What are some of mankind's greatest achievements

The top 10 most important inventions of mankind

After the most important German inventions have already been dealt with in a separate list, we now turn to the most important inventions of humanity.

The large number of inventions has to be screened out even more strictly than with German inventions. Only the most epoch-making inventions, which have been of great importance for mankind since their discovery up to the present day and presumably beyond, can be included in the list of the most important discoveries of all time.

An example: Book printing, invented in Germany in 1499, is without a doubt one of the most important inventions of mankind and was indispensable for a period of around 500 years. However, it is now possible to read books and newspapers in digital form, which means that printing has become replaceable. Therefore, he did not make it into the most important inventions of all time.

However, another epoch-making invention "Made in Germany" was included in this "sacred" list:

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1. The fire

Fire is the only one of the most important inventions on this list that was not made by Homo Sapiens - modern humans. Because even Homo Erectus, an extinct prehistoric man, used fire 1.5 million years ago. To fry delicious meat dishes, to warm oneself, but also as a weapon against animals that are naturally terrified of fire.

The lighter: It is undisputed whether Homo Erectus was able to kindle a fire by itself, presumably he had to secure a naturally occurring fire and then guard it. The first lighter in the world that was ever found (discovered in a cave in what is now Baden-Württemberg) is 32,000 years old; at that time, homo erectus had long since died out. How the Stone Age lighter works: a flint is knocked against pebbles with a skilful hand, the resulting spark triggers a glow in a tinder sponge. This small ember is then nurtured into a real fire.

Meaning today: Fire is required in all combustion engines from cars to airplanes and rockets. Also in oil and gas heating systems. Steel and rubber, which we use for machines, means of transport and buildings, are made with fire. Last but not least, most weapons only work with fire. Fire is still one of the most important inventions of all time.

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2. Agriculture

Agriculture is often underestimated as the most important invention of all time. Its impact on humanity was so disruptive that it is called the Neolithic Revolution.

When and where? Agriculture was first practiced on a large scale in the Levant (Middle East and Southeast Europe) 11,000 years before Christ. The new form of food procurement then slowly spread over Europe over the millennia. 3000 BC Then also the hunters and gatherers in Northern Europe were driven out by the farmers.

The advantages: Homo Sapiens lived as a nomad for around 150,000 years. In small groups he followed the large herds of animals. He did not build permanent settlements, but found temporary shelter in caves or primitive tents. Food was always scarce because it was heavily dependent on the luck of hunting and gathering, each member of the group was mostly occupied with foraging and hunting, humanity grew only slowly. That changed suddenly with the invention of agriculture: the people stayed where they cultivated their fields, the clay farmhouses soon grew into the first cities of mankind with granaries and temples. The farmers generated so much surplus that more children could be fed. In addition, groups such as craftsmen, civil servants and soldiers could be fed. The first civilizations of mankind emerged.

Today's meaning: Humankind nowadays is 99.99% arable-based (with the exception of some of the remaining nomadic tribes in the Amazon region). Animal husbandry is also only possible through arable farming, since the cattle are fed with crops from the fields. The food processing industry also needs the resources generated by agriculture in addition to the chemical modules.

3. The time

Of course, man did not invent time, because as the 4th dimension, this is a property of the universe. However, he invented increasingly sophisticated methods of measuring time in the form of calendars and clocks. And these turned out to be one of the most important inventions of mankind.

The first Stone Age "calendars" existed as early as 8000 BC. Chr. These were massive structures similar to Stonehenge (see picture). With it one could determine the day of the solstice and thus also count the years. The first "modern" calendar, which was based on the moon, developed the high culture of the Sumerians around 2000 BC. Chr. Here the year already had 12 months and the week 7 days. About 500 years later, the Egyptians invented the first clock in the form of a sundial. The day (like the year) was divided into 12 units (hours).

Since the sun wasn't always shining, mankind was inventive and developed water and hourglasses. The first mechanical clocks with weights were invented by the monks in the Middle Ages so as not to miss their prayers. The first quartz watch was invented in 1927, and digital watches have been around from the 1970s.

4. Smelting / metallurgy

Even in the primitive, Stone Age variant, metallurgy requires a lot of specialist knowledge and good organization: The ore-containing rock is extracted in a mine and then transported to the "blast furnace" (the first furnaces were simple pits in which a very hot fire was created through all sorts of tricks Temperatures over 1000 degrees was ignited, because the melting point for copper and gold is over 1000 degrees). The metals sweated out of the rock are brought to the forge in the form of roughly hewn ingots, where they are further processed. The trade routes had to be secured with soldiers to protect the valuable goods.

When and where? The enormous importance of this new discovery can be seen in the fact that entire ages were named after the metals:

  • Copper Age around 4000 BC Chr (first furnaces for copper production as early as 4500 BC in the area of ​​today's Serbia)
  • Bronze Age (2700 BC to 800 BC) (Euphrates-Tigris basin civilizations such as the Sumerians first reached the Bronze Age)
  • Iron Age (from 1500 BC) (The leading civilizations were again in the Middle East; the Iron Age began in Central Europe from around 800 BC

Meaning today: Iron, often in the form of steel, is needed today in large quantities for high-rise buildings, bridges, cars, ships and weapons, as well as pipes and engines. The pig iron for the steel is still extracted from iron ore in a blast furnace.

