Wil James Letchworth Garden City
There is one item which has revolutionised almost everything we do. It is the transistor.
What most people do not know is that it was first invented in around 1927 by a man called Lilienfield. All that is known about his inventions are some Canadian patents he described. These include amplifiers and radios using his devices.
Around 20 years later Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain produced an equivalent device. It wasn't until the early 1950s that the newer transistor became a usable amplifying device. Lilienfield had been there first.
Coupled with the transistor is the development of what is known as the planar process. This enabled transistors to be made like layers of paint in enormous quantities at a time. Nearly all modern electronics technology is based on electronic circuits made like layers of paint.
Lilienfield's devices have a strong mechanical resemblance to planar transisitors.
They were made in three layers. The early Shockley Bardeen and Brattain transistors were developments of the cats whisker and crystal used in very early radios. The present electronic symbol for a transistor is based on this cats whisker and crystal design.
I would like to nominate the transistor as the best invention in the last 200 years since it lead to integrated circuits and due to its size and low cost I believe it was the major enabler for the success of digital technology
As this set of lectures shows, every technology feeds others, so it is almost impossible to state one only.
Technology also is and has been acclerating over the years, so earlier knowledge 'gains more' than later as it speeds up the future ones also.
I feel the key is communication and thus nominate the early e-mail/internet system known as the telephone.
THis provided low cost instantaneous communication both for researchers and for the general public, and is so ubiquitous it is regarded as a necessary item on very desk and household .
David Brodie, London
Quite obviously it is the bicycle. It converts human effort into useful energy with extraordinary efficiency. When used instead of a motor vehicle, it addresses several of the scourges of modern living - obesity and poor health, air pollution, greenhouse gases, and noise.
Tony Beedham - March
No other invention has had such an influence on every technological aspect of our world as The Transistor. Shockley, and his team changed the world forever, in a more far-reaching way than any other invention.
Tony Cain, Stirling
the Automatic washing machine, it's done more to free ordinary working women, and mothers in particlar, from domestic drudery than than pretty much any other single invention.
Jane Theaker, Cheshire
The polymerase chain reaction. Without this ability to amplify or "photocopy" DNA there would be no DNA fingerprinting, no human genome map, no DNA diagnostics. In fact, pretty much everything to do with DNA would be impossible.
The telephone must be the most significant development. It is a relatively simple device but has changed the way we live and shortened distance. The telephone is used by virtually all communities throughout the world.
I second the great number of nominations for the bicycle. At it's most basic level, it is a very simple piece of machinery that can, like mankind, adapt to any conditions on the planet. In the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami, bicycles were often the transport of choice for ferrying supplies to those in need. They made light work of tracks left impassable to motor vehicles, cost nothing to run, and were easily repairable by mechanics everywhere using the simplest of tools. On a global scale they offer pollution-free transport, and are the leisure pursuit of choice for millions of individuals. The incorporation of modern materials such as titanium nd carbon fibre demonstrate that whilst we cannot re-invent the wheel (or improve on the venerable 'diamond' safety frame), we are still refining the basic design 120 years on.
The computer- It has freed humanity from performing the mundane in doing so empowering us with greater tools of innovation.
Glynne Jones - Llanelli, Carmarthenshire
My proposal for the most significant technological innovation since 1800 is the invention of the Thermionic Valve. Electronics started in 1904, when the thermionic diode was invented. Valve technology was the high tech. of the day and the new science of Electronics evolved around these devices, making radio communication practical, and eventually the electronic computer which played such a major part in World War 2. Today the computer is everywhere in radio, communication, radar, television, industry, space travel and in virtually every piece of domestic equipment. So, although initially one would think that the computer in all its forms is an incredible invention we must realise that it is not the GREATEST invention but a consequemce of the invention of the thermionic valve, which is still itself very much in use today, although not in computers!
As such I think the Thermionic Valve is the greatest invention since 1800.
Reg Oakley, Sevenoaks.
I nominate the transistor.From communications to bike design to manufacturing to taking part in this survey. The humble transistor is the component that makes it all happen. Without it our lives would be positively feudal in comparison.
I nominate paper as the most influential technology ever devised by mankind. Without it, most other technologies would not have happened. Paper has been fundamental for its ability to record ideas, extend memory, and communicate knowledge through time and space. Despite its 5,000-year history, paper has yet to be entirely superceded as the cheapest, most flexible means of recording and storing the written word.
Ana Cabral, Aveiro, Portugal
Electricity! Have you ever imagined yourself without it? You would not be reading this, for sure and a BIG part of the inventions that people have mentioned here would not exist without it. Remember “nothing comes from noting”.
Steve Smith, Cardiff
The infernal combustion engine has to be the worst. It has filled our air with toxic pollution, sliced up our communities with lethal corridors, and emptied our pavements of relaxed friendly people. Without the infernal combustion engine life would be much much nicer.
Rob Clarke - Dorset
The paper machine.
This invention made paper affordable to the masses. The worlds first production machine was built and run in Hertfordshire in 1804. Books became cheap and readily available for the first time. Education took a major leap forward and this realised the potential of the UK and the civilised world.
Try living without paper - if all paper / board we use in a year were A4 photocopy paper we would average 43,600 sheets per person, per year (in the UK). Countries such as Mali average 20 sheets per capita!
None of the inventions nominated so far would have been developed without education – if paper were still hand made and expensive, education and mans potential would have been dramatically slowed and limited.
Emel Alimoglu, Turkey
I will nominate discovery of the X-Rays as our greatest technological innovation. X-Ray units are used for diagnosis or early detection of many diseases. For example, mammography can detect breast cancer at an early stage and full recovery may be possible with an appropriate intervention. Thanks to W.Conrad Roentgen
Brian Nesbitt, Chopwell, Co. Durham
The most important technology development in the last two hundred years is the modern steam turbo-generator invented by Charles Parsons and first used commercially in 1884. The steam turbo-generator allows the efficient large-scale production of alternating current electricity which forms the basis for our modern life style. Steam engines, the main power source before steam turbines could not be developed to the large sizes currently manufactured.
Remember, the modern steam turbine led to the development of gas turbines and jet engines. Modern generator plants can be mixed-cycle, gas turbine combined with steam turbine, to improve overall cycle efficiency.
When considering all the other suggestions for the most important technology development, think about if electricity is required to manufacture the suggestion or does the suggestion require electricity to operate.
B De Butts, Bucks
Electricity is, without doubt, the most influential technological development. Without it nothing in our lives would be the same.
The bicycle - the first Human Amplifier
Year 10C, St Joseph's RC School; Salisbury
Submitted by Class TEacher from the discussion the pupils had on the issue.
This engine made travel faster and allowed more to be carried. It helped build the Industrial Revolution and put the Great in Britain.
I'm tempted to say the Photovoltaic cell but I think this revolution is is to come! So I will say the bicycle since its cheapness and its ease of use menas almost anyone can use it. It keeps you healthy and prevents global warming.
I nominate the bicycle as the most ecologically efficient method of transport and the first invention to really shake up the gene pool by enabling people to meet and marry outside their own villages.
The Clay Pot Biological Sand Filter: It makes filthy water fit to drink. It has no detriment to the environment. It can be made cheaply enough for the least privileged of the world’s citizens to make their own. It is simple to make and profits only those who most need its help. It comprehensively beats waterborne diseases so improves dramatically the quality of lives of the poorest, who are given the dignity of solving their main problem themselves. It empowers the powerless...
Rod Harrap, Guisborough, Cleveland, UK
I would nominate Richard Trevithick's Steam Engine. The steam engine initially provided direct mechanical energy allowing development away from waterpower. All power stations that use fossil fuel or nuclear power transpose heat into power via a steam engine. Nowadays, a turbine and not the piston engine transforms pressure energy because of economies of scale and the availability of modern materials.
Abdullah Erdogan, Turkey
The best invention is the invention of the electricity. There is no doubt that we use electricity in all life for doing everything.
If electricity had not been invented we would not have been able to do most of things in our daily life.
I would like to nominate the sanitary tampon. Before they were invented blood was at the heart of women's life. For those with heavy periods, life became not only painful but really awkward and shameful as every day we had to wash bloody underwear and bedsheets. Making women feel better, less self-conscious and not sleep-deprived means more agreable wives, parners, daughter, colleagues.
The most significant technological innovation since 1800 is Electromagnetic Induction, whoever invented it. It was the work of a genius. The ability to transfer energy from one circuit to another, simply by magnetic induction, does not exist in the natural world.
The science sparked by this invention, went on to enable all the other science and technologies that we use and depend upon.
Intuitive, breakthrough technology, like the inductor, leads to fresh scientific knowledge and vice versa. Dead end technology, such as the bicycle, doesn't.
1. Technology is the Art of Science.
2. You can have technology without science but you can't have science without technology.
3. It's technology that makes things work, but it's science that breaks it!
The Telescope. Being able to see ourselves in the scale of the cosmos ,I think, defined the thinking of the generations to follow.
Mr Alan Wenham, Ashburton, Devon
My nomination has to be the sewing machine. With the invention of the sewing machine and Singers introduction of hire purchase, the sewing machine brought real change to peoples lives. The poor were given an oppurtunity to earn a living and improve their lives and to improve their own clothing. So many things are sewn not just clothes, but everything from tents and hot air ballloons. From safety equipment to footwear. All hail the sewing machine, real technology improving real peoples lives, it has to be number one!
Simon Davison Cardiff
Without electricity there would be NO comunications satelites, no radios, no cars, TVs, etc. etc
Flight. Imagine life without flight.
G Wood, Preston
Antibiotics: At the start of the last century about 20% of deaths were caused by bacterial infection. This scourge seems to has almost been removed from the first world but the threat is still there. We may be approaching a post-antibiotic phase in our existance and if that happens we'll certainly know what we'll be missing
Frances Blackwell, North London
Some of the technology used to get to the moon is now used to develop technology for disabled people. I am blind and revel in the use of my computer for it gives total access to print through word processing, scanning, but more importantly to the internet which I use daily to check news, work issues, etc., as well as for leisure enjoyment. When I am away I miss it for I have then no access to print.
Mandy Cotter, Ramsgate, Kent
I nominate the washing machine. It is surely the most useful, labour saving machine in our homes today. I would rather do without a fridge, cooker, tv etc. than lose my washing machine,
If anyone disagrees with this, it will surely be a man! (sorry, couldn't resist that!)
I have to go with the transistor because it encompasses so much of today's other technological progress.
Glenn Barrett, Norwich
ELECTRICITY - it has to be. Look what happens when it is not available! All these other nominations depend on it. The test should be - can we live without the nomination? Society would come to a halt without electricity.
Isobel Stoddart, London
The bicycle - the most energy-efficient and egalitarian mode of transport ever invented, and one that will serve an increasingly important role to ensure sustainable mobility in the next century.
Paul Martin - Aberdeen
The Body Scanner. A British triumph of R&D that has saved many lives and much unnecessary surgery.
It has to be the bike. It ticks so many boxes. It is staggeringly simple in concept, easy to maintain, amazingly efficient, provides exercise... and the only thing that is more green is walking!
Bill Hearn, Perth Western Australia
The harnessing of the penicillium spore which led to a breakthrough in the management of infections which killed multitudes and disabled many more
Douglas Carnall, London, UK
It was the bicycle that drove the development of modern smooth roads, and it was the late 19th century cyclists who so enthusiastically clamped engines to their road machines to found the evolutionary dead end of the motor vehicle. Orville and Wright were bicycle mechanics who wanted to fly, not only horizontally--they could already do that--but vertically too. The cyclist is the apotheosis of human-machine integration, the cause of many ills, and our hope for the future.
The Bicycle -
Enduring simplicity, unceasing innovation
Heather Young, Preston, Lancs
I would like to nominate the fridge. I can remember as a child (and Iam not that old honestly) we didn't have a fridge and had to keep the milk cold in a bucket of cold water in the summer. Not just food but medicines etc kept for longer in the fridge. Also a great comfort if you are feeling miserable stick your head in the fridge and find something good to eat and finally in Einstein year it appears from some web sites credit the great man himself with coming up with the idea-what more evidence do you need?
Iain Penman, Aberdeen
My vote would go to Whitworth's invention of the unified system for screw threads. Without this nearly all of the technologies others have put forward would be impossible, as would modern manufacturing methods. The building of almost everything we use now depends upon this simple but brilliant idea.
Hazel Davies, Normandy, France
The foundation on which all modern life depends is the provision of clean water, and of sewage disposal. These together have reduced death rates, especially in infants, and thereby helped to reduce birth rates. (If you can be sure your children will survive, you will be more confident in restricting your family size.) Women's lives have changed immeasurably, in this country and all over the world because of this. Modern urban living is made possible.
Peter Moore gtr Manchester
Polymer development (Plastics)
Everything today is done with polymers, from milk bottles to heart valves & replacement joints. Not forgetting that nearly all clothing, packaging, household items as well as cars and engineered products contain polymers.
Just where would we be without plastic.
Steam Power.It underpined almost all of the industrial revolution.Even today nuclear power stations use turbines driven by steam,a technology that can be traced back over 2000 yrs.
James R. Slagle, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
The Internet or WorldWide Web is the greatest invention in at least the last 200 years.
It has already changed our lives tremendously and will change it even more.
It will soon subsume television and the telephone.
Paul Taylor, Hampshire
Say goodbye to untied shoelace misery, instanly!
We couldn't have a wardrobe malfunction without it.
Peter Mann, East Hatley, Cambridgeshire
The multi-part wheel as the first satisfactory piece of manufactured technology - go and try and make two wheels that, attached to an axle and a platform and to a horse, can carry a man for one mile. Without that success, the technologies everyone else has mentioned, as perhaps best seen in a Formula One car, would not be possible.
Steve in Lancaster
AFter being a "Petrol head" for the first 35 years of my life I had a severe brain injury and so could no longer drive. I was introduced to the world of bicycles and tricycles and would love to hear more on the subject of this wonderous invention.
nick downey / kings lynn
the internal combustion engine ( including jet engine ) has changed our lives more than any other item - it has changed warfare and when and why it occurs -mainly for oil. It controls where we live and our daily lives -where we work, eat, shop and sleep - we travel further and for little reason and pollute more because of this technological invention - simply try and think of all the things we wouldn't have if we didnt have 4 cylinders and a set of spark plugs!
Mick Steeper - Sheffield
Advances in iron and steel technology have changed the world several times, but one of the most important is often overlooked. The hot strip mill, which emerged in the 1920s, made high volume sheet metal production feasible. It gave industry a staple engineering material, and ushered in the consumer age. Until then, steel's volume application was really only as the fabric of war.
