Discoveries That Changed the World

Some discoveries that changed the World

Spoked Wheel 5000 BC to 2000BC

The first wheel was invented as far back as 4,500BC – this was used in a potter’s wheel. However, when it was discovered a spoke wheel could be used in a chariot, it started to really transform transport.

  • 2200–1550 BCE: Middle Bronze Age, the invention of the spoked wheel and the chariot

Paper 105 AD

Papermaking is associated with Chinese official Cai Lun, during the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE)Lun is said to have invented paper about using mulberry and other fibres along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste.

Printing Press – 14th Century

In the fourteenth Century, Johan Gutenberg developed a printing which made use of movable type. This was an important discovery of a printing press that was influential in the Reformation and spreading education throughout Europe and later the world

Oxygen 1774

Oxygen was identified by Joseph Priestly in 1774. Priestly discovered a colourless gas from heated red mercuric oxide. He found this gas was highly combustible. He called it dephlogisticated air.

Priestly shared his discovery with the French scientist Antoine Lavoisier. Lavoisier was able to show oxygen supported animal life respiration.

Immunisation – 1796

Edward Jenner made pioneering work into the potential for immunisation against fatal illness such as smallpox. In 1796, Jenner had successfully shown, that people could be inoculated against smallpox through a much milder cowpox vaccine. In the nineteenth century, this knowledge would be used to save the lives of countless millions.

Atomic Elements – 1803

In 1803, English chemist and physicist John Dalton put forward the theory stating all elements are made up of tiny, indestructible particles in named atoms.

The idea of atoms had been around for a long time, but, it was Dalton who was able to show that weights could be given to different atoms.

Electromagnetism 1820

In 1820, Danish scientist Hans Christian Orsted made investigations into the relationship between electricity (with positive and negative charges) and magnetism (with north and south poles). Orsted discovered an electric current could deflect a magnetic compass, this discovery helped Michael Faraday to later cause an electric current to flow through a wire with the use of a magnet. Faraday found a copper wheel passed through a horseshoe magnet could create a constant stream of electricity.

Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin produced his book – The Origin of Species in 1859. It described the radical view that humans were evolved from the animal kingdom and that the world was much older than previously thought. By the 1930s, his theory was widely accepted by scientific community.

Pasteurisation 1864

The first successful test of pasteurisation occurred on April 20th, 1864 by Louis Pasteur. It has been used in wine-making and milk production – reducing bacterial infections.


Radioactivity was first discovered in 1896 by the French scientist Henri Becquerel. Marie Curie and others helped develop these discoveries enabling a greater use e.g. X Rays.

Theory of Relativity

Special relativity is a theory of the structure of space-time. It was introduced in Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”. It included the famous formula E = MC2

Penicillin 1928

Discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. It took another 10 years to develop a commercial product. But, once produced penicillin save millions of lives through its anti-bacterial properties.

Related pages

ideasIdeas that changed the world – Scientific, political, religious and technological ideas that transformed the world. Including democracy, feminism, human rights and relativity.

Inventions that changed the world – Famous inventions that made a great difference to the progress of the world, including aluminium, the telephone and the printing press.

Famous Inventors – Famous inventors including Cai Lun, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Sir Isaac Newton, James Watt and Samuel Morse.


the-histories-heroditusMajor periods in world history. A list of the major periods in world history. Including the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. It also includes modern eras, which have lasted only a few decades, such as the Gilded Age, Progressive Age and the Information Age.