A science and technology timeline


Date Invention or discovery Articles on Explain that stuff Prehistory

4–5 billion years ago

Sun starts to produce energy.

Solar cells
Energy

10 million years ago. Humans make the first tools from stone, wood,
antlers, and bones. Tools and machines

1–2 million years ago

Humans discover fire.

Biofuels
Candles
Car engines
Jet engines

25,000– 50,000 BCE Humans first wear clothes. Biomimetic clothing 10,000 BCE Earliest boats are constructed. Ships and boats 8000– 9000 BCE Beginnings of human settlements and agriculture. Biofuels
Water 6000– 7000 BCE Hand-made bricks first used for construction in the Middle East. Brick (ceramics) Ancient times 4000 BCE Iron used for the first time in decorative ornaments. Iron and steel 3500– 5000 BCE Glass is made by people for the first time. Glass 3500 BCE Humans invent the wheel. Tools and machines
Wheels and axles 3000 BCE First written languages are developed by the Sumerian people of southern Mesopotamia (part of modern Iraq). Digital pens
Typewriters ~2500 BCE Ancient Egyptians produce papyrus, a crude early version of paper. Paper 3000– 600BCE Bronze Age: Widespread use of copper and its important alloy bronze. Copper
Alloys
Metals 2000 BCE Water-raising and irrigation devices like the shaduf (shadoof), invented
by the Ancient Egyptians, introduce the idea of lifting things using counterweights. Elevators
Tools and machines
Water c1700 BCE Semites of the Mediterranean develop the
alphabet. Digital pens 1000 BCE Iron Age begins: iron is widely used for making tools and weapons in many parts of the world. Iron and steel

600 BCE

Thales of Miletus discovers static electricity.

Electricity

Static electricity

500BCE– 900CE Nazca people of Peru are believed to have experimented with balloon flight. Hot-air balloons 400BCE– 300BCE Chinese experiment with flying kites. Airplanes

~250 BCE

Ancient Egyptians invent lighthouses, including the huge Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Fresnel lenses

~300– 200 BCE

Chinese invent early magnetic direction finders.

Compasses

~250 BCE

Archimedes invents the screw pump for moving water and other materials.

Tools and machines c.150– 100 BCE Gear-driven, precision clockwork machines (such as the Antikythera mechanism) are in existence. Clockwork c.50 BCE Roman engineer Vitruvius perfects the modern, vertical water wheel. Turbines

62 CE

Hero of Alexandria, a Greek scientist, pioneers steam power.

Steam engines

105 CE

Ts’ai Lun makes the first paper in China.

Paper

27 BCE–395 CE Romans develop the first, basic concrete called
pozzolana. Steel and concrete Middle Ages ~600 CE Windmills are invented in the Middle East. Wind turbines 700–900 CE Chinese invent gunpowder and fireworks. Bullets
Fireworks
Space rockets 800–1300 CE Thanks to inventors such as the Banū Mūsā brothers
and al-Jazari, the Islamic “Golden Age” sees the development of a wide range
of technologies, including ingenious clocks and feedback mechanisms
that are the ancestors of modern automated factory machines. Clockwork
Cams and cranks
Robots 1000 CE ?? Chinese develop eyeglasses by fixing lenses to
frames that fit onto people’s faces. Lenses 1206 Arabic engineer al-Jazari invents a flushing hand-washing machine, one
of the ancestors of the modern toilet. Toilets 1232 CE Chinese repel Mongol invaders using early rockets. Space rockets 1450 Johannes Gutenberg pioneers the modern printing
press, using rearrangeable metal letters called movable type. Printing 1470s The first parachute is sketched on paper by an unknown inventor. Parachutes 16th century 1530s Gerardus Mercator helps to revolutionize navigation with better mapmaking. Satellite navigation 1590 A Dutch spectacle maker named Zacharias Janssen makes the first compound microscope. Microscopes
Electron microscopes 1596 Sir John Harington describes one of the first modern flush toilets. Toilets 17th century ~1600 Galileo Galilei designs a basic thermometer. Thermometer 1600 William Gilbert publishes his great book De Magnete describing how Earth behaves like a giant magnet. It’s the beginning of the scientific study of magnetism. Magnetism 1609 Galileo Galilei builds a practical telescope and
makes new astronomical discoveries. Space telescopes mid-17th century Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke
independently develop microscopes. Microscopes
Electron
microscopes
1643 Galileo’s pupil Evangelista Torricelli builds the first mercury barometer for measuring air pressure. Barometers 1650s Christiaan Huygens develops the pendulum clock (using Galileo’s earlier discovery that a swinging pendulum can be used to keep time). Pendulum clocks 1687 Isaac Newton formulates his three laws of motion. Motion 1700s Bartolomeo Cristofori invents the piano. Pianos 18th century 1701 English farmer Jethro Tull begins the mechanization of agriculture by inventing the horse-drawn seed drill. Tractors 1703 Gottfried Leibniz pioneers the binary number
system now used in virtually all computers. How computers
work