Ian Loveday Sheffield
The Bicycle brought affordable transport and fun to the masses. A technology that provided exercise and is good for environment
The ability to control electricity, and the vision that this natural phenomenom could be replecated and applied to a practical use.
BICYCLE / PEDAL CYCLE
Many of us would not be here if it were not for clean running water from our taps and the drainage systems that deal with all our wastes. So I nominate water treatment and the related water handling technologies.
Andrew Hughes, North Devon
Although the most important piece of technology developed over the past 200 years is obviously the electronic computer, this completely misses the point - the computer is currently just the best solution to the IMPLEMENTATION of a logic based inference engine.
Just as carbon-based flesh and DNA permit humans to exist (our 'implementation' and correspondingly our cage), the computer is no more than a medium that permits implementation of data management, abet its ability to simulate phenomena (real world or hypothetical) being second to none.
I feel the most important technological contribution in the past 200 years will be seen as the concept of DATA INDEPENDENCE - the separating of logic (data, information) from its implementation.
Major contributors to this end include, possibly unwittingly, Charles Babbage and Alan Turing and consciously, Dr. E.F. Codd.
Who is Dr. E.F. Codd you ask? Well he was the Englishman who, single-handedly, put the field of database management on a solid scientific footing. The entire relational database industry owes the fact of its existence to his original work.
He stressed the importance of the distinction, regrettably still widely under appreciated, between a data model and its physical implementation.
Ask yourself next time you use your PC/Playstation/XBOX/Mobile etc. Is it the device ITSELF that is essential or the ABILITY of the device to render information? Can a similar device perform the same task - probably!
When we eventually devise AI (Artificial Intelligence), although I prefer the term 'synthetic conscienceless', I have no doubt that it will rely on an implementation of the relational model.
Unlike ourselves, who are confined a physical body, Our new creation will be free to use whatever hardware medium(s) it chooses for its implementation - true immortality and consequently the start of the end to logic/implementation bound machines - us!
Andrew Hughes, North Devon
Radio is a very good form of communicating in this modern world. The BBC use it for entertainment, the military use it for communications, and, now, there are mobile phones which use radio and satillite to pass on infomation around the world. would nominate radio.
David Arditti, London
The bicycle is the most easily underestimated invention of the past thousand years. The pedal cycle was crucial to the emancipation of women in Europe at the end of the 19th century (easily forgotten) and continues to be crucial to the emancipation of poor and underprivilaged people all over the world today. The technology developed for the bike led directly to the motorbike, automobile, aircraft and even spaceflight (the Wright brothers were bike mechanics). It was the first example of modern mass-production precision mechanical engineering, and furthermore remains the most sustainable, green and versatilfe form of transport, whose true day has surely not yet come.
Russell Savage (University of Liverpool)
The digital computer, for the simple reason that without this annoying little box that sits on everybody’s desk so many other fields of science and technology would be impossible. Without the ability to perform rapid (and relatively high precision) calculations we would still not understand why aircraft fall out of the sky (or more importantly why they don’t). Imagine trying to decipher the human genome without it. For us poor dyslexics it even tells us when we are writing gobbledygook, at least in terms of spelling. Content is another matter!
Systeme International units. They provided a user-friendly common measure for all physical quantities, thus enabling collaboration between technologists all over the world. SI units assisted in the production of every other technology in the 20th Century.
Howard Fitall Melton Mowbray
Stainless Steeel. This opened up the understanding of the alloying of metals and so enabled so many developments without which much of modern technology would not be possible. Stainless steel also enabled the production of surgical instruments of vastly superior quality. Stainless steel also enabled the production of a vast range of fine chemicals essential for the pharmaceutical industry's development of drugs.
Kenneth Spencer, Bath, UK.
I nominate the production of electricity by electromagnetic induction - as per Michael Faraday.
without his method of electricity generation, the widespread availability of electricity would not have been possible. The development of motive power, radio, television, modern communications and computing, was without doubt enabled by the fact that a reliable electrical supply was universally avaiable.
Peter Nunn England
I would nominate GM crops. Since one of the greatest threats to life on this planet is lack of fresh water, the introduction of crops that can be grown in salt water would be of great benefit.
M Mohamed, Birmingham
Clean water, especially public health engineering (formerly Municipal Engineering).
The emergence of the provision of clean water, sanitation, and sewage treatment management has contributed hugely to each and every member of western society as a whole. It has enabled erdication and control of disease enabling large congregation of humans without raising health/mortality risks. It has reduced infant mortality, increased lifespan, and created a better, healthier, environment wherever it has been effectively applied. It is reputed to have had more impact in improving health and longevity of human society than medicine.
When just these few factors are added up, the removal of basic social risks has allowed societies to devote more time to creative activites rather than survival activities, thus enriching the benificiaries of public health engineering directly. The continuation of application of this technology in today's fashionable ideals of sustainable future and sustainbility in general will continue to help society met the challenges of healthy and productive futres.
Many people have suggested many things one popular item being electricity, but without the turbine developed by Parsons ther would be no cheap electricity or the refinement of jet power and gas turbines and ship power. The turbine has to be considered as the start of the modern society.
I nominate the manufacture of plastics having many diferent properties and in particular the extrusion of plastic into fine thread that can be woven or knitted into clothing. The clothes can also have a variety of properties, warm, waterproof or diaphanous. The polyester thread can be blended with wool or cotton. I marvel as I unpack uncrumpled clothes, and rejoice as I take clothes from the wash with no need to iron them.
Jose Rodriguez - Caracas
Definitlty for me was how on to handle the electricity, . . . then that to many key discoveries came-out by understanding the applications potential; how to generate, transport, storage etc, but most important the physical effects with interaction with other materials or environment, i.e, silicon (transistor) and magnetic waves (radio)
I would nominate the camera. Whilst a seemingly humble invention compared to something like the internet, it's easy to overlook the fact that before its invention it was impossible to view an accurate image from the past. This has revolutionised modern civilisation in many ways.
Tony Atack, Shipley, West Yorkshire
Can I nominate the worst invention... the telephone. With this contraption we've never had a moments peace.
I nominate the computer. Without it we would not be doing this.
Henry James, Ireland
In respect of the ultimate destination of the human race.
The dual birthplace of cyborgs must rate highly:
Gillian Norfolk, Kent
The pill, because it has changed women's lives by giving them control over child bearing
2 inventions - The discovery by Abraham Darby how to make steel using coal allowed the mass production of cheap steel. Without it the industrial revolution wouldn't have happened. The second is James Brindleys introduction of canals and canal transport which allowed the first economical mass transport of goods and allowed the economic growth which financed all future growth.
Use of electricity. It powers TVs PCs the internet infrastructure, satellites all of which allow wide communication of ideas and interaction between people.
Try thinking of a modern technology for which it's use is not integral.
It allows us to live in comfort, with heat. This must contribute to increasing longevity. Light substantially increases our productive day.
Brian H Preston Lancs
Fundamental invention was the laying of railway tracks leading to transport and thje telegraph the start of communication. This was the first electrical device which has now led to computers
Tim Bottle, Midlands
Electricty generation, without this we wouldn't have clean water, lighting, heating or modern methods of manufacturing. Electricity is the foundation of modern society.
It has to be the harnessing of the generation and distribution of electricity, both high and low voltage. It allows power to be easily deployed to where work is done, it powers or controls all our modern devices and so it enables us through those devices to measure, manage, envision, design and, change our environment and ourselves.
Andrew R Middleton - Nantwich
Claude Shannon and the invention of binary code. The fundamental concept behind most of the items on the selected.
Jim Aldus, Huntingdon
My nomination is the steel blast furnace. Without it there would have been no industrial revolution and almost all of the the other suggestions wouldn't have been invented without steel.
Owen Roberts; Kent
I nominate the Semi-Conductor
Roger Hart, Deal, Kent
The harnessing of electricity gets my vote. Without electricity little we take for granted today would be possible. Computers would be mechanical or gas powered, we could not have developed or used applications like the CD that rely on our knowledge of quantum mechanics ... This list is so extensive I doubt it could be written on this page.
John Christian, Dorset.
All inventions arise initially from observations, and the knowledge is subsequently propagated through various technologies. I would nominate the camera as the symbol of all those factors.
Electricity, no argument.
Tony Watson Gateshead
who could live without a television. certainly not me
Used in old and new technology to convert motion. Without the crank we could not have technology new or old. IMO the single most importtant piece, without which our World could not function as we want.
chris tucker, Plmouth
i would like to nominate the car because without one i couldn't do as much as i do now.
Andrew Rands, Stenhousemuir
It has to be the transistor. I dont feel any other single invention has had the same meaningful inpact on out world. The harnessing of electricity comes a very close second.
the technology behind running water. It sounds so easy: the element with the characteristic of being able to flow and an ingenious way of channeling it into houses.
How commodities such as these have proven to be crucial for the way life is lived today in most countries.
The camera. what other piece of technologhy can capture the miracle of everyday life? How does it work? We can reproduce life at the tilt of a bit of apparatus.
I would like to nominate the much maligned and totally underestimated technological ingenuity and efficiency of the humble bicycle. It is still the most efficient way for us to get about. For something first invented and created so long ago, it perhaps has one of the greatest potentials to save this planet from destruction at the hands of the motor vehicle, which, I might add, has caused nothing but destruction.
BILL McANDREW NORTH SOMERSET retired consultin
THE LARGE-SCALE GENERATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF ELECTRICITY; NOTHING MUCH WORKS WITHOUT IT
Allen Gorringe, S.Yorks
That tinternet thingy ! - Fabulous.
Electricity is the fundamental driver of most, if not all of our technology. The harnessing of Electromagnetic waves gave us Radio. Our ability to store and utilise electricity at will, and the fact it is universally commonplace means it will be important to mankind for a long time to come.
Alan W. Germany
Guttenburg's printing press. It gave knowledge to the masses and broke the religious zealots monopoly on information.
Without it we would all still be farmers !
david crystal (lancs)
Anaesthetics have made it possible to carry out major invasive sugical procedures: saving millions of lives and improving the quality of countless others.
Matt - Northallerton N.Yorks
Glass - you can use it to make a lense and so start fire (on a sunny day) and it enabled the development of the valve which led to comms such as telephones/tv and to ceramics for the development of electricity.
Colin Ledsome, London
I nominate TARMACADAM as the invention which has made the most difference to life in the last 200 years. Unmade roads spread mud in the winter and dust in the summer. Boots were the footware of choice, travel was uncomfortable and slow, and health was poor. Tarmacadam made the towns and cities cleaner places to live, made road travel more pleasant, and improved the living environment immeasurably. Children could play outside, clothes did not need to be washed as often, and shoes could be worn outside. Tarmac was far cheaper than cobbles, could be laid quickly and easily maintained. It helped rainwater drainage and improved communication. It may not be glamorous, but it made so many other things possible.
Jet Engine, Frank Whittle, what a star!
This is a difficult task, perhaps too difficult.
I want to go with the humble transistor, but I acknowledge that without discovering electricity and subsequently how to manipulate it then the transistor would never have been developed.
I think I will not simply go with the technology that has spawned the most obvious advantages else I would have to go with tools since all our "scientific" progress would have started by fashioning simple tools.
Thus back to my original choice, I must go with the transistor since without it we would have unweildy inefficient electronics.
Note : To all the people who are voting for the internal combustion engine... This device has barely changed in design over the last 100 years and I refuse to believe this is due to alternatives being so difficult to develop. In that regard it is an inefficient, dirty and in my opinion 'primitive' device.
My take on it all.
Sam Philip, Aberdeen
The combined work of Johann Gutenberg, Johann Fust, and Peter Schoffer around 1450 in setting up a printing press
with moveable type had profound impact in fueling the modern age of discovery. All varieties of progress in science, art and education is based on the easy dissemination of knowlege to different parts of the globe, allowing other people to be educate themselves and better these ideas which otherwise would have remained confined to the consideration of a few academic and social elite.
Kate Lee, London
The telescope, without which we would not understand our place in the universe, nor know about the bizzare and wonderful things in it.
To Further refine the comments regarding electricity I would suggest the invention of the induction motor/generator by Nikola Tesla. This technology drives the world, even more so than the mighty transistor or internal combustion engine. Without induction motors and generators mains electricity, and thus society as we know it, would not exist.
the only invention is of course ELECTRICITY. without that NOTHING else would be possible.
Michael Oneill - Hertfordshire UK
The Silicon Chip - Its small, not very exciting to look at, but you will find one in nearly everything electrical. The Chip allows high speed changes to be made to basic mechanical devices like the car engine to dramatically increase performance and efficiency. This applies to everything from cookers to space stations. It’s allows us to be more environmentally friendly.
Dave Davies, Leominster
The bicycle. It is the most energy efficient land transport ever made; it spawned the development of better quality roads; it greatly extended the mobility and independence of the ordinary citizen; it spawned technological developments such as the IC engine and powered flight (both first successfully achieved by bicycle makers). It is simple and cheap to make, suitable for young and old, rich and poor, male and female. It is good for health, reduces traffic congestion, easy and cheap to park, and above all, FUN.
Richard near Coventry
Oral contraception has been a liberation and antibiotics have to be the greatest scientific discovery so far. But the most significant technological innovation since 1800 would seem to be the computer...
Jim from Glasgow
surely the most important invention must be elastic, allowing us all to have snugly fitting underpants which remain in place!!!
Mark - Pacific Northwest USA
It has to be Soap. the number one factor in the prevention of disease is bathing with Soap. Without it, the world population would be MUCH smaller. Imagien what the current population of Asia would be had they had a black Plague similar to Europe's?
Without any doubt it is the silicone chip which is used in almose everything we use today. From kettles, calculators and computers to incinerators, electricity sub stations and transport of all descriptions
Ved Sen, London
The Internet - it has taken us beyond nations, created global communities, changed lives and lifestyles across the world - touching commerce, arts, relationships and science. It has reshaped industries - retail, travel, telecoms, finance, entertainment, media, healthcare and many others. It has changed the way we look at the world, our approaches to learning, knowledge and ambition. The question may be whether the Internet is a single invention or a phenomenon born of many inventions. I leave that question to the judges.
Patrick Grant Highlands UK
I think the transistor was a very significant innovation. In its basic huge (initial) form it was unwieldy but leaping forward to today - transistors are so small that when used together with many others, advanced hardware can be rendered.
Maureen Lyden, Scotland
The harnessing of electrical power.
Mike Plummer UK
The computer. Without this, many of the other technological advances would never have been possible or would have taken much longer to be developed.
P. Power Warwick
The invention of the turbine to bring energy and jet flight to all.
