Ten inventions that have changed the course of history

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For centuries, a combination of curiosity, instinct, ingenuity and progress has resulted in humanity making use of a whole series of mechanisms that have been crucial to our development as a species. Such advances have altered not only the course of history but also our way of life and it would therefore be very difficult to imagine our everyday lives without them. To highlight their importance for our lives, here's a list of ten creations which, either because they're representative or crucial, are considered to be the most revolutionary inventions by human beings.

1. The wheel. Possibly one of the most important, and ancient, inventions in history. Its origin is unknown but there is documentary proof that it was used in Ur (Mesopotamia) almost five thousand years ago. Its many different functions have been essential for humans to progress.

2. The plough. Its origin also goes back to Mesopotamia, to almost four thousand years ago. This invention, used to till the land by making furrows, revolutionised farming.

3. Paper. Invented in China in the 2nd century BC from silk threads, rice straw and hemp fibre. Later, it spread to Central Asia and then the Arabs took it to Europe, becoming an essential element for later innovations such as books and, above all, printing.

4. Printing. This mechanical device presses on an inked surface to reproduce written texts and images. The invention has been attributed to Johannes Gutenberg but there is proof of earlier versions in the Far East, such as the prototype created by Bi Sheng in the 11th century.

5. The steam-driven engine. It's not possible to determine the exact date the steam engine first appeared but we do know the period when it became a decisive: the Industrial Revolution. Passing through the hands of many inventors who gradually improved it, the steam-driven engine was vital in replacing traditional power sources: animals, mills and even humans.

6. The telegraph. Considered to be one of the greatest revolutions in the field of communication, this allowed people to contact each other over long distances, instantaneously. It was developed by various pioneers but it's believed that the first was the French scientist and clergyman Jean Antoine Nollet.

7. The calculator. Blaise Pascal invented the first machine to perform arithmetic calculations but it was the Spaniard, Leonardo Torres Quevedo, who patented the first analogue calculator in 1914 which could carry out highly complex mathematical operations very quickly.

8. The automobile. Although it's thought that the first cars were invented in China at the end of the 17th century, the first steam-powered vehicle was introduced in 1769 by Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot for transporting cannons. In 1833, Eilhard Mitscherlich provided a new approach to the automobile when he discovered that petrol could be the perfect fuel.

9. The light bulb. Throughout the 19th century, dozens of famous people were involved in the invention of incandescent light bulbs. However, Thomas Edison is considered to be the inventor of the device as we know it today. The introduction of artificial light altered people's sleeping patterns but it also improved industrial productivity and safety on city streets.

10. The computer. Some mechanical computing devices have been documented in the 19th century but the many different innovations introduced by a number of researchers, such as Babbage, Turing, Zuse and Flowers, led to the creation of computers as we know them today.

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