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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.
The dates listed in this section refer to the earliest evidence of an invention found and dated by archaeologists (or in a few cases, suggested by indirect evidence). Dates are often approximate and change as more research is done, reported, and seen. Older examples of any given technology are found often. The locations listed are for the site where the earliest solid evidence has been found, but especially for the earlier inventions there is little certainty how close that may be to where the invention took place.
A few non-invention dates are included in italics, for context.
5th century BC: Cast iron in Ancient China: Confirmed by archaeological evidence, the earliest cast iron is developed in China by the early 5th century BC during the Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 BC), the oldest specimens found in a tomb of Luhe County in Jiangsu province.
2nd century BC: Paper in Han DynastyChina: Although it is recorded that the Han Dynasty (202 BC - AD 220) court eunuch Cai Lun (born c. 50-121 AD) 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.
150 BC Astrolabe invented in the Hellenistic world.
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. The stirrup appeared to be in widespread use across China by AD 477.
7th century: Porcelain in Tang DynastyChina: True porcelain is 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.
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. In India, practical calculations are carried out using zero, which is treated like any other number by the 9th century, even in case of division.
10th century: Fire lance in Song DynastyChina, 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. Fire lance is the earliest firearm in the world and one of the earliest gunpowder weapons.
10th century: Fireworks in Song DynastyChina: Fireworks first appear 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.
1119: Mariner's compass (wet compass) in Song DynastyChina: 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). The typical Chinese navigational compass was in the form of a magnetic needle floating in a bowl of water. The familiar mariner's dry compass which uses a pivoting needle suspended above a compass-card in a glass box is invented in medieval Europe no later than 1300.
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 suppresses the rebellion of the Christian prince Nayan with his "gun-soldiers" or chongzu, this being the earliest known event where this phrase is used.
1608: Telescope: Patent applied for by Hans Lippershey in the Netherlands. Actual inventor unknown since it seemed to already be a common item being offered by the spectacle makers in the Netherlands with Jacob Metius also applying for patent and the son of Zacharias Janssen making a claim 47 years later that his father invented it.
1822: Thomas Blanchard invented the pattern-tracing lathe (actually more like a shaper) and was completed by for the U.S. Ordnance Dept. The lathe can copy symmetrical shapes and is used for making gun stocks, and later, ax handles. The lathe's patent is in force for 42 years, the record for any U.S. patent.
1865: Gregor Mendel publishes 'Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden' ("Experiments on Plant Hybridization"), effectively founding the science of genetics, though the importance of his work would not be appreciated until later on.
1879: Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison both patent a functional Incandescent light bulb. Some two dozen inventors had experimented with electric incandescent lighting over the first three-quarters of the 19th century but never came up with a practical design. Swan's, which he had been working on his since the 1860s, had a low resistance so was only suited for small installations. Edison designed a high-resistance bulb as part of a large-scale commercial electric lighting utility.
1888: Heinrich Hertz publishes a conclusive proof of James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory in experiments that also demonstrate the existence of radio waves. The effects of electromagnetic waves had been observed by many people before this but no usable theory explaining them existed until Maxwell.
1915: The tank is invented by Ernest Swinton, 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. Additionally, an Austrian by the name of Günther Burstyn designed a tank in 1911 and a Captain Levavasseur of the French army proposed a design in 1903.
1928: Frank Whittle formally submitted his ideas for a turbo-jet engine. In October 1929, he developed his ideas further. On 16 January 1930 in England, Whittle submitted his first patent (granted in 1932).
1929: The ball screw is invented by Rudolph G. Boehm.
December 1947: The transistor, used in almost all modern electronic products is 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.
1948: Basic oxygen steelmaking is developed by Robert Durrer. The vast majority of steel manufactured in the world is produced using the basic oxygen furnace; in 2000, it accounted for 60% of global steel output.
1953: The first video tape recorder, a helical scan recorder, is invented by Norikazu Sawazaki.
1954: Invention of Solar Battery by Bell Telephone scientists, Calvin Souther Fuller, Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson capturing the sun's power. First practical means of collecting energy from the sun and turning it into a current of electricity.
1963: The first electronic cigarette is created by Herbert A. Gilbert. Hon Lik is often credited with its invention as he developed the modern electronic cigarette and was the first to commercialize it.
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.
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