The timeline of historic inventions is a chronological list of particularly important or significant technological inventions and their inventors, where known.[nb 1]
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 often found. 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.
The Lower Paleolithic period lasted over 3 million years, and corresponds to the human species prior to the emergence of Homo sapiens. The original divergence between humans and chimpanzees occurred 13 (Mya), however interbreeding continued until as recently as 4 Ma, with the first species clearly belonging to the human (and not chimpanzee) lineage being Australopithecus anamensis. This time period is characterized as an ice age with regular periodic warmer periods – interglacial episodes.
The dawn of Homo sapiens around 300 kya coincides with the start of the Middle Paleolithic period. Towards the middle of this 250,000-year period, humans begin to migrate out of Africa, and the later part of the period shows the beginning of long-distance trade, religious rites and other behavior associated with Behavioral modernity.
Upper Paleolithic to Early Mesolithic
50 ka has been regarded by some as the beginning of behavioral modernity, defining the Upper Paleolithic period, which lasted nearly 40,000 years (though some research dates the beginning of behavioral modernity earlier to the Middle Paleolithic). This is characterized by the widespread observation of religious rites, artistic expression and the appearance of tools made for purely intellectual or artistic pursuits.
Agricultural and proto-agricultural eras
The end of the Last Glacial Period ("ice age") and the beginning of the Holocene around 11.7 ka coincide with the Agricultural Revolution, marking the beginning of the agricultural era, which persisted until the industrial revolution.
Neolithic and Late Mesolithic
During the Neolithic period, lasting 8400 years, stone remained the predominant material for toolmaking, although copper and arsenic bronze were developed towards the end of this period.
- 12-11 ka: Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent
- 12–11 ka: Domestication of sheep in Southwest Asia (followed shortly by pigs, goats and cattle)
- 11-8 ka: Domestication of rice in China
- 11 ka: Oldest known surviving building – Göbekli Tepe, in Turkey
- 9000 BC: Mudbricks, and clay mortar in Jericho.
- 8000–7500 BC: Proto-city – large permanent settlements, such as Tell es-Sultan (Jericho) and Çatalhöyük, Turkey.
- 7000 BC: Alcohol fermentation – specifically mead, in China
- 7000 BC: Sled dog and Dog sled, in Siberia.
- 7000 BC: Tanned leather in Mehrgarh, Pakistan.
- 6500 BC: Evidence of lead smelting in Çatalhöyük, Turkey
- 6000 BC: Kiln in Mesopotamia (Iraq)
- 6th millennium BC: Irrigation in Khuzistan, Iran
- 6000-3200 BC: Proto-writing in present-day Egypt, Iraq, Serbia, China and Pakistan.
- c. 5500 BC: Sailing pottery depictions of sail boats, in Mesopotamia, and later ancient Egypt
- 5000 BC: Copper smelting in Serbia
- 5000 BC: Seawall in Israel
- 5th millennium BC: Lacquer in China
- 5000 BC: Cotton thread, in Mehrgarh, Pakistan, connecting the copper beads of a bracelet.
- 5000–4500 BC: Rowing oars in China
- 4500–3500 BC: Lost-wax casting in Israel or the Indus Valley
- 4400 BC: Fired bricks in China.
- 4000 BC: Probable time period of the first diamond-mines in the world, in Southern India.
- Around 4000 BC: Paved roads, in and around the Mesopotamian city of Ur, Iraq.
- 4000 BC: Plumbing. The earliest pipes were made of clay, and are found at the Temple of Bel at Nippur in Babylonia.[nb 2]
- 4000–3500 BC: Wheel: potter's wheels in Mesopotamia and wheeled vehicles in Mesopotamia (Sumerian civilization), the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe (Cucuteni–Trypillia culture).
- 3630 BC: Silk garments (sericulture) in China
- 3500 BC: Probable first domestication of the horse in the Eurasian Steppes.
- 3500 BC: Wine as general anesthesia in Sumer.
- 3500 BC: Seal (emblem) invented around in the Near East, at the contemporary sites of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia and slightly later at Susa in south-western Iran during the Proto-Elamite period, and they follow the development of stamp seals in the Halaf culture or slightly earlier.