History of computers

1712

Thomas Newcomen builds the first practical (but stationary)
steam engine.

Steam engines

1700s Christiaan Huygens conceives the internal combustion engine, but never actually builds one. Car engines 1737 William Champion develops a commercially viable process for extracting zinc on a large scale. Zinc 1757 John Campbell invents the sextant, an improved navigational device that enables sailors to measure latitude. Satellite navigation 1730s– 1770s John Harrison develops reliable chronometers (seafaring clocks) that allow sailors to measure longitude accurately for the first time. Quartz clocks and watches
Satellite navigation 1751 Axel Cronstedt isolates nickel. Nickel 1756 Axel Cronstedt notices steam when he boils a rock—and discovers zeolites. Zeolites 1769 Wolfgang von Kempelen develops a mechanical speaking machine: the world’s first speech synthesizer. Speech synthesizers 1770s Abraham Darby III builds a pioneering iron bridge at a place now called Ironbridge in England. Bridges ~1780 Josiah Wedgwood (or Thomas Massey) invents the pyrometer. Pyrometers 1783 French Brothers Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier make the first practical
hot-air balloon. Hot-air balloons 1791 Reverend William Gregor, a British clergyman and amateur geologist, discovers a mysterious mineral that he calls menachite. Four years later, Martin Klaproth gives it its modern name, titanium. Titanium 19th century 1800 Italian Alessandro Volta makes the first battery
(known as a Voltaic pile). Electricity
Batteries 1801 Joseph-Marie Jacquard invents the automated
cloth-weaving loom. The punched cards it uses to store patterns help to
inspire programmable computers. History of computers 1803 Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier develop the papermaking machine. Paper 1806 Humphry Davy develops electrolysis into an important chemical technique and uses it to identify a number of new elements. Electrolyzers 1806 Sir William Congreve develops long-range military rockets, based on an earlier Indian technology known as the Mysore rocket. Space rockets 1807 Humphry Davy develops the electric arc lamp. Xenon lamps 1814 George Stephenson builds the first practical
steam locomotive. Steam engines 1816 Robert Stirling invents the efficient Stirling engine. Stirling engines 1820s– 1830s Michael Faraday builds primitive electric generators and motors. Electricity generators
Electric motors
Hub motors 1827 Joseph Niepce makes the first modern photograph. Photography
Digital cameras 1830s William Sturgeon develops the first practical
electric motor. Electric motors
Hub motors 1830s Louis Daguerre invents a practical method of
taking pin-sharp photographs called Daguerreotypes. Digital cameras
Photography 1830s William Henry Fox Talbot develops a way of
making and printing photographs using reverse images called negatives. Digital cameras
Photography 1830s– 1840s Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke, in
England, and Samuel Morse, in the United States, develop the electric
telegraph (a forerunner of the telephone). Telephones 1836 Englishman Francis Petit-Smith and Swedish-American John Ericsson independently develop propellers with blades for ships. Propellers 1839 Charles Goodyear finally perfects a durable form
of rubber (vulcanized rubber) after many years of unsuccessful
experimenting. Rubber 1840s Scottish physicist James Prescott Joule outlines
the theory of the conservation of energy. Energy
Great physics experiments 1840s Scotsman Alexander Bain invents a primitive fax
machine based on chemical technology. Fax machines 1849 James Francis invents a water turbine now used
in many of the world’s hydropower plants. Turbines
Water 1850s Henry Bessemer pioneers a new method of making steel in large quantities. Iron and steel 1850s Louis Pasteur develops pasteurization: a way of preserving food by heating it to kill off bacteria. Pasteurization 1850s Italian Giovanni Caselli develops a mechanical