I nominate the MUTE button on TV remote controllers to silence adverts and politicians.
J. Smith Surrey
How many inventors would have died as children without water and sewage treatment systems? How many potential inventors are still dying for the same reason?
Texting-I have been living and working in Bangkok for two years.Leaving three 20 somethings to get on with their lives.We continue to text daily.The messages might seem small and inconsequential to others but it keeps me part of their lives and me in theirs its amazing so quick and inexpensive and all the way round the world.I therefore vote for texting!!!
Tim Hutty, Sheffield
Certainly Venetian blinds. Without these - disaster.It would be curtains for the entire human race!
Got to be the bicycle. Made a huge difference to the genetic mix of everyone before the car came around. Cars will seem really outdated in a few decades time when we're out of fuel. Bicycles will go on for ever
vince russell farnham surrey
Electricity, without it virtually nothing else would be possible.
Tony Cardigan, Hampshire
The development of Sewage treatment by the Victorian Engineers. What would our environment and health be like without this
Jon Connell - Cambridgeshire
Transistor – Made the information age possible. Which has changed human society beyond all recognition.
Susannah Connell - Cambridgeshire
The washing machine. A revolution for women. Fundamentally changing their lives.
S. Ryan, USA
Mathematics. Most people would not think of this as "technology"; but I believe it is.
Will Hickman, Calcutta
I nominate the inoculation jab- saves by far and away the most lives of any invention.
Dan Verley North Carolina, USA
The PC and the OS that run them have by far revolutionized the way think of technology. Every revolution we make from this point foward are going to in some way shape or form be affected by the efforts of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in the early 80's.
Sandeep Kaur, India
I think that telephone has been a great invention - a lot really depends on it - even internet. The world has shrunk because of it and it is really easy to reach out to anyone in the world.
Henry Gibson, Nottingham
It has accelerated the learning of masses and has revolutionised the way people communicate, lowering borders.
Jan Lichovnik, Czech republic
Modern agriculture - green revolution. Mechanization and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers increased world food production many folds, and literally freed people from doing tiresome work on fields. This is what allows us to live in prosperity, and allowed us to advance society further and faster.
My second candidate is the Internet - this new medium has huge potential. Even now it allows free communication, information access, tele-working and virtual gaming across the globe.. future will be even brighter. I believe that Internet will be force responsible for more united, just, free and tolerant world of future.
Steve Jensen, Oregon City, Oregon, USA
Electrical power generation and specifically AC power have revolutionized the world with which we live.
Phil Jones, Shropshire.
domestic and industrial electricity
Dharmender , Bedfordshire UK
Has to be nanotechnology ..
The internet: library, art gallery, newpaper and magazine rolled into one and open to anyone with a computer and modem.
John Wilkinson. Normanton West Yorkshire
The most important piece of technology has got to be the treatment and disposal of sewage and drinking water which was developed in the mid 19th century. Can anyone imagine being deprived of clean drinking water and having sewage backing up in the streets in a country with the population of G/B;it would be a nightmare of stink and disease. All other technological discoveries pale into insignificance when compared with the foresight and ingeuity of the 19th century civil engineers who fought to build the system that we take so much for granted.
Bill Spensley, Cape Cod, USA
Harnessing electricity. All comes from this wonderful achievement.
The electronic computer, as first imagined by Alan Turing and first built by GPO Engineer Tommy Flowers at Bletchley Park in 1943. And to counter previous posters - the computer is not a transistor-dependent invention. Not only was the first such device built using radio-valves, but in all probability future devices will not rely upon transistors to provide the switching function vital to the working of a computer. It is the computer's capacity as a physical embodiment of the universal 'Turing Machine' that is its most crucial defining facet; not the underlying electronics upon which it rests. The computer has already had a revolutionary impact upon the rate of human progress in other fields, and that will only increase in future.
Geoff Elliott, Pembrokeshire
Nuclear energy (that's fusion not fission). What amazing proof of our understanding of the atom and sub atomic particles and what potential for cheap low pollution energy.
Isabel Póvoa, Aveiro, Portugal
I think that the most important thing was electronic comunication in the 21st century because they provide us devices like computer, owr cell,etc.. tanks to they we dont have to spend much time planing a get out with friends, with them we also keep in touch with old friends, its much easier to send a email rater than having to write a long letter and we dont feel so nervous, off course!
Electricity - surely there's no real contest?
Dr. Liz Robinson, Brighton
The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming.Before that young, healthy people regularly died of bacterial infections almost unheard of today. Meningitis was always fatal, pneumonia often so. Chronic mastoid infection, rheumatic fever, acute nephritis, quinsy and many other serious infections are very seldom seen now as a direct result of this discovery.Thousands of lives have been saved.
Darren Ross, Sunderland
Without a doubt it has to be the electric light. It must be the most pervasive electrical device in existence. It was invented, by the way, by Sir Joseph Swan of Sunderland, more than ten months before Edison.
THE PRINTING PRESS
Before it, stored and recoverable information in the form of writing was privy to autocrats and clerics and the rich. Outside of that was a verbal tradition which could not easily create new understanding, and depended on another person to be there for you.
After the printing press, information has become accessible to ALL. One may read ALONE, at ANY time.
Print has allowed us all to develop that part of us which SO distinguishes us from the rest of Life on Earth - our brain.
Nick, Beckenham Kent UK
Telephone. In a few seconds I can talk to somebody the other side of the world and feel as though they were in the same room.
Richard , West Midlands
I can predict with confidence that there is one important area of human need which will NOT be addressed by the technology that wins the prize.
I am talking about the item which for most people is the most expensive financial undertaking they will ever make. Does that give you a clue? OK. Changing your current one for another one is considered to be one of the most stressful undertakings in one's life. Does that help?
I am talking of course about housing. Houses contain technology but the building materials and construction of a house is still relatively untouched by technology and houses are made a way they were made 100 years ago with only slight alterations.
And nobody regards this as extraordinary.
The materials used (very briefly) are brick , timber and steel girders, and a large helping of skill. Timber is getting scarcer as trees are cut down whilst people proliferate. Brick is fine for vertical structures but is useless for spanning. Concrete beams are not ideal either. Timber is OK but it rots and burns. Steel frameworks can be erected quickly but they have a huge coefficient of thermal expansion and a lust for oxygen.
And when are we going to have a technology which dispenses with skill?
Why have the great minds of the last centuries given so little thought to the important structure which keeps us warm, safe, dry and private?
Mike D, Luxembourg
I have scanned most of the comments so far so this might already have been covered.
Many nominations are for electricity, and for inventions like the transistor which depend on electricity.
I would like to nominate the application of Faraday's discovery of the relationship between electricity and magnetism. All AC electricity distribution, as well as almost all applications of electronics, depends on this. Because of the constraints of Ohm's Law, DC cannot be transferred over long distances, indeed when the arguments about AC and DC were raging in the USA, one of the deciding factors was the requirement for DC powerstations on every few floors of the rising skyscrapers.
Modern civilization (sic) depends to a very large extent on the economic generation and distribution of (AC) electric power.
It might be mentioned that Concrete was developed and use by the Roman. They even made and used hydraulic (sets under water) cement.
However, the suggestion that the internet represents the greatest development in communications since Gutenberg popularized the Chinese invention of movable type is also valid.
Eddie McCarron, Oxford
The pill. This invention of the sixties has started a real-time experiment that is just starting to produce interesting results. No single piece of social engineering will have such a profound effect on the western world. Then along came genetic engineering.
The Telephone - invented by Alexander Graham Bell.
It gave us mass communication which fascillitates free speech and truth.
It's internet. It presents high class and variety communication. We can arrive too much information.
M.Kemal Alimoglu, Turkey
Description of structure of DNA molecule in late 1950's by Watson and Crick. All developments in molecular medicine and genetics were based on their description at a molecular base. "Almost all aspects of life are engineered at the molecular level, and without understanding molecules we can only have a very sketchy understanding of life itself" Crick says.
pan China Liaoning
In my opinion,internet game is a really fantastic invention.
Simon Baddeley Birmingham
The bicycle. No other invention so efficiently converts human energy to locomotion. It came in before internal combustion and, at least in cities, will supercede it as a means of powering transport - both for recreation and utility, being cheap. clean, healthy, enjoyable and convivial, and - if it's a folder - is ideal for long distance travel in conjunction with trains, taxis, trams and buses.
electricity supply via ac -Nikola tesla - so little respect given to such a great mind
Geoff Peacey at Totland Bay, Isle of Wight
I nominate the steam engine and its application to industry and transport. Without it, most of the above inventions would not have been developed yet!
Jim Middleton, Westhill, Aberdeenshire
There are a number of good suggestions so far, but I think that the most important was the development of oil production and refining technology. Love it or hate it, without oil products our developed society would not exist in the form we know. Not only do oil products fuel virtually all our transport needs - getting to work, the kids to school, the food to the supermarket, the food to our tables, imported goods from the third world, flights to holiday destination; but it is also the raw material for the plastics we use, the pharmacueticals we take, fabrics, clothes and furniture, and so on and so on. Oil also generates some electricity, that ubiquitous source of power without which we would also be lost, heats our homes, air-conditions our offices and generally supports almost everything we do in the developed world.
Tunde Adeyemo, London
Quantum Mechanics, it has given us the understanding of sub atomic/ atomic structures and the intractions of structures to molecular level thus being the basis of and showing the limitations of transistor theory and the benefits of optoelctronics. It also holds the greatest promise of understanding the world of complexity such as found in biological organisms at subcellular levels. Perhaps it holds the key to life.
Don Mann - Cheshunt Herts
The major development in the industrial revolution is ELECTRICITY! Virtually nothing in the modern world would function without it. Food, Hospitals, transport, light, and so on ad infinitum.
Angela Barnwell, Twickenham
I nominate the Croatian genius Nikola Tesler who invented the ad/dc electricity supply system. Without this we would not have electricty in our homes, on our streets, on our railways, the ability to manufacture transistors, another major invention, etc. ete. etc. This ad/dc system made possible Heddy Lamar's major work on radio waves/signals which give us mobile phones, satellite connections, used by the military today, again etc. etc. etc.
Peter Vintner, San Vendemiano (TV), Italy
In my opinion the most significant technological innovation since 1800 would have to be the generation and distribution of mains electricity. Without the development of this technology the vast majority of other technologies upon which our lives are so utterly dependent today, or their research and development, would not have been possible.
Olivia Davies London
a) for its use of the EM spectrum and the results that it has yielded has allowed for many discoveries in many sciences
b) the method is elegant and easy to understand from basic geometry
c) this winner would honour the experimental and theoretical
d) The Braggs (and others) should be better known in Britain.
Mary Barker, Leeds, West Yorkshire
I would nominate the Difference Engine invented by Charles Babbage in 1821. He completed it in 1832 but then conceived the idea of a better machine that could perform any kind of calculation. This was called the Analytical Engine and was the forerunner of today's computers. Who knows how history would have been changed if Babbage had realised that a stored programme computer could have been made using relays which would have advanced the use of modern computers by decades. As with all innovative technology however, his invention was dependent on other discoveries and inventions later in history that overcame the difficulties he experienced by the level of technology available at the time. His invention is still regarded as one of the finest examples of precision engineering of the time.
David Pearson, St Albans
1. The camera is a silly suggestion. Blind people survice fulfilling lives without sight,
2. The whole idea of THE most important invention is daft in itself. How can one measure relative importnaace between say transistors and railways?
The Internal Combustion Engine. Without doubt the most amazing development in the last 200 years. Not only does it now allow us move around the globe without parameters, but from the very first basic engine to the development of neculear fusion, the controlled combustion of fuel will continue to drive us forwards, not only on our planet, but into space and beyond.
Dominic Beesley, West Yorkshire
While Phil Baldwin is in part right to highlight the transistor. The snippet above is not quite right. Nearly all of the items noted can be easily (more reliably and just a compactly) be built using thermionic valves. Indeed the Russians until very recently (and probably still as far as I know) use them for their, far more reliable, space progam.
Without the thermionic valve none of todays modern gadgets would have been invented.
Most TVs still have one very big thermionic valve for producing the picture.
The first computers were built using thermionic valves.
I am listening to your program on a radio which uses thermionic valves and sounds better than everything but the most expensive radios - yes it sounds better than DAB!
The thermionic valve is one of the heroes of the twentieth centuary. Technology as we know it is owed to the valve. The valve is a British invention. We should be proud of the radio valve!
Electricity is my nomination. I was born in the foothills of th Himalayas and we did not have electricity till I was 14.I can remember the day that we were connected and what a differnce it made to all our lives. I cannot imagine the world without electricity.
Tim Kirk, York
The Wright brothers were bicycle engineers before aeronautical engineers and so many development in transport have come from the forced limitations of making something that can be propelled by the human body. Spoked wheels, pneumatic tyres, efficient bearings & chain drives all vastly accelerated (or inspired by) the humble bike.
Concrete! The most widely used engineering material. The industrial world depends on it.
Mark Hagger, Aberdeenshire
the bicucle has transformed physical communication, with minimal damage to the planet, is cheap and accessable, simple to ride and maintain, avaialble irrespective of class, race and creed, and will enable us to survive once planes and cars are no longer available.
Stephen Roesner, Plymouth
I would like to nominate the one thing that has set 'us' apart from all other living things, and has enabled all the progress since - speach. Technology would be unable to proceed without the ability to pass on a thought, icon, idea. One wonders how the application of thought would have proceeded without the transmission of ideas, especially after the original thinker's demise (Turin's Computer, Eddison's and Rutherford's ideas on Electricity, Sinclair and the Transistor, Clark's Satellites, Roentgen's x-rays) Even long-ended ideas can be resurrected (Green Earth idea, long used until the Industrial Revolution) and others reassessed. As Asimov said - most discoveries have started not by Eureka but - 'Thats funny...'
I nominate the invention of AC current by Nikolai Tesla. Electricity in DC form was known as early as Franklin's kite experiments and perhaps earlier but it was the invention of AC by Tesla which made the modern electronic revolution possible.
My nomination is for the bicycle. It is practically free to use (unlike every other form of transport except walking), almost entirely non-polluting (unlike most powered modes of transport) and is seemingly the most efficient use of human energy yet invented (thereby ensuring a good level of health and fitness). Because of the bicycle I am able to save vast sums of money through not driving a car, I arrive at work bright and awake (making me a more efficient worker), having taken less time than if I had driven and sat in polluting queues, and have had no need for over 5 years of any of the wonderful medical advances that others have nominated. The bicycle goes a long way to making the internal combustion engine in its most common form redundent and vastly reduces the need for such things as antiseptics. Above all, the bicycle is a significant technological advance of the past 205 years that will not leave a negative legacy for the next 205 years and beyond.