5. The wheel

When and where? 4000 BC Chr in Europe north of the Black Sea, then rapid spread of the epochal invention throughout Europe.

The principle: A wheel is constantly turning around its own axis; it is used for transport, but also in machines

The advantage: Before that, heavy loads were moved with sleds. Wheeled barrows were much more efficient, faster and required less “manpower”. They facilitated and promoted trade.


  • 4000 BC Chr.: the potter's wheel in the Indus culture, the wheel is not used here for transport, but as part of a machine
  • 2000 BC Chr: The spoked wheel, invented in the Orient, allows much higher speeds and can be used well for chariots
  • 300 BC Chr: first primitive gears in China and ancient times

Today's meaning: Wheels are still indispensable and in use everywhere: On cars, trucks and airplanes and as gearwheels / flywheels in machines, factories and power plants.

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6. The writing

advantage: With the invention of writing it was possible for the first time to pass on knowledge in a way other than orally. Oral reproduction is practically impossible, especially with contracts, laws or bookkeeping, where the exact wording is important: Because when it is passed on from person to person, the wording changes dramatically, as we all know from the game "Silent Mail".

When and where? The Sumerians developed the first practical writing system (not just symbols for decoration) around 3400 BC. Chr, presumably for accounting purposes. Independently of this, the Egyptians invented the hieroglyphs around 3200 BC. Chr.

Further development: The first script with an alphabet was the Phoenician script around 1800 BC. BC. Similar to our alphabet, which is derived from Phoenician, it has 22 characters.

The cuneiform script of the Sumerians, on the other hand, consisted of around 900 different symbols, the Egyptians even used up to 7000 hieroglyphs.

Meaning today: Without writing there are no books, no newspapers, whether in digital or printed form. Even computers are programmed in writing - with a programming language. A high literacy rate is the most important characteristic for a state's good level of development. These few points already prove that writing was rightly included in the list of the most important inventions of mankind.

7. The engine

A motor performs mechanical work by converting supplied energy into kinetic energy.

advantages: The motor replaces the physical work of humans or animals and achieves much higher performance in the process.

When and where? In 18th century Victorian England, Thomas Newcomen and James Watt developed the steam engine. This was the first engine that was put into practical use on a large scale: for the railroad and in steamships, in mines, factories and the water supply. The importance of this invention can also be seen from the fact that the steam engine triggered the industrial age.

Important advancements: The electric motor (1834, Germany) and the internal combustion engine (1859, Belgium) are predominantly used today.

Meaning today: Countless electric motors of all sizes work in household appliances from electric toothbrushes to vacuum cleaners and in factories, where the machines and assembly lines driven by motors make mass production possible in the first place.

The combustion engine still drives vehicles and aircraft of all kinds.

8. The electricity

The principle: Electricity generated in power plants provides light in households and factories and drives machines.

When and where? Europe and the USA from the 18th century. Many “smaller” inventions (each of which was significant in its own right) by European and American researchers were the prerequisites for the widespread use of electricity. Including:

  • Lightning rod(1752, USA)
  • Battery (1775, Italy)
  • Generator without permanent magnet (1866, Germany)
  • Transformer (1885, Hungary)

Meaning today: In the event of a power failure, people suddenly become aware of the importance of electricity: no light, no refrigerator, no television. Computers and machines no longer work in offices and factories. Furthermore, devices with electrical components (such as computers and cell phones, but also many simpler devices) basically only work with electricity. The electric motor is also playing an increasingly important role in motor vehicles and will replace the internal combustion engine in the not so distant future.

9. The computer

When and where? In 1937 in Germany the Z1 was developed by Konrad Zuse, with the essential features of a modern computer. The successor model Z3 (1941) also worked with electrical relays instead of mechanically with switching elements driven by a vacuum cleaner motor and was therefore much more reliable.

The principle: Data entered into the computer are processed with its freely programmable processor and output again.

advantage: Just as the motor relieves people of physical work, so the “arithmetic servant” relieves them of stupid intellectual activities: adding up long columns of numbers or the routine monitoring and control of machines.

Important advancements:

Semiconductor technology (from 1960, USA): The computers shrank from monsters the size of a wardrobe to small boxes that still had a lot more computing power and were cheaper at the same time. This miniaturization made the computer for everyone possible.

10. The Internet

Any number of computers (including servers, cell phones, etc.) can be linked to one another and exchange data. On the one hand, this enables communication in real time, and on the other hand, the Internet takes over the function of libraries and video stores.

Where and when? From 1969 there was the Arpanet in the USA, in which the few mainframes from universities and military research institutions were linked.

The "Internet for everyone" with links and the possibility to look at pictures and videos in a browser was invented in Europe in 1989.

Why is the Internet one of the greatest inventions of mankind?

  • it replaces the telephone, fax, SMS etc. with its real-time communication capability
  • Books, videos, music and newspapers have long been printed or stored on a solid medium such as a CD or DVD. These works can be transmitted directly to a computer, mobile phone or TV via the Internet
  • As a result, libraries, video libraries, but also classic TV and radio stations are superfluous
  • trade is partly shifting to the Internet through online mail order companies and sales platforms for everyone. Trading on the stock exchanges has also become easier thanks to the Internet.
  • The virtual "social networks" change the social interaction within society
  • Devices such as cell phones, cars, TVs and toasters are updated and maintained via the Internet.

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