fax machine called the pantelegraph. Fax machines 1860s Frenchman Étienne Lenoir and German Nikolaus
Otto pioneer the internal combustion engine. Car engines
Cars, history of 1860s James Clerk Maxwell figures out that radio waves
must exist and sets out basic laws of electromagnetism. Radio 1860s Fire extinguishers are invented. Fire extinguisher 1861 Elisha Graves Otis invents the elevator with built-in safety brake. Elevators 1867 Joseph Monier invents reinforced concrete. Reinforced concrete 1868 Christopher Latham Sholes invents the modern
typewriter and QWERTY keyboard. Typewriters 1871 Frank Wenham, a British aeronautical engineer, invents the wind tunnel. Wind tunnels
Aerodynamics 1876 Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone,
though the true ownership of the invention remains controversial even
today. Telephones 1870s Thomas Edison develops the phonograph, the first
practical method of recording and playing back sound on metal foil. CD players
MP3 players 1870s Lester Pelton invents a useful new kind of water
turbine known as a Pelton wheel. Turbines 1877 Thomas Edison invents his sound-recording machine or phonograph—a forerunner of the record player and CD player. Record players
Sound 1877 Edward Very invents the flare gun (Very pistol) for sending distress flares at sea. Flares 1880 Thomas Edison patents the modern incandescent
electric lamp. Incandescent
lamps
1880 Pierre and Paul-Jacques Curie discover the piezoelectric effect. Piezoelectricity 1880s Thomas Edison opens the world’s first power
plants. Power plants 1880s Charles Chamberland invents the autoclave (steam sterilizing machine). Autoclaves 1880s Charles and Julia Hall and Paul Heroult
independently develop an affordable way of making aluminum. Aluminum 1880s Carrie Everson invents new ways of mining
silver, gold, and copper. Copper
Gold
Silver 1881 Jacques d’Arsonval suggests heat energy could be extracted from the oceans. OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) 1883 George Eastman invents plastic photographic
film. Digital cameras
Plastics 1884 Charles Parsons develops the steam turbine. Steam turbines
Turbines 1885 Karl Benz builds a gasoline-engined car. Car engines 1886 Josephine Cochran invents the dishwasher. Dishwashers 1888 Friedrich Reinitzer discovers liquid crystals. LCD screens and displays 1888 John Boyd Dunlop patents air-filled (pneumatic) tires. Pneumatics 1888 Nikola Tesla patents the alternating current
(AC) electric induction motor and, in opposition to Thomas Edison, becomes a
staunch advocate of AC power. Electricity
Electric motors
Induction motors
Power plants 1899 Everett F. Morse invents the optical pyrometer for measuring temperatures at a safe distance. Pyrometers 1890s French brothers Joseph and Louis Lumiere invent
movie projectors and open the first movie theater. Camcorders
Projection TV 1890s German engineer Rudolf Diesel develops his diesel engine—a more efficient internal combustion engine
without a sparking plug. Diesel engines 1890s Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky figures out the theory of space rockets. Space rockets 1894 Physicist Sir Oliver Lodge sends the first ever message by radio wave in Oxford, England. Radio 1895 German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen discovers X rays. X rays 1895 American Ogden Bolton, Jr. invents the electric bicycle. Electric bikes 1898 Nikola Tesla invents remote, radio control. Remote control 20th century 1901 Guglielmo Marconi sends radio-wave signals
across the Atlantic Ocean from England to Canada Radio 1901 The first electric vacuum cleaner is developed. Vacuum cleaners 1903 Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright build the
first engine-powered airplane. Airplanes
Jet engines 1905 Albert Einstein explains the photoelectric effect. Photoelectric cells 1905 Samuel J. Bens invents the chainsaw. Chainsaws 1906 Willis Carrier pioneers the air conditioner. Air conditioners 1906 Mikhail Tswett discovers chromatography. Chromatography 1907 Leo Baekeland develops Bakelite, the first