The technology that gives us purified water- we would all be far too sick to do anything about invention if we didnt have that- it's no single gizmo,just as electricity generation can be achieved in a number of ways, but we need Technology to deliver the volume we use to every where we expect it. Because most of us have it, we don't notice it. The millions that don't would certainly welcome safe water above all other inventions.
Johannes Kiessling, Germany
Of course on the base of electricity and a number of other inventions it is the computer and it's ever growing periphery which allows us to progress at all. Without it we would have got stuck at whatever level had been reached. Eventually it might be the computer which will allow all knowledgeto be coordinated which is completely beyond our otherwise fairly competent brain power.
Andrew Coles - Harrogate
Electricity. Without it there would be no computers, transistors, internet, jet engines, televisions, radio, high speed travel, etc. etc. It is the fundamental upon which all the other great inventions depend. Imagine life without it!
Hamish Blair, Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Electricity distribution - we take it for granted that we can plug so many different appliances into the wall, and they come alive! Consider how life is, where you cannot depend on 24x7 power.
Electricity is my nomination.
Everything would stop without it.
There is no single technological breakthrough. Naming one would be a dis-service to all others. Technology is everywhere.
I would nominate the application of the scientific method with the view of improving our lives and satisfy our curiosity. This has resulted in the continuous improvement of our standard of living and also has helped answer some of the key scientific questions about our place in the Universe. This has also had a significant impact on the morality, religious beliefs, political opinions etc that form the backbone of the age of today. Technology and science are the unsung heros for the success of the human specy.
Jon Catling, Edinburgh
It is still the bicycle; technology tends to have as many downsides as it does advances - may it learn to apply itself more wisely - the bicycle continues to support the human race as the most practical form of personal transport and an enhancer of human condition. It will remain after we have used up the stored forms of energy; if we were to utilize the bicycle more readily it would delay this process, perhaps giving us more time to consider our demands for energy and the risks involved with nuclear power - power from matter itself, also taking energy from the structure of our planet - potentially, the only ‘alternative’ to the only energy input this planet has - the sun and its effects i.e. wind/weather and tides from the moon. I am currently working on making cycling a more comfortable (and safer for your nether regions?) experience.
Cheap transportation, allowing the average person to travel 3 or 4 times further than walking.
Helped to integrate communitys and so spread knowledge.
Mike Ashford, Derbyshire
The thermionic valve. It made electronics possible and that generated the creative ideas that generated all the electronics we have today and in the future.
The Bicycle, which provides a cheap effective and pollution free mode of transport requiring minimal infrastructure, also useful for providing healthy activity in the leisure, recreational and sporting field.
Stephen Brooks London UK
Most tecnological innovations rest on the technology that precede it. Many of the various technologies we see today are created by the steady accumulation of minor changes to existing technologies or the combination of a range of technologies hitherto separately used. So for example the steam train would not have been developed without the invention of the steam engine which would not itself have been sufficiently efficient without various changes to that first rather crude engine used to pump water out of Cornish Tin Mines. It is rare therefore to find that single discovery, invention or leap of imagination which changes the course of technology. Of the many technologies developed during the last 200 years such as the spinning jenny, the steam engine, telecommunications, radio, machine tools, the chemical industry, the aeroplane, motor cars, computers can all be considered as major technologies without which we would not be in our current postion. To single one out I think it has to be electricity because I cannot think of many other processes that we are now so dependent upon and the absence of which would send us back to the 'dark' ages in more ways than one.
Chemical engineering - not a single invention, but the development of the ability to synthesise molecules to produce materials, pharmaceuticals etc. Without synthetic materials we would not be able to make use of many inventions let alone have cheap versions in our homes.
Alastair Clark - Wirksworth, Derbys
For me the safety bicyle by Joseph Starley represents a most remarkable invention, effectively allowing human muscles to propel a human body at up to 12 times faster than it could before. the bicycle has had a huge impact across the world enabling people to travel must longer distances than before. in addition, this device makes very limited impact on the environment and contributes to health. A clear winner!
Celia Charnley - Leeds
The washing machine has liberated me. But I worry about ecological damage.
When you get to the heart of it - power. the fuel of automation. I think now we need to push for a sustainable source.
Richard Lennox, Peterborough
Surely the most important technological invention would be one which facilitated one of the three essentials of life (food, clothing and shelter). Of these, only clothing is not naturally provided, so this leaves the sewing machine as mankind'sgreatest benefactor. Perfected around 1850 by the Americans Elias Howe, Allen Wilson and Nathaniel Wheeler, James Gibbs with Charles and James Wilcox and, of course, Isaac Singer, the sewing machine liberated legions of hand seamstresses whose plight was declaimed in "The Song of the Shiirt" from wearing out their eyes for poverty wages (hence "not worth the candle". It also made possible cheap clothing for the masses. What would clothes cost today if hand-sewn in Britain, rather than inm dollar-a-day sweat shops in the Farr East? Incidentally, the machine can also provide one of the other two necessities of life, the tent. It also does not need electricity, working by hand or treadle.
the tin can - without it baked deans wouldn't be the same
Patrick Wills, Wiltshire
The internet. I don't normally vote for such apparently shallow things, but I think that, in this instance, the huge and wide-reaching effects of the internet will make it more significant than any one engineering and medicinal invention.
Electricity (Faraday's Induction Ring). Totally agree with Susan Greenfield.
the steam engine is the invention where man first harnessed and deployed energy potential at will, so much would have been impossible had it not been for the tehcnical & engineering achievements discovered while developing this machine
Simon Devine, Bangkok
Electricity. Nothing else that defines our world now could exist without it. I have read many nominations and comments but Electriciy runs the world now. Everythng else is derived frm this discovery.
Baz Elvin Wiltshire
So Lord Broers is disappointed that the bicycle won the popular technology vote. All that he had to say about other contenders makes good sense but the bike still gets my vote; the world would be a better place if more of us rode one.
Guillermo Phillips, Brighton UK
Definitely the vacuum tube. Without it we wouldn't have TVs, Light Bulbs, Valves (and hence transistors), X-Ray imaging and linear accelerators, and of course the discovery of the electron.
Jeremy Taylor Wirksworth Derbyshire
The only runner is the bicycle. It gave freedom to travel to the people and today it is still the most environmentally friendly and efficient way to travel.
The internal combustion engine
It's what led to the massive improvements in the standard of living and quality of life post-war. Cars are demonised as being inefficient but that's a political view rather than scientific fact. Cars are the most efficient way to move a small number of people, buses are better than trains for large numbers.
Dr Chris Stevenens, Oxford University
The single most significant SCIENTIFIC development was quantum mechanics in the early 1900s. This lead to a much more complete understanding of matter in all it's forms and promoted developments in chemistry, physics, electronics and biology. Many people have suggested the transistor but without quantum mechanics and the understained it engendered Bardeen et al. could never have developed their first crude prototype. Others have discussed drugs - the modern understanding of chemical processes is intimately tied up with quantum mechanics and with it's tools we are able to design drugs, understand DNA, probe matter at extreme scales, develop lasers, microcomputers, and now nanotechnologies.
Surely such a far reaching and hugely influential and ramified invention is to be ranked amongst the most inportant developments of the last 200 years.
Ledger White, Rochester
All technological advances depend upon an understanding of the science behind them. So if there's anything which helped to bring forward the understanding of all of the sciences, then it must be a good candidate. I believe that the simple study of the rainbow led to some of the greatest insights into modern science. The realisation that the energy in light depends only upon its colour (e=hf) led to advances in everything from Astonomy to Quantuum theory.
A common theme in the submissions so far is the application of modern electronics; take a backward thread through the theme: the internet, the pc, the microchip, the transistor, the semiconductor, quantuum theory, energy levels, e=hf ... you're back to the rainbow.
Try another: Airliners, powerful engines, metallurgy, crystallography, x-rays, e=hf ... the rainbow again.
So the simplest of devices, the spectroscope (without which few of the others would exist), is my nomination!
The harnessing of electricity has undoubtedly made the biggest impact on all our lives over the past 200yrs - just stop and think for a moment how different life would be without it!
Spel-checkrs. Withot witch we wuld nott bea abel to understnad eech udder.
Dorothy Atkinson, West Yorkshire
the generation of Electricity. This is so fundamental, so much depends on it.
For me the most important invention is the ball point pen
I nominate the Match. Ever tried to light a fire without one?
graham barnard, winchester
the continuous paper making process, which by making paper widely available, enabled the dissemination of knowledge and underpinned the development of many other technologies, as well as the development of countless paper products including newspapers, magazines, packaging, hygienic tissue, labels, decorative laminates, cheque papers, copy papers, battery components, air filters, bus and tube tickets, wallpaper building board and many others, which we all take for granted. All of this using renewable raw materials which are recyclable after use.
Danny Staple, London Uk
It would most definately be the transistor. Without this, we would not have made the vast leaps in computational power, which will allow us to develop much more.
I am a little disappointed that people nominated the ICE - its not far different from steam technology - only noisier and dirtier. True technologists would love to see those innefficient machines dissapear.
Bill Taylor, Nairn
Dear You and Yours,
May I suggest that the most important contribution to the technology of the modern world was Henry Maudslay's slide-rest lathe. Without it none of the precision mass-production nor the creation of specialised tools which allowed the incvention and production of all the other pieces of yechnology already proposed would have been possible. Not even computer chips!
Without any doubt the highest utility physical invention is electricity generation. The greatest future changing discretionary step would be a non derived, non observational concept that creates a unique, verifiable and pervasive insight (for eg can't be DNA, IC's, nanoscience, IC engine, quantum mech. etc.). I suspect there aren't any (yet.) The closest ones I can think of are the earlier perceptions of Shakespeare, Newton and later Einstein.
Bryn Jones, Welwyn Garden City
because it is the only device that will enable:
1) humans to evolve, even perhaps by computers evolving themselves (we'll have invented them as replacements for ourselves)
2) humans to escape the earth.
John Ibbotson, Ireland
The inventions to generate and store Electricity in ac and dc form.Without these nothing else in the modern technological world would be possible.
It was so powerful it prevented nuclear war through mutually assured destruction. Before it, Atomic bombs were seen as viable weapons (as at Hiroshima) and would likely have been used in the Cold War with enormous destructive effect.
Pam Dugdale, Lancashire
The lightbulb, without which we wouldn't have had electricity in our homes, or discovered the electron!
The gas turbine
Revolutionised air travel
That would be the Whitworth invention of the micrometer. The step needed for mass production
I would nominate powered transport. before the steam engine people were tarpped in the locality where they were born. Once it (and subsequent forms of powered transport) was inbvented people were able to travel to more distant places.
Without the steamship it is extremely unlikely that mass migration to the Americas or Australasia could have happened
Richard Hurford - Paris
I agree with Susan Greenfield, electricity pervades our society, very little that we do today could be done by steam and mechanical systems (the alternative). Therefore my vote goes to the harnessing of electicity.
Toby, New Zealand
The television. More than the internet (so far), it reaches billions of lives all over the planet in a matter of minutes every single day. In the UK, people watch an average of 21 hours' television per week. The figure is not dissimilar throughout the wealthy nations. Yet even in poor countries the television is king. Go to Cambodia, to floating fishing villages without mains electricity, and you will find the whole village watching one television every evening, hooked up with a car battery. Television, more than the radio, or any other medium, conveys information and ideas to be rapidly disseminated around the world, changing whole cultures. Whether this is good or bad is another matter. But it is "significant".
Andy Senior, Utica, NY, USA
Refrigeration is the one invention that enables the vast majority of people in industrialized countries to have fresh nutritious food on hand year round. (Our winter diets are thus no longer limited to salt-preserved meats and home-canned produce.) That this invention has been abused of late does not negate its indispensibility in our lives. Because a mechanical refrigerator condenser can operate on more than one source of power, I rank it even above electrification of the home.
Nick Smith, Minot, ND, USA
The microprocessor. Without it, we wouldn't have the computers to do all of our complicated tasks and math has been made much easier. Also, we wouldn't have cell phones, satellites, robots to do our highly repetitive tasks, do some common office work (like typing documents), and without the microprocessor, we wouldn't have high-quality music, photos, and the related. Manned missions to Mars and eventually the stars would be extremely difficult without it. Without the microprocessor, today's technology would be that of what would be in the early 1970's.
Paul headon Swansea
I would like to nominate the Internet Information gains power as it travels freely
Peter Durose, Ottawa, Canada
I suggest the invention and development of the Stored Program Computer as described by Alan Turing. This brilliant concept has provided humankind with the essential quantum leap from "dumb" calculator to modern real-time computer, an essential building block for all modern and future advances in technology. It was rapidly placed into service at Blechely Park to help crack the Enigma Codes and has proved itself over and over again in a miriad of ways, right up to the present day.
Eamonn Harris, Hertfordshire
I look to criteria to rank the marvels that have impacted on our lives and have no doubt that portland cement (Joseph Aspdin 1824) is the most pervasive, widely used in societies where electricity is still a luxury. It is in the hospitals where we were born, the schools and colleges where we were educated, in the homes where we live, both rich and poor. It is the most enabling , providing the runways for the aircraft, the launch pads for the rockets, the sleepers for the railways, the roads, bridges and tunnels for our motors. Electricity is generated beneath concrete dams, produced in concrete power stations. Few goods are manufactured in factories that have not been started with concrete ground work. It is an integral part of the human landscape, touching the lives of every one of us. Not surprisingly, it has crossed the boundary and become a medium of art. No society can hope to participate in economic prosperity that has not first tackled its infrastructure, much of it cement.
Ashok Ranchhod ,Dunbridge Hampshire
My Choice would rocket technology and the use of the satellite. This has revolutionised the way in which we look at the earth. It has also helped us to understand the current environmental problems afflicting the earth. They also help to speed up communications.
Joseph Breckenridge, USA
Nanotechology. We're just at the beginning, but this technology has the potential to change everything: manufacturing, medicine, food production. Properly used nanotechnolgy could eliminate want, vastly extend lifespans and give us the ability to live without killing. The blind cruelty of evolution can be dispensed with and a kinder and gentler world can be made. The lion will lay down with the lamb.
Stephen Czarnota UK
I base my response on the understanding of first things first and suggest the generation and distribution of electrical power.
The telephone. Not the mobile phone, because the elephone is required first.
