Who invented what ?


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If asked to tell who invented everyday things like the TV, the camera, the automobile or the calculator, most people would be at a complete loss to give an answer (me included). I have therefore made a little research on the topic and found the following.

Glasses (1280's, Italy)

Mechanical clock (1335, Italy)

Viol (viola da gamba) and Cello (late 15th and 16th century, Italy)

Pocket watch (1510, Germany)

Invented by Peter Henlein.

Violin (Early 16th century, Italy)


- 1593 : Invented by Galileo (Italy)
- 1714 : Mercury thermometer invented by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (Poland/Netherlands)

Invented by Galileo Galilei.

Microscope (1595, Netherlands)

Invented by Zacharias Janssen.


- late 11th century : astronomical lenses (Sweden)
- 13th century : experimental telescopes built by Francis Bacon (UK)
- 1595/1608 : refracting telescope (Netherlands)
- 1609 : improved by Galileo (Italy)

Newspaper (1605, Belgium/France/Germany)

The world's first printed newspapers were the Relation aller fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien published in Strasbourg (Germany at the time, now France), and the Nieuwe Tijdingen, published the same year in Antwerp (part of the Spanish Netherlands at the time, now Belgium).


- 1623 : automatic calculator invented by Wilhelm Schickard (Germany)
- 1642 : adding machine invented by Blaise Pascal (France)
- 1954 : electronic calculator invented by IBM (USA)

Barometer (1643, Italy)

Invented by Evangelista Torricelli.

Daily newspaper (1645, Germany)

The Einkommende Zeitungen in Lepizing.

Pendulum clock (1657, Netherlands)

Invented by Christiaan Huygens.

Clarinet (1690, Germany)

Invented by Johann Christoph Denner.

Steam engine (1698, UK)

Invented by Thomas Savery in 1698, and improved by James Watt in 1769.

Piano (early 1700's, Italy)

Invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence.

Magazine (England, 1731)

The Gentleman's Magazine was the world's first general-interest magazine.

Hot air balloon (France, 1782-83)

Invented by the brothers Josef and Etienne Montgolfier.

Parachute (1785, France)

Invented by Jean Pierre Blanchard

Steam boat (1786, USA)

First built by John Fitch.


- 1791 : Gas turbine patented by John Barber (England).
- 1826 : Reciprocating internal combustion engine patented by Samuel Morey (USA)
- 1867 : Petrol engine developed by Nikolaus Otto (Germany)
- 1892 : Diesel engine invented by Rudolph Diesel (Germany)
- 1924-57 : Rotary engine developed by Felix Wankel (Germany)
- 1936-39 : Jet engine developed simultaneously by Frank Whittle (England) and Hans von Ohain (Germany).

Submarine (1800, USA/France)

Invented by American Robert Fulton commissioned by Napoleon. First launched in France.

Ambulance service (early 1800's, France)

Modern method of army surgery, field hospitals and the system of army ambulance corps invented by Dominique Jean Larrey, surgeon-in-chief of the Napoleonic armies.


- First refrigerator invented in 1805 by Oliver Evans (USA)
- World's first practical refrigerator invented by James Harrison (Australia) in 1856.

Railway (1820, UK)

The idea of the railway dates back to Roman times, 2000 years ago, when horse-drawn vehicles were set on cut-stone tracks. In 1802, the first modern horse-drawn train appeared in England, and the first steam powered train was however launched in 1820, also in England.

Comic strips (1820's, Switzerland)

Swiss Rodolphe Toepffer was probably the first modern cartoonist.


- First photograph => 1825, France
- Silver photo => 1840, France
- Negative => 1840, UK
- Colour photography => 1861 by James Clerk Maxwell (Scotland)

Gas stove/cooker (1826, England)

First patented and manufactured by James Sharp.

Tramway :

- first horse-drawn carriage on rail in 1828 in Baltimore, USA.
- first cable-car in 1868 in New York.
- first steam-powered tram in 1873
- first electric tram in 1880 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in 1881 in Berlin, Germany.

Saxophone (1840's, Belgium

Invented by Adolphe Sax.

Telegraph (1844, USA)

Invented by Samuel Morse

Telephone (1849, Italy)

The invention of the telephone has long been credited to the Scot Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. However, the Italian Antonio Meucci is now recognised to have invented the device as early as 1849.

Dishwasher (1850-1886, USA)

Steam-powered airship (1852, France)

- Invented by Henri Giffard.

Light bulb (1854, Germany)

The first practical light bulb was invented in 1854 by Heinrich Goebel.

Metro/Subway (1863, Britain)

The London Underground was the first rapid transit network in the world.

Vacuum cleaner (1865, USA)

Wrist watch (1868, Switzerland => Patek Philippe & Co.)


- Radio waves => 1874, Scotland
- Radio Transmission => 1893-96, USA

Phonograph (1877, USA)

Invented by Thomas Alva Edison, although based on France-born Leon Scott's 1857 phonautograph.

Cash register (1879, USA)

Invented by James Ritty.


- First TV => 1884, Germany
- TV tube => 1907, Russia
- Electronic TV & Broadcast => 1927, USA

Motorcycle (1885, Germany)

First designed and built by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach

Car/Automobile (1886, Germany)

Developed independently and simultaneously by Carl Benz in Mannheim, amd Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart.