popular synthetic plastic. Plastics 1907 Alva Fisher invents the electric clothes washer. Clothes washer 1906-8 Frederick Gardner Cottrell develops the electrostatic smoke precipitator (smokestack pollution scrubber). Air pollution
Electrostatic smoke precipitators 1908 American industrialist and engineer Henry Ford launches the Ford Model T, the world’s first truly affordable car. Car engines
Cars, history of 1909 German chemists Fritz Haber and Zygmunt Klemensiewicz develop the glass electrode, enabling very precise measurements of acidity. pH meters 1910 Romanian-born Henri-Marie Coandă builds a simple jet plane, but it never actually flies. Jet engines 1912 American chemist Gilbert Lewis describes the basic chemistry that leads to practical, lithium-ion rechargeable batteries (though they don’t appear in a practical, commercial form until the 1990s). Lithium-ion batteries 1912 Hans Geiger develops the Geiger counter, a detector for radioactivity. Geiger counters 1916 Robert Hutchings Goddard, an American physicist, publishes influential ideas on building space rockets. Space rockets 1919 Francis Aston pioneers the mass spectrometer and uses it to discover many isotopes. Mass spectrometers 1920s John Logie Baird develops mechanical television. Television
LCD TV 1920s Philo T. Farnsworth invents modern electronic
television. Television
LCD TV 1920s Robert H. Goddard develops the principle of the
modern, liquid-fueled space rocket. Bullets
Space rockets 1920s German engineer Gustav Tauschek and American Paul Handel independently develop primitive optical character recognition (OCR)
scanning systems. OCR 1920s Albert W. Hull invents the magnetron, a device that can generate microwaves from electricity. Magnetrons
Microwave ovens 1921 Karel Capek and his brother coin the word “robot” in a play
about artificial humans. Robots 1921 John Larson develops the polygraph (“lie detector”) machine. Polygraphs 1928 Thomas Midgley, Jr. invents coolant chemicals
for air conditioners and refrigerators. Air conditioners
Refrigerators 1928 The electric refrigerator is invented. Refrigerators 1920s– 1930s Frank Whittle of England and Hans Pabst von Ohain of Germany develop rival jet engines. Jet engine 1930s Peter Goldmark pioneers color television. Television
LCD TV 1930s Laszlo and Georg Biro pioneer the modern
ballpoint pen. Digital pens 1930s Maria Telkes creates the first solar-powered
house. Passive solar
Solar cells 1930s Wallace Carothers develops neoprene (synthetic
rubber used in wetsuits) and nylon, the first popular synthetic clothing
material. Kevlar
Nomex
Nylon
Wetsuits 1930s Robert Watson Watt oversees the development of
radar. Radar 1930s Arnold Beckman develops the electronic pH meter. pH meters 1931 Harold E. Edgerton invents the xenon flash lamp for high-speed photography. Xenon lamps 1932 Arne Olander discovers the shape memory effect in a gold-cadmium alloy. Shape memory alloys 1936 W.B. Elwood invents the magnetic reed switch. Reed switches 1938 Chester Carlson invents the principle of
photocopying (xerography). Photocopiers 1938 Roy Plunkett accidentally invents a nonstick
plastic coating called Teflon. Gore-Tex
Nonstick pans 1939 Igor Sikorsky builds the first truly practical
helicopter. Helicopters 1940s English physicists John Randall and Harry Boot develop a compact magnetron for use in airplane radar navigation systems. Magnetrons
Radar 1942 Enrico Fermi builds the first nuclear chain
reactor at the University of Chicago. Nuclear power 1945 US government scientist Vannevar Bush proposes a kind of desk-sized memory store called Memex, which has some
of the features later incorporated into electronic books and the World Wide Web (WWW). Electronic books
World Wide Web 1945 Arthur C. Clarke conceives the idea of the communications satellite, a space-based signal
“mirror” that can bounce radio waves from one side of Earth to the other. Satellites 1947 John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William