Photography. Nothing has influenced more than the picture and the moving picture. It moves us to tears and brings laughter. It brings the world around us closer, building bridges and creating understanding. Yes, the internet is great, yes the transistor is great, but without pictures what would our world be like? No pictures of childhood, of weddings, no sunsets and sun rises to look back on. No pictures of transistors, or invention in books, only drawings. You would never 'see' the universe as it is. The ability to take, store and keep pictures has transformed out lives, from holiday snaps to world events.
Elfalem , silver spring ,USA
I think the biggest invetions that changed the world is knowing how
to control electricity.Even if we know about electricity and we can no control it with logic gates ,transisters, fuses, resisters, it will do no good
internal combustion engine; it has radically changed individuals' sense of self (hugely more powerful when in car), relationships between individuals, between individual and community and work-place and leisure places, relocated comunnities and workplaces, and done more to destroy the world we have lived in for millions of years than any other single thing.
Neil Patterson, central Europe
One thing that truly does not deserve the title is Otto Rohwedder's bread slicing machine. It led directly to tasteless white fluff which passed itself off as bread in Britain for most of the twentieth century.
Marc Calne Wilts
Penicillin, what can i say.
Kramer Phillips Walla Walla, WA
The solar panel and wind turbine. Perhaps they can, if it's not too late, halt some of the environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels and nuclear waste.
Birth Control--- the root of most of the biggest problems facing the world today is overpopulation -- and we do have the technology to control it ,if only there was the political will
I would nominate the computer. It has to be the best piece of technology of the last two centuries, letting people contact each other, helps in business and very much a valuable educational medium for all ages.
stuart lanigan; coventry england
i would nominate a place, not a thing. i nominate Coventry. without this great city we would have had no Bicycles,(george starley) and no Jet Engines, (frank whittle) so i conclude, the greatest development/discovery has to be Concorde. (my dad turned the rotor housings)and no one has ever surpassed this pinnacle of engineering.
Dr. Karl W Franzmann
I nominate glass and ceramics. Without these materials, most developments in chemistry, physics and engineering would not have been possible.
The basic discovery and development of the 'transistor effect' by William Shockley in Bell Telephone labs.
That is where the transistor came from, then the miniaturised form of it in a 'chip'.
Shockley and his colleagues got a Nobel prize for it - and there is now a chip used inside or in the making of every one of the other suggestions - and many more!
The internal combustion engine
Chris Carchrie, Scotland
The discovery and successful harnessing of electricity has probably been the greatest driving force for the advancement of mankind.
I would like to nominate The Internal Combustion Engine.
Long may she live, especially big V8's.
Kitty Grove-Stephensen. Middlesbrough
Surely nothing could have been more beneficial than flushing lavatories
mark goodacre, Poole, Dorset
The greatest technological achievement is the "on/off switch" in all its forms: It empowers the User to decide whether or not the given technology is actually required-thus wisely preventing "technology" from getting "too big for its boots" - after all, technology's already taken the craftsmenship out of design - what next?
Reg Proudfoot, Whaley Bridge, UK
My nomination has to be electricity for without it there would be no Transistor, Integrated Circuitry, Space Shuttle, Internet, Mobile Phone, Television, Motor Vehicle the list is endless.
Alex - London
Internal combustion engine - it has connected the people across the world. Drivign is good fun too!
James Hannan, The City
Must be the internal combustion engine.
Internal Combustion Engine, nothing else has allowed us to develop the way we live our lives.
Internal combustion engine
Internal combustion engine
Chris Greenfield - Bucks, UK
I would nominate the telecommunications network as our greatest technological acheivement. It empowers us to transfer data and ideas from one point on the globe to another at incredible speeds. The fantastic response to the recent Tsunami would not have happened had we not been able to communicate so rapidly on a global scale.
Bruce McAdam, Aberdeenshire
I nominate effective contraception. If we made better use of it most of our problems would be substantially reduced.
The bicycle. Most other technological innovations will eventually destroy our way of life.
internal combustion engine
Philip Johnson Telford
The internal combustion engine. No other technological invention has has such an effect on ordinary people. from all the employment and wealth it creates to teh freedom to travel wherever and whenever we want.
Dalton's discovery of the atom, from which all else is made.
Andy P, York
The microprocessor underpins almost all modern technological developments, either on its own or by providing the tools with which discoveries are made.
You'll find dozens in your everyday life - in your car, your microwave, your mobile phone, your TV - and their low cost and versatility has enabled the development of global communications networks, earthquake-proof buildings, more accurate weather prediction, increased vehicle safety... the list goes on.
This is technology at its best, building on simple inventions and scientific discoveries to produce something that has a real impact on human life.
Ben Houghton,wales, swansea
All inventions based around non-carbon based fouls for electricity and cars heating ect. Even those that have been repressed by the big companies that by out patents questionably as we all have the right for a clean would. These should be celebrated and forced to the front of industry.
Hugh Ryan, london
Dental fillings and dental hygiene.
Telephone and/or mobile.
This transformed communication forever and replaced the letter post or actually visiting someone anywhere in the world.
Roger Kirman, Ainsdale
The Fuel Cell as it offers the potential for cheap clean electrical energy
As with everything else it is a double edged sword with bad aspects as well as good. However it is probably the greatest step forward in the disemination of knowledge and communication since the invention of the printing press.
It gives the individual great power as part of a bigger grouping. Think of the collapse of the corrupt governments in the old Soviet Block in the last few months. How much of this is down to the internet and e-mail allowing individuals to work together for thier common good?
Define 'significant'. Because it is used for good (medicines), because it affects the greatest number of people (electricity), because it makes life a lot easier and saves effort (the car), because enables people to communicate over great distances (TV, Internet, phone)
Stuart Leak, Berkshire
The microchip has to be the greatest piece of technology. It is used in everything from space exploration to the humble pocket calculater. It has also enabled technology to become increasing smaller, portable and affordable to the world masses.
The Bicycle from "The Safety Bicycle" 18880's on..has liberated so many people gloabally and is still the fastest and most efficient method of transport in major cities today. In terms of energy into motion it has not been surpassed, and the ecological advantages of the bike means that it will remain increasingly relevant as Co2 emissions become critical.
The answer is obvious. Sliced Bread!!
Dave Vowles, Nottingham
The oral contraceptive pill. Its effects on behaviour, morality,world-views, attitudes and expectations are immense.
Graham Hamilton, Hull, UK
The computer is undoubtedly the single most important technological machine of the last two hundred years. But more important than that is something which made actual computers possible, not a real machine, but an idea of a machine. This, now known, as a Turing Machine after its inventor, British mathematician, Alan Turing, is an abstract conception of a device which could, using binary code, mechanically solve mathematical problems. Turing developed his idea in 1936 before real electronic computers were possible but early “computers” helped break the German Enigma U-boat codes in World War II and are the basis of all the digital computers currently in operation.
Computers are now so ubiquitous that it is difficult to appreciate the genius required to specify in advance the logical form they would use. In essence any physical device can be an actual computer, but it has to operate as Turing specified. Turing’s concept therefore is the important part of the equation. This illuminates what is always the crucial factor in scientific and technological advance, human insight and creativity.
Mike Turner , Chichester
I can only second the comments of Paul McClory of London and nominate Nikola Tesla as the greatest unsung scientist of the 19th and 20th century. He was the inventor of Radio Transmission and Alternating Current without which there could be no long distance power transmission lines. He designed the first A.C. motors and alternators and is hardly ever mentioned in Science books. Why is this? The reasons are astounding and relate to some of his other inventions which even today are considered too threatening to certain vested interests . In 100 years time he will be recognised as equal to Einstein in his discoveries and inventions.
Rhonda Surman SL6 9PH
Electricity. Without it we couldn't do?make any of the others
Abdullah Saeed Maldives
Worl Wide Web. This invention when it potential is fully realized, will revolutionise the world similar to the Renaissance
Edwina, East Sussex
SpaceShipOne for opening up commercial space travel
Dave English, Lincoln, UK
The Laser. Without which many basic scientific tools would not be avaialable as well as day to day devices we take for granted (international telephone/internet comminications, DVD/CD players and recorders, Microchips - the list goes on...)
Rob Cullender, Ashford Middx
The internal combustion engine . This piece of technology is prevalent in every corner of the globe. It has transformed our world, shrinking it to such an extent that human society itself has been transformed.
David Myers, Sydney Australia
I tried to take a scientific approach to the question of what is the most important invention of the last 200 years. First it is necessary to differentiate between a discovery and an invention (electricity is a discovery, the internal combustion engine is an invention).
Establishing the importance of an invention requires us to understand how we measure importance, for example in terms of improved quality of life, or the new possibilities it facilitates. How does the importance of one invention relate to the importance of inventions on which it depends? The internet depends on computers and networks, which in turn depend on semi-conductors. Does this mean that the earlier inventions are more important? Maybe, but only if the earlier invention is a uniquely necessary pre-condition. Computers could arise without the use of semi-conductors, using refinements of valve technology, so semi-conductors are not necessarily more important than computers.
I hoped that taking this approach I could develop a quantative theory of importance, with its own algebra, similar to information theory. However after ten minutes this defeated me and so I leave it to greater minds.
Taking another tack I thought that I would try and identify the most important invention ever, and see if that provided any insight into what might be the most important invention of the last 200 years. It has been suggested that the most important invention ever is the wheel. However after careful thought I decided that it must be the ability to capture, preserve and disseminate ideas through the written word. From there it is a short leap of intuition to see that its extension to provide unprecedented access to knowledge through the internet is the greatest invention of the last 200 years, though I would argue that this is not as important as the invention (writing) on which it depends.
I have to say motors and locomotion ( being it combustion, hydrogen or magnet motors ) as I spent 4 years without electricity in the wilderness and survived, during that same period I would have been dead without a vehicule and a horse wouldn't have cut it with the distances and conditions involved.
mike devlin, nc,usa
Jane Dobson, Tasmania, Australia
I would like to nominate Heinrich Hertz for whom we to thank for much of what our lives are now dominated by - radio and television. It is very difficult to imagine how life would be now without radiowaves. In 1887 Hertz sent and received the first pulses of radiation across his lab. (he also accidently discovered the photoelectric effecti.e. light falling on surfaces can produce electricity). Unfortunately he died of blood poisoning at the young age of 37 and only caught a glimpse of the potential his discovery had.
Paul Bucknell, Brighton
The invention that started the "elecronic age" was the thermionic valve, invented (1904) by Sir John Ambrose Fleming.
The most significant technological innovation has to be the electricity, without which other technologies would not be seen today.
Richard Davies, Cambridge (orignally Newport)
Transistor. Without which there would be no Internet, Computers, Space Flight, etc etc...
Admittedly without any electricity it would be useless - but DC or AC it would not have mattered.
PS - in fact, despite most peoples objections, the Phillipines still runs on DC electricity on mains. (the world isn't exclusively DC you know!)
Chris B, Nottingham UK
The transistor, bar none.
It must be Radio, and all that has developed from it.
It must be Radio, and all that has developed fromit
the most practial and technological advance since 1800 has to be the silocon chip which has made computers smaller, faster and compacked the innovation of this device has left us with smaller satilites ,mobile phonesand ect...
Rob Abel, Exeter
After careful consideration and only just ahead of Tesla's AC distribution system, I would have to say Quantum Mechanics. Our deeper understanding of the small scale world really enabled the transistor, microcessors and the internet which are responsible for the unprecedented spread of information and global interconnection.
I nominate The Stirling Heat Engine. It is the practical realisation of Carnots idealised heat engine. Where the heat engine is the most prolific device used to convert almost ALL forms of fuel into other forms of energy. Beit kenetic, potential or electrical. No other device is so prolific or fundemental in its operation. Without the heat engine the World would be a very big place full of backward people.
The Very Revd Keith Johnson
The invention of the cine camera and projector in 1889 by William Friese Greene after many years of experiments, finally creating the first successful intermittent mechanism for the exposure of sensitized film and later for its projection, making use of the newly developed flexible cellulose nitrate film.
Cinema has for 125 years allowed us to see the world and its people, and has created an international language in which different cultures have been revealed to each other. This has led each succeeding generation to greater international understanding.
Cinema has also transformed the art of story-telling and has created a global medium for ordinary people which both enhances and parallels the world's literature.
The railway system, more than just the steam engine. For the first time it allowed rapid movement of people and goods over long distances. That allowed cities to expand, and other industries to specialise in towns for greater efficiency, competition, and therefore innovation. It led to a lot of new engineering, from bridges, clocks and signalling to aerodynamics. And rail is still good though less important today.
Electricity. Practically all present forms of technological advances are based on it, and would not be about was it not for it.
Recombinant DNA technology - This technology is the start of a new beginning of the human race - and it will save it and the rest of the world because it will allow us to harness nature's cornucopia in a more benign and sustainable way while preserving life. The future will be more biologically based taking lessons from nature and designing them to make the world a better place. Moreover, its application makes us think about the morality and ethics of science.
Electricity - no argument !
Stephensons rocket permitted development of Britain from a sparcely populated agricultural society to an industrial society. The rapid transit of food and commodities promoted the formation of cities. Cities encouraged like-minded people to form common interest communities which rapidly developed other new technologies and scientific breakthroughs. Without the Rocket we would still be walking behind the ox-plough, scratching for a subsistance living.
Verena, Amsterdam NL
The washing machine. Without it, you'd be spending an hour or two behind a washboard every day.
Ball Bearing (1794 May be too early for this exercise) Ball Bearing Races 1870s onward turn up in just about every manufacturing process and most forms of transport.
Flight is my option for the most significant technicalogical advance, as it is the advances in transport that have changed the world most, and flight is the most advanced of this category of this
G.T., South Wales
I nominate Venetian Blinds, because otherwise it would be curtains for all of us!
Roger Moses,Bristol UK
Water and Sewage treatment systems (eg Bazalgette and the London sewer system circa 1850)- they are a powerful piece of technology development PRECEDING the explanatory science(due to Pasteur)
Without them human society would still be crippled by enormous infant mortality due to infectious diseases. As well as the obvious consequences, more subtly i think that they fundamentally changed the way we look at humanity in the west, no longer being willing to put up with death on a large scale, and leading to the sudden leap in population growth that is of such concern today
All the electrical and communication technologies are small beer compared to clean water
The printing press
Seyi Oduwole, London
The development of Aviation is awesome and magnificent.
Richard Day, UK
I think it is a shame that so many people have nominated the Internet. It is important to remember that the communications backbone of the Internet was required for the World Wide Web, but had existed for a long time without being at all revolutionary.
Tim Berners-Lee's invention: the World Wide Web, is what allows everyone to share information. I nominate the WWW, and urge people who have stated "Internet" to consider whether that is what they really mean.