- 3400-3100 BC: Tattoos in southern Europe
The beginning of bronze-smelting coincides with the emergence of the first cities and of writing in the Ancient Near East and the Indus Valley. The Bronze Age starting in Eurasia in the 4th millennia BC and ended, in Eurasia, c.1300 BC.
- c. 4650 BC: Copper-tin bronze found at the Pločnik (Serbia) site, and belonging to the Vinča culture, believed to be produced from smelting a natural tin baring copper ore, Stannite.
- bef. 3500 BC: ploughing, on a site in Bubeneč, Czech Republic. Evidence, c. 2800 BC, has also been found at Kalibangan, Indus Valley (modern-day India).
- c. 3300 BC: City in Uruk, Sumer, Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).
- c. 3300 BC: Writing – Cuneiform in Sumer.
- bef. 3200 BC: dry Latrines in the city of Uruk, Iraq, with later dry squat Toilets, that added raised fired brick foot platforms, and pedestal toilets, all over clay pipe constructed drains.
- bef. 3000 BC: Devices functionally equivalent to dice, in the form of flat two-sided throwsticks, are seen in the Egyptian game of Senet. Perhaps the oldest known dice, resembling modern ones, were excavated as part of a backgammon-like game set at the Burnt City, an archeological site in south-eastern Iran, estimated to be from between 2800 and 2500 BC. Later, terracotta dice were used at the Indus Valley site of Mohenjo-daro (modern-day Pakistan).
- c. 3000 BC: Tin extraction in Central Asia
- 3000 - 2560 BC: Papyrus in Egypt
- c. 3000 BC: Reservoir in Girnar, Indus Valley (modern-day India).
- c. 3000 BC: Receipt in Ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq)
- c. 2600 BC: Planned city in Indus Valley (modern-day: India, Pakistan).
- By 2650 BC: The Ruler, or Measuring rod, in the subdivided Nippur, copper rod, of the Sumerian Civilisation (modern-day Iraq). [nb 3]
- c. 2600 BC: Public sewage and sanitation systems in Indus Valley sites such as Mohenjo-daro and Rakhigarhi (modern-day: India, Pakistan).
- c. 2600 BC: Public bath in Mohenjo-daro, Indus Valley (modern-day Pakistan).
- c. 2600 BC: Levee in Indus Valley.
- by 2556 BC: Docks A harbor structure has been excavated in Wadi al-Jarf, Egypt, which was developed by the reign of the Pharaoh Khufu (2589–2566 B.C). [nb 4]
- 3000 - 2500 BC: Rhinoplasty in Egypt.
- c. 2600 BC: balance weights and scales, from the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt; examples of Deben (unit) balance weights, from reign of Sneferu (c. 2600 BC) have been attributed.
- 2500 BC: Puppetry in the Indus Valley.
- c. 2400 BC: Copper pipes, the Pyramid of Sahure, an adjoining temple complex at Abusir, was discovered to have a network of copper drainage pipes.
- aft. 2400 BC: Touchstone in the Indus Valley site of Banawali (modern-day India).
- 2300 BC: Dictionary in Mesopotamia.
- c. 2200 BC: Protractor, Phase IV, Lothal, Indus Valley (modern-day India), a Xancus shell cylinder with sawn grooves, at right angles, in its top and bottom surfaces, has been proposed as an angle marking tool.
- c. 2000 BC: Water clock by at least the old Babylonian period (c. 2000 – c. 1600 BC), but possibly earlier from Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley.
- c. 2000 BC: Musical notation in Sumer
- c. 2000 BC: Chariot in Russia and Kazakhstan
- c. 2000 BC: Fountain in Lagash, Sumer
- bef. 2000 BC: Scissors, in Mesopotamia.
- c. 1850 BC: Proto-alphabet (Proto-Sinaitic script) in Egypt.
- by 1500 BC: Sundial in Ancient Egypt or Babylonia (modern-day Iraq).
- c. 1500 BC: Glass manufacture in either Mesopotamia or Ancient Egypt
- by 1600 BC: Surgical treatise appeared in Egypt.