Shockley invent the transistor, which allows electronic equipment to
made much smaller and leads to the modern computer revolution. Amplifiers
Electronics
History of computers
Transistors 1949 Bernard Silver and N. Joseph Woodland patent barcodes—striped patterns that are initially developed
for marking products in grocery stores. Barcodes and barcode scanners 1950s Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow invent the
maser (microwave laser). Gordon Gould coins the word “laser” and builds
the first optical laser in 1958. Lasers 1950s Stanford Ovshinksy develops various technologies that make renewable
energy more practical, including practical solar cells and improved
rechargeable batteries. Batteries
Electric bicycles
Electric cars
Solar cells 1950s European bus companies experiment with using flywheels as regenerative brakes Flywheels 1950s Percy Spencer accidentally discovers how to cook
with microwaves, inadvertently inventing the microwave oven. Microwave ovens 1954 Indian physicist Narinder Kapany pioneers fiber optics. Fiber optics
Endoscopes 1955 US electrical engineer Eugene Polley invents the TV remote control. Remote control 1956 First commercial nuclear power is produced at Calder Hall, Cumbria, England. Nuclear power plants 1957 Soviet Union (Russia and her allies) launch the
Sputnik space satellite. Satellites 1957 Lawrence Curtiss, Basil Hirschowitz, and Wilbur Peters build the first fiber-optic gastroscope. Endoscopes 1958 Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, working
independently, develop the integrated circuit. History of computers
integrated circuits
Transistors 1959 IBM and General Motors develop Design Augmented by Computers-1 (DAC-1),
the first computer-aided design (CAD) system. Computer graphics 1960s Joseph-Armand Bombardier perfects his Ski-Doo® snowmobile. Snowmobiles 1960 Theodore Maiman invents the ruby laser. Lasers 1962 William Armistead and S. Donald Stookey of Corning Glass Works invent light-sensitive (photochromic) glass. Photochromic lenses 1962 Nick Holonyak invents the LED (light-emitting diode) while working at General Electric. Diodes and LEDs 1963 Ivan Sutherland develops Sketchpad, one of the first computer-aided design programs. Computer graphics 1964 IBM helps to pioneer e-commerce with an airline
ticket reservation system called SABRE. E-commerce 1965 Frank Pantridge develops the portable defibrillator for treating cardiac arrest patients. Defibrillators 1966 Stephanie Kwolek patents a super-strong plastic
called Kevlar. Kevlar 1966 Robert H. Dennard of IBM invents dynamic random access memory (DRAM). Computer memory 1967 Japanese company Noritake invents the vacuum fluorescent display (VFD). Vacuum fluorescent displays 1968 Alfred Y. Cho and John R. Arthur, Jr invent a precise way of making single crystals called molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). Molecular beam epitaxy 1969 World’s first solar power station opened in
France. Solar cells
Energy 1969 Long before computers become portable, Alan Kay imagines building an electronic book, which he nicknames the Dynabook. Electronic books 1969 Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith invent the CCD (charge-coupled device): the light-sensitive chip used in digital cameras, webcams, and other modern optical equipment. CCDs
Digital cameras 1969 Astronauts walk on the Moon. Space rockets 1960s Douglas Engelbart develops the computer mouse. Computer mouse 1960s James Russell invents compact discs. CD players 1971 Electronic ink is pioneered by Nick Sheridon at Xerox PARC. Electronic ink and paper 1971 Ted Hoff builds the first single-chip computer
or microprocessor. History of
computers
1973 Martin Cooper develops the first handheld
cellphone (mobile phone). Cellphones 1973 Robert Metcalfe figures out a simple way of
linking computers together that he names Ethernet. Most computers
hooked up to the Internet now use it. Computer
networks