The Personal Computer
Soren Yde Ebeltoft Denmark
Electriceti, as no transistor,no computer and no mobil phone work without it.
The Microwave. Well don't deny it. Whatever mood your in, it satisfy's you. Depressed:microwave. Happy:microwave. The microwave never lets you down.
Math South Wales
judging by common phrasiology I think the best thing would have to be sliced bread... aseverything since seems to have been describe as the best thing since sliced bread.
On a more serious note, I vote for the telegraph, it's the initial precurser to the telephone therefor the web, and I think speeding up communication is key behind many other advances in technology. I pick the telegraph because I believe it has so far been the biggest single leap, from telegraph to telephone is big, but not as big, from phone to modem, again big, but not as great a leap (though that does also require parallel growth in other technologies).
I would have to say that the most important advancement for the past 200 years has been the invention of air travel, without it we would not be able to sustain the world we live in, it unites continents and makes them accessible.
Since vaccinations were discovered before 1800, it would have to be antiseptics. When Lister qualified as a doctor, more than half post-operative patients died from sepsis. By the use of sterile operating theatres and antiseptics, he wiped out sepsis in his hospital. We have become complacent in our technological age, reliant on drugs and antibiotics, linked to the world by phone lines and electrical cables, and we've forgotten just how crucial antiseptics are to survival. Unlike antibiotics, there are very few antiseptic-resistant pathogens. It really doesn't matter how fast our cars can go, or how many electrical appliances make our lives easier, or whether we can walk on the moon, or see the other side of the world in real time, if healthy babies die in hospitals from infected umbilical cords in first-world countries. If only Lister could see us now.
Michael Cohen, USA
Steve Jobs invented the PC (personal computer) in 1976. This invention has had the biggest impact overall in the last 200 years.
Julian Hardy Derby
How about the rocket engine
I would like to nominate the micro-chip as the singular most important invention in the last half century. It has brought us where we are, for better or worse.
Phil Eade, Surrey
The microprocessor invented the age of digital electronics. Whilst the transistor is the fundamental building block, the analogue age was difficult to reconfigure and costly. Digital electronics and the microprocessor brought reconfigurability by software and so speeded the design process. It enabled itself to develop at phenomal speed, so reducing its size and so making many further inventions possible. DNA would not have been decoded without the phenomal power of the developed microprocessors and neither would most current medical science advances. The microprocessor has enabled combustion engines to continue to develop instead of becoming extinct and has enabled every form of modern communications that we now take for granted.
Andrew Buchanan, Glasgow
I nominate digital storage methods because it has expanded the way we store and communicate everything from personal memories to business transactions
Michael fom Colne
I nominate the use of the electron. From its humble use in electronic circiuts, to providing easily distributed power, and its many other uses today.
gary marchant, newcastle-upon-tyne
Electromagnetic induction and e/m wave transmission/reception: The advent of energy and coded information transfer at the speed of light!
The Internet because it will unify the world by spreading the klowledge across the world most efficiently and quickly.
Erik Bakker, Netherlands
application of electricity
Jon Barnard, Cambridge, U.K
The semiconductor transistor wihthout doubt. It has helped demolish dictatorships and saved millions to make Man a truly globally connected species.
The scanning tunneling microscope or STM. It is not the greatest invention of the last 200 years but it's invention will poosibly lead to many great things in nanotechnology, as this was one on the major landmakr in that scientific field.
Engineering inventions and not scientific discoveries that have transformed society... Iron and Steel making enabling the industrial revolution, Antibiotics that have dramatically changed life expectancy in a one lifetime, Contraception that has contributed to the transformation of womens role in society, Telecommunications that have shrunk the world. Of these Antibiotics, the one thing that makes it better to be alive today than 200 or 2000 years ago. We no longer have the daily fear of death
antonio rivero, lima perú, south am.
Electricity, by far!
Rob Smith, Newcastle upon Tyne
The electronic computer. As well as revolutionising our business- and then our home-lives, the computer has helped us understand more about the world than we could have previously imagined. This includes the 'hard' sciences, including biology, physics, chemistry; the fields of mathematics and medicine; the social sciences and the arts. The real triumph of computers is that we don't usually notice them. They are so much a part of our lives that we forget they are there.
UU Zheng, USA
I think the most important technology in the past 2000 years is wide wide web which makes our world a smaller place and we can enjoy our life through internet! It's fabulous!
In one’s own opinion, the theory behind the most revolutionary invention to encompass are modern-day lives, must be scientific based. I would like to say:
• the theory of general relativity
• the discovery of the double helix DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
• Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution
• and even the latest attempt of a grand unified theory between general relativity and quantum mechanics in theoretical physics
Are all-outstanding in achieving an ultimate change is are lives directly or indirectly. Nonetheless, the most important I feel is of an importance to mention is are attempt to understand the human psyche, within intelligence is above all important. This came about within the first IQ tests, however would the human race been able to develop these theories and inventions without understanding are intelligence? Because in actual fact(in theory) there would be no such thing as intelligence without education of ourselves.
Ian Cottam, Manchester
The stored-program digital computer.
Has to be the mobile phone. A technology that allows me to talk to my parents from the top of a mountain; villagers in India to check the price of goods before they get to market; families to talk with relatives and breadwinners across the world; people to be anywhere and everywhere but still be in the same room; the ultimate way of avoiding censorship. Amazing, and so liberating in so many ways!
Nikola Tesla's alternating current induction motor
Justin Hyde, San Francisco
The lightbulb: allowed the wide scale extension to the productive and social day - thus massively increasing productivity. Also greatly increased safety in populated areas by providing cheap reliable street lighting, enabling much greater urban concentrations. The 'killer application' of utility electricity.
Bob Gledhill Isle of Man
I nominate Railways and the steam locomotive. Introduction of a railway sytem and reliable has been a historic pre-cursor to the development of travel, industry, education and general improvement in living standards and conditions throughout the world Without the revolutionary freedoms provided by the railways, would mankind have had the encouragement or incentive to develop the i-c engine? Certainly the movement of the raw materials and minerals would have been much slower using only horse-power, and the canals systems.
Antony Assender MSc, Cardiff, U.K.
Pure fission bombs, the simplest nuclear weapons. These were the first types of nuclear weapons built during the Manhattan Project and they are a building block for all advanced nuclear weapons designs. It is my humble opinion that without nuclear weapons the world today would be a very different world indeed. If it were not for the nuclear deterrent provided by mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.) many other wars employing the use of advanced mechanical and digital warfare would have wreaked havoc across our fragile planet extinguishing many human lives. These wars have not occured in history (since World War II) as a direct result of the existence of nuclear weapons. Therefore nuclear weapons should be viewed as a saviour technology.
Dave in Edinburgh and online
I think my nomination would have to be the internet. The relationship between such a simple idea and the truly staggering change it has brought to the world, using effectively technology which already existed, is truly staggering.
Chris Smyth, Dublin, Ireland
My nomination for the most significent technological innovation since 1800 would have to be electrical power generation. Without it, modern life would not be possible. Try living in Florida without air conditioning! It's provision made vast areas of this planet - previously unbearable - inhabitable and it continues to provide modern humanity with it's life support.
Matt Danby, London
It could legitimately be argued that bathroom tissue (as mundane as it is) has had a greater importance (and therefore significance) to most peoples lives than that, for example, of the atomic bomb (which is seen as an awesome destructive power). I’m sure most people would agree on which would be most missed if both technologies disappeared tomorrow. Although this is arguably a flippant example, (and in no way is it intended to be disrespectful to the causalities of atomic weapons), it highlights the fact that opinion poles generally overlook ‘mundane’ technologies, and focus attention on technologies which have greater ‘cultural interest’ or ‘cultural visibility’.
Angela Harding Oxon U.K.
The harnessing of electricity seems to enable all the other technologies to work and be available throughout the world
Paul Margerison, Highgate
I nominate photography. It gave us super-human powers. It made us feel we can capture the essence of a moment in time, if not the reality of it. It gave us a new way of thinking about what is true. It gave us access to the past. It introduced a new dimension into creative visual thinking. Not to mention advances it has precipitated in medical science, astronomy, civil engineering, product design, forensic science, security, film and television - in fact nearly every aspect of modern life and work.
a reid, london
i reckon the thermionic valve was quite revolutionary, and is the precursor to the transistor
Alan Hopper, Hull
The screw propellor that toggered the transition from sail to steam propulsion and then was used in first airplanes. Without it no cruise liners or aviation. It was also a British invention.
Neil Eaton, London England
The Jet Engine. Has revolutionised our view of the world and our ability to experience it.
Fire. All the rest was childsplay!
Jean Gray, Kent
I would nominte Crapper's invention of the flush toilet. When you think of the alternatives, you should be thankful for this invention several times a day. As well as the comfort it brought, it also improved the nations' health, particularly the health of women who before had to spend most of their time in very smelly and insanitary houses.
tom hughes, london
Undoubtedly the modern sewer and sewage /water treatement. Saved more lives and enabled functional large cities. Otherwise we would still have regular major epidemics of every disease, vacinations or antibiotics notwithstanding. Also we would all be chronic alcholics not chronic binge drinkers - as we would all still be drinking either gin, beer or cider as the only nearly sterile form of daily fluid intake.
Peter Cox, Horsham, Sx.
With one invention millions have been saved from slow gangrenous death.
Telephone, many people have mentioned the internet, how would that exist without the telephone?
Julia Brailsford, Kinoulton Notts
The ability to generate a reliable electricity supply has changed our world totally, improving the quality of millions of lives by revolutionising daily life, education and health care. It has given women in particular the opportunity to take a full part in society, free from daily drudgery. Michael Faraday was a hero!
Jack Dyson, London
What about the camera? It revolutionised communications, the way we see events transpire, and as a result changed the way we live and govern, making us more aspiration, less content and so on. It is both used and abused, and while it is not essential to life, imagine what your day would look like without the camera and everything that came from it. No television for starters (and so no computer screens). No adverts. No page 3 girls. No "I'm a celebrity". Brilliant.
Pooya Zarei - Tehran, Iran
ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the United States Department of Defense’s invention, in 1969,which enabled universities and research centers to exchange information freely.
Jennifer Maggs, Pennsylvania, USA
birth control -- in itself a major advance, and an inventions which makes other advances possible through a chain of effects...such as education, economic development, inventions by women
The silicon chip. Making the computer small, cheap and practical for the first time. We still use them in every walk of life
Brian Farrell, UK
The transistor. Without it there would be no electronics, no global telephony, no Internet, no computers of any power, no....
People might say that the utility of the transistor is predicated on electricity, but then electricity is not an invention, but a creation of God.
Tim Dennell - Sheffield
In the 19th & 20th Centuries we were in the mechanical age, now we live in a digital age. There have been some wonderful advances e.g. steam engines, combustion engines, learning to use sound waves to communicate by radio and through cables but what has made such a great difference to all our lives (and we now take for granted) have been all the advances in medicine and health. Rich or poor our life expectancy has doubled over the past 200 years. The most significant innovations: Inoculations, anaesthetics and antiseptics.
Justin, Oxford, UK
The electric guitar, courtesy of Mssrs. Gibson and Fender (with minor input from Mssrs. Maxwell and Lorentz).
It was invented and produced by "The Man" but would eventually come to destroy him through the medium of Rock Music. Wow, dude, there's a kind of poetic justice in that - not unlike in Shelley's Frankenstein - but with more feedback and grinding noises.
Freya Beattie, North Berwick
I dream of exploring space, so it would have to be the transistor! And once there, i would be in dire need of a solar powered car.
Hugo Day, Essex
It maybe a bit over 200 years, but Edward Jenner and the discovery of the vaccine still stands out as the most important discovery in the past 1000 years.
Millions of lives have been saved, all thanks to this dscovery.
the microphone. without it we would not be able to hear the absurd and funny things that todays world leaders have to say.
David Bober, ex-pat Baltimore USA
The telegraph... the Victorian Internet. Modern email is telegraphy by another name. Without the telegraph we would not have proceeded to wireless telegraphy, the telephone, radio, television, long distance communications, or the Internet.
The Internet, and the microchip
i think that the computer is the greatest invention since fire! In my opinion the computer will totally change our lives in the next 10 years. By becoming more powerful the computer will develop many more uses. And electricity wasnt invented it was discovered!
Hellman Jackson, London
Powered flight, although dependent on many of the innovations so far nominated, has had the largest cultural impact of a single technological innovation, as it has changed the way in which we relate to the physical space surrounding us, making it possible for any person in the world to travel to any other in no more than a day. Remarkable.
The machine gun, spreading happiness and love across the globe.
Nuclear fission. due to the possibities it has opened for the future imagine a world where there is no polution and no eye sores
Lawrence Telpher-Randolph,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil
Mathematics is the fountain of life.Though man has always had enormous amounts of raw materials around him there wasn´t any means to measure the thought processes which leads to ingenuity until mathematics was introduced.It is the single engine driving us through time.Not until the advent of mathematics man believed for example that plagues were punishments from the gods for our sins,and this is still true in some third world cultures/societies.Oh,how grateful we should be!
There are too many technological advances during the last 200 years to mention, but one that neatly occured right at the start of that time span presaged almost all the others. Richard Trevithick's high pressure steam engine was used to drive the transport revolution, the electricity supply industry, manufacturing technology and even the start of the information revolution.
Had it not been for one genius of a Cornishman, who unlike his predecessors in steam development didn't patent his ideas and sit on all related developments for half a century, the industrial revolution would have taken a very different course and probably not have been lead by Britain.
Tony Corless, Newcastle
The planar process for transistor manufacture and its refinment to integrated circuits and on to microprocessors. (The transistor, in its early point contact form, was an interesting invention / discovery but not the basis of a technology!)
Raymond Stephen Ahearn,Liverpool
The discovery of Electromagnetic induction by Michael Faraday.This led to the application of electricity to almost every aspect of life as we know it today
Steve Devo, London UK
The light Bulb.
Frees up the reliance on sunlight, or dirty flame based lights.
David Harrison Ynys Mon
these means of communication and knowledge has lead to the freedom of information across the world to the benefit of some nations whgich have been released from tyranny
Paul McDermott, UK
Primitive hand held and later animal driven tools that allowed the production of spare food capacity. This freed up excess population to experiment and develop all those other things that have led us to today.
Mark Graham BSc Hons AMRSC, Aberdeen.
The steam iron and household hoover.
The contraceptive pill
Though i am not saying whether or not it is good or ill technology. We are just dabbling in the shallows of the wave of massive social change that will be following on down the generations.