- c. 1500 BC: Seed drill in Babylonia
- bef. 1400 BC: Rubber, Mesoamerican ballgame.
- c. 1300 BC: Lathe in Ancient Egypt
- 1400 - 1200 BC: Concrete in Tiryns (Mycenaean Greece). Waterproof concrete was later developed by the Assyrians in 688 BC, and the Romans developed concretes that could set underwater. The Romans later used concrete extensively for construction from 300 BC to 476 AD.
The Late Bronze Age collapse occurs around 1300-1175 BC, extinguishing most Bronze-Age Near Eastern cultures, and significantly weakening the rest. This is coincident with the complete collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation. This event is followed by the beginning of the Iron Age. We define the Iron Age as ending in 510 BC for the purposes of this article, even though the typical definition is region-dependent (e.g. 510 BC in Greece, 322 BC in India, 200 BC in China), thus being an 800-year period.[nb 5]
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.
Classical antiquity and medieval era
5th century BC
4th century BC
Egyptian reed pens inside ivory and wooden palettes, the Louvre
3rd century BC
An illustration depicting the papermaking process in Han Dynasty China.
2nd century BC
1st century BC
- 1st century BC: Segmental arch bridge (e.g. Pont-Saint-Martin or Ponte San Lorenzo) in Italy, Roman Republic
- 1st century BC: News bulletin during the reign of Julius Caesar. A paper form, i.e. the earliest newspaper, later appeared during the late Han dynasty in the form of the Dibao.
- 1st century BC: Arch dam (Glanum Dam) in Gallia Narbonensis, Roman Republic (see also List of Roman dams)
- Before 40 BC: Trip hammer in China
- 38 BC: An empty shell Glyph for zero, is found on a Maya numerals Stela, from Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas. Independently invented by Claudius Ptolemy, in the second century CE Egypt, and appearing in the calculations of the Almagest.
- Before 25 BC: Reverse overshot water wheel by Roman engineers in Rio Tinto, Spain
- 37-14: Glass blowing developed in Jerusalem.
- 672 AD: Greek fire in Constantinople, Byzantine Empire: Greek fire, an incendiary weapon likely based on petroleum or naphtha, is invented by Kallinikos, a Lebanese Greek refugee from Baalbek, as described by Theophanes. However, the historicity and exact chronology of this account is dubious, and it could be that Kallinikos merely introduced an improved version of an established weapon.
- 7th century: Banknote in Tang dynasty China: The banknote is first developed in China during the Tang and Song dynasties, starting in the 7th century. Its roots are in merchant receipts of deposit during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), as merchants and wholesalers desire to avoid the heavy bulk of copper coinage in large commercial transactions.
- 7th century: Porcelain in Tang dynasty China: 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.
- 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. Fire lance is the earliest firearm in the world and one of the earliest gunpowder weapons.
- 10th century: Fireworks in Song dynasty China: 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.
- 12th century: Bond trading in France.
A 1609 title page of the Relation
, the world's first newspaper (first published in 1605)
Karl von Drais on his original Laufmaschine, the earliest two-wheeler, or hobbyhorse, in 1819
- 1850: William Armstrong invents the hydraulic accumulator.
- 1851: George Jennings offers the first public flush toilets, accessible for a penny per visit, and in 1852 receives a UK patent for the single piece, free standing, earthenware, trap plumed, flushing, water-closet.
- 1852: Robert Bunsen is the first to use a chemical vapor deposition technique.
- 1852: Elisha Otis invents the safety brake elevator.
- 1852: Henri Giffard becomes the first person to make a manned, controlled and powered flight using a dirigible.
- 1853: François Coignet invents reinforced concrete.
- 1855: James Clerk Maxwell invents the first practical method for color photography, whether chemical or electronic.
- 1855: Henry Bessemer patents the Bessemer process for making steel, with improvements made by others over the following years.
- 1856: Alexander Parkes invents parkesine, also known as celluloid, the first man-made plastic.
- 1856: James Harrison produces the world's first practical ice making machine and refrigerator using the principle of vapour compression in Geelong, Australia.
- 1856: William Henry Perkin invents mauveine, the first synthetic dye.
