole who had submitted a proposal to the British War Office, for a 'chain-rail vehicle which could be easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches' complete with extensive drawings in 1912[155]




  • 1942:Frequency hopping:Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil
  • December 1947: The Transistor, used in almost all modern electronic products was invented in December 1947 by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain under the supervision of William Shockley. Subsequent transistors became steadily smaller, faster, more reliable, and cheaper to manufacture, leading to a revolution in computers, controls, and communication.




  • 1982: A CD-ROM contains data accessible to, but not writable by, a computer for data storage and music playback. The 1985 Yellow Book standard developed by Sony and Philips adapted the format to hold any form of binary data.[160]


See also


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