It is important because it has changed absolutely everything in a way that we can't understand yet. As women of the first generation to live with it from the commencement of our sexual lives we are dealing with the early implications and we don't really know if it really is such a clever thing in the long run to have sex with men and let them penetrate and have that bifurcated from the age-old outcome of possible pregnancy.This has unutterably profound implications for the relationship between the sexes (which is from where we all originate) and everyone born on the planet from now on. It is not nearly as simple a product as we are led to believe.
Antony Penman, Manchester UK
I would nominate the creation of the 'internet'. Bringing a wide community of human beings together in a way in which they would not normally be able to interact with each other.
Frank Haworth Brighton
The steam train which greatly reduced transport times of people and goods
Robert Lucien Howe, Haltwhistle
I have three nominations. -
1. The computer - not only the most important technology of the last 200 years but the next 200 to.
Computers are steadily becoming the (very) foundation of our society.
2. The atomic bomb - has totally changed the position of humans in the world - and the nature of our society. The power to destroy the world has brought us an era of global peace.
3. Safety - for the first time in history most of us are going to reach old age. Everything from cars to shoes are subject to the rule that they must be safe. Safety engineering has been central to increasing the value of human life.
David A Lloyd, High Wycombe
I have considered many already listed by viewers, but the next time you sit in the dentists chair or wait for an operation - you would gladly give up any of those for the invention and discovery of anaesthetics!
The printing press because it made the acquisition and sharing of knowledge accessible to many
Deb Meritt PA-USA
Space exploration - because it represents a plethora of technologies that were developed (and are being developed) to gain access to and understand our Solar System. Electricity, *chromatography, petrogenesis, transitors, fiber optics, satellites, computers, fuel systems, aerodynamics, medicine, etc., etc.
leo hodgson, bristol
Powered flight, possibly the most massively useful invention of all time, transporting thousands of people cheaply and efficiently. An invention allowing mankind the ability to explore the world personally.
In my opinion the computer was the moust importante technological innovation since 1800, because nowaday we can't imagine the word without this big discouver of the tecnology that is so imporftant to our lifes.
Nilesh Joshi from Bristol
Telescope, without which it wouldn't have been possible to look into the future.
The Tea Bag. Without it, millions would not be able to enjoy the greatness of humankind's most relaxing, healthful drink.
the Chickenpox vaccine...it showed that we can triumph over disease, if we really work at it.
Bob Weir, Cheshire
The development of clean, safe water supplies and sewer systems is crucial to the development of the population densities that we can now support in the developed world. The continuing death rate in places that lack this most basic infrastructure illustrates it's importance.
In my opinion the greatest invention in the last 200 years has to be the time machine. Well from my persepective it's 200 years anyway.
Andy , Scotland
It has to be electricity. Electricity forms the basis of just about every form of modern technology. It keeps us warm when we are cold and cold when we are warm!
Paul Browne, London, England.
E=mc2. It is an invention of the mind. I do not believe we fully appreciate the possibilities this equation has opened up. Along with the eagerly anticipated discovery of the Higgs boson, I feel that in another 200 years this will be the moment that changed physics and the ideas of extra-terrestrial travel/life for ever.
Marie Meyer, Bristol
Newcomen's condensing steam engine, which provided three major enablers for the industrial revolution: (1)cheaper coal (it was indispensible in mining operations); (2) power plants for many types of manufacturies (made economically viable by all that cheap coal); and (3)the rail roads and steam ship engines needed to move all those manufactured goods about!
Chris Bentley Newcastle
The lightbulb. Without which we would still be literaly in the dark. Who did first invent it by the way, Swan or Eddison?
The invention of nuclear power generation is my nomination because despite its bad public profile it the only realistic way to solve the worlds energy crisis. It will cost more until the technology is perfected but remember we have been using energy on the cheap at the expense of the planet for decades. One day we will have pay. Alternative energy can no way make the shortfall therefore nuclear power is the only way we can produce enough energy to feed this increasingly power hungry world. To sustain growth in the world we need as strong sustainable power supply that does not destroy the world. As power is key to so much we do that is why nuclear power generation gets my vote.
Chris Bentley Newcastle
I would nominate the speaker. A wonderful and versatile invention, without which the communication revolution would have never happened.
Not the bicycle, wasn't that about before 1800 in one form or another. Possibly the Aeroplane, possibly genectics, though we have yet to exploit all the possible benefits. The telephone must be high on the list of contenders, but as others have said technological advances breed more technological advances and separating them is not easy. One relying on the other. The transistor does seem a good front runner for the title, but the aeroplane gets my vote as it shows us that dreams can be made possible. From Icarus until the Wright brothers, who could not have wondered what flight was like. Centuries of dreams finally conquered, a realisation of powered flight, the freedom that it promised, truly inspiring.
the use of steam to drive machines as we are talking 200 years ago.
Lee Hillegom Holland
Electricity and with that electronics and information technology.
Because life as we know it today would be impossilbe.
An endless list of uses.
Even the modern cars, transport and even optics we can't use without electronics.
joe imondi cleveland, ohio usa
I have read the nominations listed by others and I have stick with my first choice- electricity! Without it, none of the other items listed would even exist.
alex asquith _mirfield , west yorkshire, uk
the light bulb
Dan Porsa, UK
It has to be digital computing and Alan Turing, possibly the most under-exposed genius going.
Richard Brown - North Derbyshire
I would say that rock and roll is the greatest invention since 1800. Without it we wouldn't have modern alternative music such as Punk Rock!
Paul Phelps - London
The atom bomb, as it's given this tribal planet world piece for the last 60 years. Then the spin off nuclear energy the only real alternative to depleting fossil fuels. Until fusion power is invented to power the world.
Peter Myers, Barnsley UK
After preusing the comments I am not suprised to see the favourite is the computer. However important the computer is today, it should be remembered that there were several significant inventions that lead to its creation, & by inference, rightly deserve higher status as the computer is a spin-off. For this reason, I believe the rightful winner of this survey should be the Steam Engine. The Steam Egine kick started the industrial revolution, the mass production techniques we have all benefited from since and the infrastructure which has supported the inventions of subsequent technologies such as the computer. In my view it is the grand-daddy of them all.
The bicycle. Its green, easy to maintain, aids communication and interaction, is widely available throughout the world, is multi-terrain, cheap to run and it keeps the user fit.
Laurie Fineman, Caversham
Not sure it's an invention but education for whole populations has led to the most dramatic changes in the last 200 years. My heroes: Faraday, Brunel, Einstein (who thought education slowed him down) possibly Frank Whittle and Walter Brattain would have achieved due to their natural drive - but now we are on the road to feeding all and enjoying being in contact with everyone.
Colin Pickup, Scarborough
James, Woodford Green
Cinema. But not those horrible mulitplex things
Nick Carling, Teesside UK
Without this radical development in physics even the ubiquitous transistor may not have been possible - and the transistor is found in both analogue and digital electronics which now define our modern lives in a myriad of applications.
The macro that keeps crashing my copy of Microsoft Word.
David Yeates, Netherlands
Without doubt the transistor. Consider how many technological advances have been made possible by this miniature wonder.
Printing press. Long before the Internet was conceived the printing press was the first technology that allowed for mass dissemination of information.
Semiconductor computer technology. This has given mankind the power to leap forward in all other spheres of activity.
Kevin Dunleavy, London
Nuclear Power - Of all the large scale production methods for electricity, it is the cleanest and most efficient. The world may not appreciate what it has to offer at the moment, but with global warming becoming a serious reality it will soon have to.
My nomination is the biro. But I would gladly change my vote if someone could invent a beetroot jar that doesn't explode all over my shirt when I open it...
Chris Rodwell Edinburgh
I'd like to say the Aeroplane because it has enabled many to see the world from high above and from all locations. However, I guess you'd have to argue that the fuel, engines, aerodynamics, electrics, comms and advancements in its structural materials are the true winners. But they're boring so I say the AEROPLANE!
Fiona Greenbeck, Somerset
I think that the internet is top invention/development of the past 200 years. Its ability to potentially give unmonitored, inexpensive access to information, has the possibility of changing the way the world works and the lives of many people for the better.
Phillip Wood, Solihull
The development of metal alloys and composites has enabled improvements in all parts of the technological world. For example, composites and aluminium alloys have allowed aircraft to become lighter and therefore more efficient. This in turn has made air travel cheaper and accessible to more people.
Earplugs, it's the only way to shut out the noise of technology.
Artifical pesticides. They developed with the intensification of modern agriculture. Despite their unpopularity, we would not be able to feed the massive global population that now exists. The ability to feed ourselves is fundamental.
As others have identified, the transistor. In one form or another, it forms a vital part of almost every modern technological device, including many where its presence is not obvious. Life in 2005 would closely resemble that of the 1950s were it not for this invention.
Pritpal Manku, Hounslow
The transparent solar cell, it can be used on windows and will save thousands of pounds
Craig , Birmingham
Nothing has revolutionised the World has much as the Personal Computer. For better or Worse they have some level of control over our society and which other machine has being able to do that?
Richard Scrase London
Bicyles or brick-lined gravity powered sewers, I'm not sure which I would rather be without. I can live without electricity.
Not only for its use in computers but its growth into powering most of the items we take for granted today.
Nili, London, UK
ANDY DOBEL, LANCASHIRE, UK
My nomination is for a technology that could be considered a two-edged sword given its global effect, but that was, and is now, so basic to the infrastructure and development of the whole world that no one takes any notice of it. It is not glamourous,smells,saves lives, takes lives; everybody uses it from the prime minister to the hospital cleaner, every single day. Cars, lorries, motorbikes, armies,ambulancies, people on their merry way to the railway station or airport, etc..... would all come to a grinding or at least bumpy holt without it. Have you guessed what it is yet? TARMAC, of course. Edgar Purnell Hooley (and with a name like that he had to invent something) was a humble Nottingham county survey who discovered it by accident in 1901 - just at the right time for transport requirements.Take all your other technological inventions and ask where would the world be without them.Now,take a hot bath,lie there for a while and then ask the same question about tarmac. Ah, yes -eureka!!PS -no, I am not an employee of that company!
William Seymour, Berkshire
I would nominate the transistor. The communications and IT industry would not be possible without it.
I would nominate the camera and the photograph, in all their many technological. From basic pin-hole cameras to digital cameras, camerphones and videocameras. Few other technologies have influenced so many areas of society and culture. Cameras have evolved to exploit many of the prevailing basic technologies and give them a purpose. Cameras are used to create icons, without them there is no television, fashion industry would be very different without them, no movies, no CNN, no Robert Mapplethorpe, websites would be significantly less interesting without them, families couldn't share and remember key moments etc etc. With the invention of the camera we are able to capture those elements of the world we can't capture in written form.
Richard Harris - lincolnshire
The computer - but not in the form of a PC as most think of computers but in all those hidden microprocessors that now run our world so effectivly.
Andy Birch (Spain)
My nomination is safe anaesthetics, as it is the key to virtually all surgery.
Touseef Liaqat, Lahore Pakistan
I think the greatest advancement in technology is due to transistor.
Nev Doctor France
The GSM digital mobile phone.
Which has driven electronics technology to new levels of integration over the past 15 years.
And has opened up communication in many remote and poorer countries that cannot afford a fixed phone system.
Ray Reynolds Clacton-on-Sea
The semi-conductor which lead to the diode and the transistor without which modern electronic technology and IT would not have been possible
José Manuel García-Patos. Madrid (Spain)
I would choose Babbage's Analytical Engine, for being the very first machine that could be programmed. That means that it was, in a way, the very first abstract physical invention, for it wasn't created with a concrete purpose in mind, but it could be used for whatever it would be instructed to. And this was before the invention of transistors (as it was a mechanical engine) or, quite obviously, computers. A close second for me could be the Turing Machine (thought this one's not a real invention) for showing us the limits of computers. A third one would be basketball.
I would nominate piston and assembly used in ic engines since I think this is the only idea which is being adopted all over the world .The present civilization is inseparable with this idea practically in all fields of transport.
One word: electricity
John Harris, San Francisco
The development of the computer. It actually took just over 100 years to get right from Babbage's concept for his analytical engine in 1833 to the first operational stored program computer the Manchester SSEM aka the Baby, the first stored program computer in 1948. And then a further 50+ years of exponetial refinement. No other invention has increased in capacity at such a pace for so long. Nothing like Moore's law applies to any other invention.
kurt dequick, ghent belgium
the steam engine
freed man from manual labor, the beginning of the industrial revolution
C. B. Otley, Dover
Still somewhat in its infancy but solar power has the potential to provide the power we need without the environmental damage of other fuel technologies, upon which modern technological advances depend.
Jay Pettitt, Colchester.
The ipod. oh, hang on...
Stuart Fyfe BSc - Salisbury
The thermionic valve. This transformed telegraphy into broadcasting, and tabulators into computers. If the nineteenth century was about mechanics and the twentieth about electronics, the twenty first will be about biological engineering.
The printing and mass distribution of the written word,by book and magazine.
This is how we all learn,even today
All technologies use electricity. Our present civilisation could not be sustained without it.
Electricity, from which everything else stems
Robert Carnegie, Scotland
A toss-up between the microprocessor and the nuclear bomb. Being optimistic, I'll vote for the microprocessor. It gave us - eventually - the personal computer; computers existed before transistors, but until integrated circuits, they weren't much cop. And computers and other electronic devices have revolutionised the organisation of society in so many ways.
I don't rate electricity as most significant, because a great deal of what we do with electricity could be done by other means.
For me it has to be the Internet. I believe that as the internet grows in complexity, it has potential to develop its own consciousness.
Aidan Richardson, Hampshire
For better or for worse, the television has been the defining household appliance in the last 50 years and it must be the most significant invention ever - in social terms at least.
After thousands of years in which we span yarns, daubed images, read and wrote, the TV has changed how we relax, laugh and learn; how we inform and titilate ourselves.
It's changed the ways of politics, brought the horrors of war into our homes and in myriad other ways fundamentally shaped our culture.
There's a more urgent case for uninventing the TV than the atom bomb in terms of it's sheer impact on humanity.
By the way, electricity wasn't invented - it was discovered. Devices like the TV, which harness it were invented!
Malcolm Huntley, Sunderland UK
Nuclear power: Fission and, hopefully, fusion power provide the only sustainable sources of the energy required for the success of other technologies. It takes energy to build bicycles (and wind generators)
Barbara Sharrock , Sutton Coldfield
The light bulb - it's obvious.
What has been the most significant technological innovation since 1800?