Internet 1974 First grocery-store purchase of an item coded with a barcode. Barcodes and barcode scanners 1975 Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman invent public-key cryptography. Encryption 1975 Pico Electronics develops X-10 home automation system. Smart homes 1976 Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs launch the Apple I:
one of the world’s first personal home computers History of
computers
1970s– 1980s James Dyson invents the bagless, cyclonic vacuum
cleaner. Vacuum cleaners 1970s– 1980s Scientists including Charles Bennett, Paul Benioff, Richard Feynman, and David Deutsch sketch out how quantum computers
might work. Quantum computers 1980s Japanese electrical pioneer Akio Morita develops
the Sony Walkman, the first truly portable player for recorded music. CD players
MP3 players 1981 Stung by Apple’s success, IBM releases its own
affordable personal computer (PC). History of
computers
1981 The Space Shuttle makes its maiden voyage. Space Shuttle 1981 Patricia Bath develops laser eye surgery for
removing cataracts. Lasers 1981 Fujio Masuoka files a patent for flash memory—a type of reusable computer
memory that can store information even when the power is off. Flash memory 1981– 1982 Alexei Ekimov and Louis E. Brus (independently) discover quantum dots. Quantum dots 1983 Compact discs (CDs) are launched as a new way to
store music by the Sony and Philips corporations. CD players 1987 Larry Hornbeck, working at Texas Instruments, develops DLP® projection—now used in many projection TV systems. DLP® projectors 1989 Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web. Internet
World Wide Web 1990 German watchmaking company Junghans introduces the MEGA 1, believed to be the world’s first radio-controlled wristwatch. Radio-controlled clocks
Quartz clocks and watches 1991 Linus Torvalds creates the first version of
Linux, a collaboratively written computer operating system. Computers
Linux 1994 American-born mathematician John Daugman perfects the mathematics that make iris scanning systems possible. Iris scans 1994 Israeli computer scientists Alon Cohen and Lior Haramaty invent VoIP for sending telephone calls over the Internet. VoIP 1995 Broadcast.com becomes one of the world’s first
online radio stations. Streaming media 1995 Pierre Omidyar launches the eBay auction website. E-commerce 1996 WRAL-HD broadcasts the first high-definition television (HDTV) signal in the United States. HDTV 1997 Electronics companies agree to make Wi-Fi a
worldwide standard for wireless Internet. Wireless Internet 21st century 2001 Apple revolutionizes music listening by unveiling its iPod MP3 music player. MP3 players 2001 Richard Palmer develops energy-absorbing D3O plastic. Energy-absorbing materials 2001 The Wikipedia online encyclopedia is founded by Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales. Electronic books 2001 Bram Cohen develops BitTorrent file-sharing. BitTorrent
Internet 2001 Scott White, Nancy Sottos, and colleagues develop self-healing materials. Self-healing materials 2002 iRobot Corporation releases the first version of its Roomba® vacuum cleaning robot. Roomba
Robots 2004 Electronic voting plays a major part in a
controversial US Presidential Election. Touchscreens 2004 Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov discover graphene. Graphene 2005 A pioneering low-cost laptop for developing
countries called OLPC is announced by MIT computing pioneer Nicholas
Negroponte. Computers 2007 Amazon.com launches its Kindle electronic book (e-book) reader. Electronic books 2007 Apple introduces a touchscreen cellphone called
the iPhone. Cellphones
Touchscreens 2010 Apple releases its touchscreen tablet computer, the iPad. Computers
Touchscreens 2010 3D TV starts to become more widely available. 3D Television
Television 2013 Elon Musk announces “hyperloop”—a giant, pneumatic tube transport system. Pneumatics
Pneumatic transport tube 2015 Supercomputers (the world’s fastest computers) are now a mere 30 times less powerful than
human brains. Supercomputers 2016 Three nanotechnologists win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for building miniature machines out of molecules. Nanotechnology 2019 Google claims to have achieved “quantum supremacy”—with a quantum computer that
calculates faster than a conventional one. Quantum computers

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