- 1857: Heinrich Geissler invents the Geissler tube.
- 1859: Gaston Planté invents the lead acid battery, the first rechargeable battery.
BERy articulated streetcar no. 2 in 1913. The Boston Elevated Railway was the world's first street railway system to use articulated streetcars.
- 1911: The cloud chamber, the first particle detector, is invented by Charles Thomson Rees Wilson.
- 1912: The first commercial slot cars or more accurately model electric racing cars operating under constant power were made by Lionel (USA) and appeared in their catalogues in 1912. They drew power from a toy train rail sunk in a trough that was connected to a battery.
- 1912: The first use of articulated trams by Boston Elevated Railway.
- 1913: The Bergius process is developed by Friedrich Bergius.
- 1913: The Kaplan turbine is invented by Viktor Kaplan.
- 1915: Harry Brearley invents a process to create Martensitic stainless steel, initially labelled Rustless Steel, later marketed as Staybrite, and AISI Type 420.
- 1915: The first operational military tanks are designed in Great Britain and France. They are used in battle from 1916 and 1917 respectively. The designers are Walter Wilson and William Tritton; and, independently, Eugène Brillié. (Although it is known that vehicles incorporating at least some of the features of the tank were designed in a number of countries from 1903 onward, none reached a practical form.)
- 1916: The Czochralski process, widely used for the production of single crystal silicon, is invented by Jan Czochralski.
- 1917: The crystal oscillator is invented by Alexander M. Nicholson using a crystal of Rochelle Salt although his priority was disputed by Walter Guyton Cady.
- 1940: Pu-239 isotope (isotope of plutonium) a form of matter existing with the capacity for use as a destructive element (because the isotope has an exponentially increasing spontaneous fissile decay) within nuclear devices — Glenn Seaborg.
- 1940: John Randall and Harry Boot would develop the high power, microwave generating, cavity magnetron, later applied to commercial Radar and Microwave oven appliances.
- 1941: Polyester is invented by John Whinfield and James Dickson.
- 1942: The V-2 rocket, the world's first long range ballistic missile, developed by engineer Wernher von Braun.
- 1944: The non-infectious viral vaccine is perfected by Dr. Jonas Salk and Thomas Francis.
- 1945: The atomic bomb is developed by the Manhattan Project and swiftly deployed in August 1945 in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II.
- 1945: Percy Spencer, while employed at Raytheon, would patent a magnetron based microwave oven.
- 1946: James Martin invents the ejector seat, inspired by the death of his friend and test pilot Captain Valentine Baker in an aeroplane crash in 1942.
- 1947: Holography is invented by Dennis Gabor.
- 1947: Floyd Farris and J.B. Clark (Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation) invents hydraulic fracturing technology.
- 1947: The first transistor, a bipolar point-contact transistor, is invented by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain under the supervision of William Shockley at Bell Labs.
- 1948: The first atomic clock is developed at the National Bureau of Standards.
- 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.
- 1950: Bertie the Brain, debatably the first video game, is displayed to the public at the Canadian National Exhibition.
- 1950: The Toroidal chamber with axial magnetic fields (the Tokamak) is developed by Igor E. Tamm and Andrei D. Sakharov.
- 1952: The float glass process is developed by Alastair Pilkington.
- 1951: First use of nuclear power to produce electricity for households in Arco, Idaho.
- 1952: The first thermonuclear weapon is developed.
- 1953: The first video tape recorder, a helical scan recorder, is invented by Norikazu Sawazaki.
- 1954: Invention of the 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.
- 1955: The hovercraft is patented by Christopher Cockerell.
- 1955: The intermodal container is developed by Malcom McLean.
- 1956: The hard disk drive is invented by IBM.
- 1957: The laser and optical amplifier are invented and named by Gordon Gould and Charles Townes. The laser and optical amplifier are foundational to powering the Internet.
- 1957: The first personal computer used by one person and controlled by a keyboard, the IBM 610, is invented in 1957 by IBM.
- 1957: The first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, is launched.
- 1958–59: The integrated circuit is independently invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce.