I am nominating vaccinations coupled with auto-disable syringe technology. I do not need to tell you why vaccinations, the arguments are well known but why only when coupled with auto-disable technology? Auto-disable syringes (syringes which can only be used once such as Marc Koska’s design K1) are becoming a major factor in preventing the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis. It is increasingly being realised that the spread of AIDS is much more attributable to unsafe healthcare than to sex so without auto-disable technology vaccinations are a lottery and therefore a null-benefit invention but with they must have saved more lives than any other single invention!
Ivan Hemmings (Warrington)
The greatest invention is the most overlooked and the least enjoyed - Tarmac. Without it there would be no low cost, reliable, functional and flexible transport system available to deliver goods for consumption, people for production and services for survival. In any new development it is the first to be installed - before housing, electricity, plumbing, sewage and people (and long before PCs and iPODs).
I nominate the thermionic valve.
The first real enabler for mass communications.
Faraday's discovery of the elctric current was precursor to our whole lifestyle which derives from the Industrial Revolution.
Martin Watson, Sheffield
The microscope is my nomination. From the humble optical tw-lens type to the tunnelling electron (et al) without it we would be very much more in the dark about how things look and how they work. Most of what we have today has some part of which has required a microscope some time in the past to allow a researcher a closer look.....
Without question the greatest single invention which has had the greatest impact on the last 100 years is the electric generator/dynamo. Without electrizity 99% of the machines and communications we rely on would probably not exist.
Brian Windus, LONDON
Anaesthesia must rank highly as the greatest technological advancement. The vast majority of surgical techniques are only possible because the patient is unable to sense pain.
J A Friedlander
I would nominate the flush loo as the greatest innovation probably since 1800
Robert Farnes, Yorkshire
The most important innovation since 1800 has got to be the discovery and use of current electricity - without it the modern world would grind to a halt
Nigel Bunker, High Wycombe
My nomination is mains electricity. Without it, life as we know it would not exist. No lighting,radio, television, computers - the list of what relies on it is endless.
des boxall, Sheffield
In my view the greatest technological leap in the last 200 years is the internet.
Teresa smiley - Tufnell Park
Mr Vickers , SW7
Transistors; above anything else
for what they have made possible in computing but also
in controlling power engineering on any scale. Efficient, reliable, enhancing scientfic abilities by an order of magnitude - they are already taken for granted
Alan in Czech
The solar powered car. This great invention shoes us that the actual intrinisic technics of a technology have little if no influence on humans, rather it is politics and business and social forces which influences the take-up and success of a technology. Anybody asking what was the greatest technology of any period is sadly imprisoned within technological mysticism. Technology is not something humans use to control nature (like radio waves, diseases etc). It is something that humans use to control other humans.
Tony Clarke-Sturman, Kent
The Bessemer steel making process patented in 1855 made steel as cheap as wrought iron, and helped build the modern world.
Philip Grierson, Sweden.
There have been two fundamental global revolutions during the last two hundred years. The technology that drove the first of these was the engineering of James Watt, and others, that provided, literally, the engine for the industrial revolution. The technology that is driving the second revolution, still underway, is the Internet. I don't know which to choose....beam-engine or computer. Two revolutions driven by two radically different technolgies; one all external muscle, fire and brimstone; the other much more cerebral and internal - a kind of public mapping of the world's culture, involving a conflating of time and space that marks an irrevocable shift in our understanding of who and what we are and how we live together on the planet in the global network society.
may andrews devon
phil andrews devon
internal combustion engine
The bicycle - it's the only mechanised form of transport affordable by everybody, and it has a tiny environmental cost.
The invention, production then mass prodution.
kevin burgess , Epsom , Surrey
I nominate the Internet because of its contribution towards education, knowledge transfer and empowerment of individuals and communitees on a global scale.
Bob Warner - USA
Petroleum Fuels - the world of planes, cars, trucks, heat for homes, ships etc require the transformation of cude oil into combustible products. The byproducts, plastics etc are a marvel of technology also.
Dave Walker, Nottingham, UK
The Bicycle. Cheap, green, harmless. Provided freedom for millions and pleasure for more. One of the few inventions to harness man's puny power and use it MORE EFFICIENTLY. Even an unfit person can travel at least twice as far, twice as fast on a bicycle. Human, lever and pulley in perfect harmony.
The internal combustion engine has given mobility to millions of ordinary people and has enabled them to travel distances in a day that would have been unimaginable prior to its development.
The internet!. the worldwide and uncensored distribution of information
paul mcclory london
I nominate Nikola Tesla as the greatest practical technological genius of the last 200 years. Nicola Tesla, a world famous figure in the late 19th century, was the inventor of Alternating Current (AC)- the way electricity is distributed throughout our planet, and without which the 20th Century could not have happened. Thomas Edison fought a long and bitter battle to have his DC system adopted by the United States but, to the eternal benefit of mankind, Tesla's AC system prevailed. He was also the inventor of Radio and this claim was upheld in the early 20th century by a New York court; the judges ruled that Marconi's claim was fraudulant.
Alan Ashton,Conwy, North Wales
A British invention!
Without it there would be no
computers, space exploration,
Hubble telescope, digital radio/tv, GPS etc etc.
The greatest invention since 1800 is the transistor.
Harry Dickinson, Romiley, Cheshire
Use of electricity, without which most modern technicalitie wouold be impossible
Dominic Turner, Bristol, UK
The World Wide Web: After the invention of the printing press no other single invention has spawned such a quantuum leap in dissemination of information. If knowledge is power then the internet as we know it must be the most egalitarian and enfrachising technological innovation of the past few centuries.
Trevor. Colchester, UK
My nomination has to be the Battery. Although it appeared just before 1800 (the originial dry battery by Volta) it never really became a serious invention until Bunsen, Grove and Leclanche produced the means of delivering larger currents. It's hard to think of an aspect of our life and the many thousands of activities that the availability of the battery has not enhanced or enabled. Without the battery; solar power is not really effective, wind power is not effective, torches don't work, cars won't start, radio's won't work, mobile 'phones are dead, standby power isn't available - the list becomes so long that nausea would set in.
Robert Walker, Cardiff
The internal combustion engine is the most significant technological innovation since 1800.
Mike Lee - Worcestershire
john kelly Lawshall Suffolk
The gas turbine engine and its development
david rockliff @ Essex
the television set
Jane Cookdale , Dunedin NZ
anti biotics, because they saved my baby's life
monica de-Gernier, Ware, Hertfordshire
I nominate the development of materials. None of the technological items we take for granted today and are affordable would be available to us without these innovations. Leonardo and Babbage are two examples of scientists whose work was not feasible due to the unavailability of the necessary materials for construction of their ideas.
Doug Anderson, Australia
Recombinant DNA technology
Discovery of electric dynamo by Faraday and Henry.
Because without electricity.. we cn't even imagine.
Niyati from India (14 years old)
I think the best and most used most significant technological invention since 1800 is the computer. It has almost all the functions of the brain of an average person. Some special functions and other functions like emotions, may not be there, but a computer can calculate, write, play music, show data, give information, show pictures from websites, etc. across the globe, and many more functions. The first computer was really big and could not perform all these functions, but as time went by and technology developed through the new generations, the computer too evolved and has become what it is now. That is why I think it is the most significant technological invention since 1800.
Simon Beaumont, Arkesden
I would like to nominate Mathematics as the greatest artifact of our species. Mathematics is the single most powerful technology that man has concieved - whilst essentially abstract and non physical - now that mathematics and physics is meeting in the science of computation yet another funadamental scientific revolution is underway - as reductionism is giving way to emergence in life sciences - and theoretical physics is in the grip of the "it from bit" idea - mathematics continues to be the key enabler of all understanding and application.
Mathematics is the fountain of reason, discovery and invention.
It trancends culture and time. The universal language of intellect. The ultimate technology by design...
Gary Hampson, California
The computer. What else. It has bought us so much knowledge, and put us in such close contact with friends, relative,s and loved one,s all over the world.
G. Legg. Stoke-on-Trent
The Generation of Electricity.
James I. Ferris, Leicester
1884 - ELECTRICAL SWITCH
JH Holmes of Newcastle has manufactured the first quick break electrical switch. Chosen because we all expect that switch to work and support the technology that underpins modern (first-world) life.
I thought to choose my favourite electronic device as I am a gadget nut. But instead I'll nominate THE MICROPROCESSOR - as every electronic device today has one, and wouldn't work without it.
Martin Wood, Cornwall
Hydraulic power has had a profound effect on the material world, almost every develpoment of technology now relies on hydraulic mechanisms for moving things from earth to people. We could not exist in the way we do without it. Please put hydraulic power on your nominations list.
The Transistor (1948) Without this there would have been no mobile phones, no computers as we know them now, no satelites, no digital cameras, all electronic gadgets, the list is endless.
The theory of relativity by Einstein, because it combines pure science and phylosephy. It changed our world basicly in the way we think, besides being a turning point in classical pysics and modern physics.
Brett Wells Lincolnshire
The Telephone. Without it I would not be talking to you now. From it's humble beginnings it created the need for the communications satellite, developed radio beyond a simple top down broadcast medium, created the World Wide Web, and made the bicycle redundant. This technology can change the course of wars and bring down governments.
george blomfield, sheffield
the piston engine. without this no car, no plane, no mass transport, global communications so no computers, no WTO, no world wars, no splitting of the atom etc.etc
John Amey - Southampton
Electricity is the key that opened the door to all other inventions. Without electricity the world would, literally, still be in the dark ages.
Reg Joy - Tamworth
The Transistor -
The generic concept now drives the whole world
Eric lally heywood
I nominate the printing machine, because without it we would not have the vast knowledge in our libraries. And would not have advanced without the printed word.
Rod Webb, Alston, Cumbria
I would nominate Television. Love it or hate it, it has had a dramatic effect on society. It has made use more aware than ever before of the world we live in, whilst at the same time encouraging a 'pop' disposable culture. I would also argue that is is now the most powerful powerful force in politics, around the world.
Christopher Cogan, Sydney, Australia
Clearly most inventions depend on preceding inventions, so the transistor probably would not have been invented without the valve, and the valve without the light bulb etc. Nevertheless I think the transistor is the most important invention since 1800 because it is the inflection point at which inventions ceased to satisfy physical needs and to magnify the physical abilities of mankind, as motors, lights, telephones and aeroplanes do. Instead it marked the second beginning of a knowledge revolution, enabling the extension of mans intellectual achievements in a way not seen since the invention of printing. The transistor enabled the miniaturisation of electronic appliances and the widespread use of computers. It therefore encouraged the development of programming and enabled the Internet, a phenomenon that still has widespread social changes in store for us and which will expedite the development of many other innovations including nanotechnology, virtual reality, social control of capital, connected communities and alternatives to fossil fuels.
Marilyn Stone Morbihan France
I would nominate the internal combustion engine, not only for its effect on transport (and war) but also for its effect on agriculture. Before the development of the tractor horse and bullock power limited the amount ofarable land which could be exploited; and took a vast amount of agricultural produce and manpower to maintain.
Mark Griffiths, Kidderminster, UK
It has already transformed the lives of millions of people. In the future it may provide the means of a truly equitable and democratic world.
Water and salt are essential for maintaining extra cellular and intracellular concentrations of salt to activate cells in all plant and animal life. The body may endure periods of lack of food, but without salt and water , living cells would quickly perish from dehydration. Prior to the Industrial revolution, Water was relatively easy to obtain, but salt, in the quantities required by growing communities, was nigh, impossible. It may be concluded that the new salt production technology allowed this population explosion.
Dr Stephen Wright, Newsam Centre, Leeds
I would like to nominate the internet as the most significant technological innovation since 1800. It provides rapid communication channels in multiple media forms and is evolving into a "collective consciousness" for humankind, along with all the good, the bad and the irrelevant that that entails. Its full potential in terms of information management has yet to be realised.
Marko Zageb, Croatia
Because it offers huge amounts of information to people all over the globe.
kay wolfenden berkshire
nominate radio.The ability to transmit pervades our lives. Music everywhere, instant comms, info across the world. We are on a much smaller planet than our ancestors were.
Rosemary West, Isle of Wight
The mobile 'phone coupled with global communications
Sheryl Gottschall, Australia
The invisibility technology developed in Japan. Sorry, don't know who is responsible.
Alan Dick, Lancaster
The computer - by enabling both world-wide communication & information retrieval from your desk top.
A.Mostageer, Cairo, Egypt
Paul Wilcox, South Yorks
I would have said the transistor, which ultimately led to the silicon chip. Because without the transistor, we wouldn't have most of the things we take for granted in the modern world. Communications, Computers, Radios, Mobile phones, etc
Edward Teague, Rochdale UK
The Alternator - providing for the distribution of AC electrical power
Stuart Holding - Thame
Electical power generation gets my vote
jim skelton lancashire
Cheap personal transport: the bicycle, then the motor car: because this has allowed people to move easily away from their birth site and breed with people with diverse genetics: very healthy
Joy Brice Headcorn, Kent.
Electricity without we could perhaps survive but not thrive
Stuart Wagland- Nottingham Trent University
The discovery of Liquid Crystals and the development of todays dominating LCDs
Tim Kelly, Switzerland
I feel that the electronic telegraph, and everything that followed after it (telephone, mobile phone, Internet etc) is the greatest innovation of the last 200 years because of its impact in shrinking the world to a global village. Prior to the telegraph, news travelled at a maximum of 100 miles per day.
Without this the modern electronics would not exist.
The Earl of Kimberley MBCS CEng CITP
The transistor. Without this invention, radio, TV, comsats, computers and the Intenet could not have happened. Valves are simply too large and hot and power hungry. With millions on a chip, we have the amazing set of electronics we have today.
Janet Horton, Hemel Hempstead
Practically none of what is regarded as technology could have come about without widespread distribution of electricity at the flick of a switch.
Phil Baldwin - Yeovil
The transistor. Other 'inventions' mentioned are just natural progressions in technology. This was quite a leap forward with a dash of lateral thinking. Without it, communications, computers, radio, health systems, cars satellites, getting to the moon, would have been extremely difficult if not impossible. The alternative was the thermionic Valve. Can you imagind your home pc taking up the spare room and failing every 5 secs? It turns up everywhere in hearing aids to fridges. Try and think of anything in use today that doesn't use the humble semi-conductor. I bet even the incubators for Pasteurs cultures depend on them.
Glyn de Lacy, Lincoln UK
The discovery of (and use of)Radioactivity resulting in the development of the Atomic Bomb, X Rays, cheap energy and all the othet spinoff's that resulted from the use of the technology probably makes it No.1 since 1800
I would nominate the practical application of electricity in all the forms that shape our world from lighting to transport. All technologies use electricity. Our present civilisation could not be sustained without it.
You and Yours - Highlights
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