- 1959: The MOSFET (MOS transistor) is invented by the Egyptian Mohamed Atalla and the Korean Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs. It is used in almost all modern electronic products. It was smaller, faster, more reliable and cheaper to manufacture than earlier bipolar transistors, leading to a revolution in computers, controls and communication.
The original 0 series Shinkansen train. Introduced in 1964, it reached a speed of 210 km/h (130 mph).
- 1970s: Public-key cryptography is invented and developed by James H. Ellis, Clifford Cocks, Malcolm J. Williamson, Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, Ralph Merkle, Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, Leonard Adleman, et al.
- 1970: The pocket calculator is invented.
- 1971: The first single-chip microprocessor, the Intel 4004, is invented. Its development was led by Federico Faggin, using his silicon-gate MOS technology. This led to the personal computer (PC) revolution.
- 1971: The first space station, Salyut 1 is launched.
- 1972: The first video game console, used primarily for playing video games on a TV, is the Magnavox Odyssey.
- 1973: The first fiber optic communication systems were developed by Optelecom.
- 1973: The first commercial graphical user interface is introduced in 1973 on the Xerox Alto. The modern GUI is later popularized by the Xerox Star and Apple Lisa.
- 1973: The first capacitive touchscreen is developed at CERN.
- 1974: The Transmission Control Program is proposed by Vinton Cerf and Robert E. Kahn, building on the work of Louis Pouzin, creating the basis for the modern Internet.
- 1975: Altair 8800 is the spark that ignited the microcomputer revolution.
- 1977: Dr. Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger invented a new DNA sequencing method for which they won the Nobel Prize.
- 1977: The first self-driving car that did not rely upon rails or wires under the road is designed by the Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Laboratory.
- 1978: The Global Positioning System (GPS) enters service. While not the first Satellite navigation system, it is the first to enter widespread civilian use.
- 1979: The first handheld game console with interchangeable game cartridges, the Microvision is released.
- 1979: Public dialup information, messaging and e-commerce services, were pioneered through CompuServe and RadioShack's MicroNET, and the UK's Post Office Telecommunications Prestel services.
- 1980: Flash memory (both NOR and NAND types) is invented by Fujio Masuoka while working for Toshiba. It is formally introduced to the public in 1984.
- 1981: The first reusable spacecraft, the Space Shuttle undergoes test flights ahead of full operation in 1982.
- 1981: Kane Kramer develops the credit card sized, IXI digital media player.
- 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.
- 1982: Direct to home satellite television transmission, with the launch of Sky One service.
- 1982: The first laptop computer is launched, the 8/16-bit Epson HX-20.
- 1983: Stereolithography is invented by Chuck Hull.
- 1984: The first commercially available cell phone, the DynaTAC 8000X, is created by Motorola.
- 1984: DNA profiling is pioneered by Alec Jeffreys.
- 1985: The lithium-ion battery is invented by John B. Goodenough, Rachid Yazami and Akira Yoshino. It has impacted modern consumer electronics and electric vehicles.
- 1989: Karlheinz Brandenburg would publish the audio compression algorithms that would be standardised as the: MPEG-1, layer 3 (mp3), and later the MPEG-2, layer 7 Advanced Audio Compression (AAC).
- 1989: The World Wide Web is invented by computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee.
- 1991: The first commercial flash-based solid-state drive is launched by SunDisk.
- 1994: IBM Simon, World's first smartphone is developed by IBM.
- 1994: First generation of Bluetooth is developed by Ericsson Mobile. A form of data communication on short distances between electronic devices.
- 1995: DVD is an optical disc storage format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions.
- 1996: Ciena deploys the first commercial wave division multiplexing system in partnership with Sprint. This created the massive capacity of the internet.
- 1997: The first weblog, a discussion or informational website, is created by Jorn Barger, later shortened to "blog" in 1999 by Peter Merholz.
- 1998: The first portable MP3 player is released by SaeHan Information Systems.
- 1999: The first digital video recorder (DVR), the TiVo, is launched by Xperi.
- 2000: Sony develops the first prototypes for the Blu-ray optical disc format. The first prototype player was released in 2004.
- 2000: First documented placement of Geocaching, an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.
- 2008: Satoshi Nakamoto develops the first blockchain.