Animation (1892, France)

First animated film created by Emile Reynaud.

Cinema (1894, France)

Cinematograph invented by the Lumiere brothers.

Electric stove/cooker (1896, USA)

First patented by William S. Hadaway.

Traffic lights (1914, USA)

Parking meter (1935, USA)

Helicopter (1939, Russia)

Developed by Igor Sikorsky

Microwave oven (1947, USA)

Invented by Percy Spencer.

Atomic clock (1949, USA)

Charge/credit card (1950, USA => Diner's Club)

Video Games (1951-58, USA/UK)

Invention disputed between 3 people, 2 Americans and a Briton.

Laserdisk (1958, USA; commercialised by MCA and Philips in 1972)

Photocopier (1959, USA => Xerox)

Soft contact lenses (1961, Czech)

Invented by Otto Wichterle.

Cassette tape (1967, Netherlands => Philips)

LCD screen (1968, Germany)

Quartz watch (1969, Japan => Seiko)

Video tape (1972, Netherlands - Philips, later replaced by JVC's VHS)

Walkman (1977, Germany => commercialised by the Japanese Sony from 1979)

Compact Disk (1982, Netherlands/Germany - Philips)

CD-ROM (1985, Netherlands/Japan => Philips/Sony)

Minidisk (1991, Japan => Sony)


Let's now list inventions by countries.


- Steam boat
- Submarine
- Regrigerator
- Telegraph
- Tramway
- Dishwasher
- Vacuum cleaner
- Radio transmission
- Phonograph
- Cash register
- Eletric stove/cooker
- Electronic TV & TV Broadcast
- Microwave oven
- Atomic clock
- Charge/credit card
- Electronic calculator
- Video games
- Laserdisk
- Photocopier
- Traffic lights
- Parking meter


- Refigerator


- Magazine
- Steam engine
- Gas turbine
- Railway
- Gas stove/cooker
- Negative & colour photography
- Metro/Subway
- Radio waves
- Jet engine
- Video Games


- Adding machine
- Hot air balloon
- Parachute
- Submarine
- Ambulance service
- Photography
- Airship
- Animation
- Cinema


- Glasses
- Viol and cello
- Mechanical clock
- Violin
- Thermometer
- Barometer
- Piano
- Telephone


- Comic strips
- Wrist watch

Czech Rep.

- Soft contact lenses


- Newspaper
- Clarinet
- Pocket watch
- Automated calculator
- Light bulb
- TV
- Petrol/gasoline & Diesel engines
- Automobile (+engine, differential gear...)
- Motorcycle
- Jet engine
- LCD screen
- Walkman


- Microscope
- Telescope
- Pendulum clock
- Mercury thermometer
- Audio tape
- Video tape
- CD


- Newspaper
- Saxophone


- Quartz watch
- MD


- Tube TV
- Helicopter
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Those are cool inventions.

Cooked food: most important invention of all time. Probably discovered by women, but it could have been discovered by men also. Thousands of years ago when early people first discovered how to prepare cooked food, they made their food much more digestible and reduced wear on their teeth. This increased the life span an average of ten years.
As a historical rule of thumb: If Edison didn't invent it, then the Chinese did.
WOW many things are from my country,,, SOOO SMALL BUT SO GREAT SOMETIMES... ( not with everything.... grrrr)

im proud
As for the invention of video games dispute, it was actually one American who came up with it. He was in the army at the time, and was trying to come up with a training tool for soldiers in target practice. Not only that, but it was supposed to be for fun and hunting practice. He used a couple of old BB guns for what would be the very first light gun. Later he profected his techniques and later came out what would be a instant senstation around the world, Pong. Man I'm full of useless information. :souka:

This is not meant to be a double post, but you forgot to add one invention, the internet. :) The US military was the first to invent it during the 50's and it was known at the time as the intranet. Basically it was what we have now, only a little different. It was supercomputers connected to phonelines from around the country and were routed to one another, and would send information in and out from the Pentagon and then newly formed CIA. It wasn't until the early 90's when the internet was invented by Microsoft, the US government, and several other technology firms for commerical use. No one owns the internet and no one fully controls it. There are regulations and money to support it, but that's about it. Man I'm a geek. :(

sabro said:
As a historical rule of thumb: If Edison didn't invent it, then the Chinese did.
A couple of years back the Chinese tried to claim that they had invented Football (soccer) and Golf. The latter much to the annoyance of the Scots. BTW Mary Queen of Scots was said to be a good golfer.
Mycernius said:
A couple of years back the Chinese tried to claim that they had invented Football (soccer) and Golf.
If you'd believe some Chinese they invented pretty much everything worthwile in the past 5000 years (from human civilisation to space travel).
Yup, like the Chinese invented the yo-yo, fire works, the Chinese even introduced the orange. I think. :?
Mycernius said:
A couple of years back the Chinese tried to claim that they had invented Football (soccer) and Golf.

As I explained in another thread (see post #44), it is interesting how the Chinese almost didn't invent anything unique or sunstantial in the last 1500 years. The Chinese oft mentioned inventions are alsways the same cast iron, fireworks/black powder (but not gunpowder, as they didn't invent guns), printing, and the others are controversial (compass, paper...). Many inventions are cultural (fans, kites, origami, fireworks, abacus, kanji, acupuncture...) are not 'necessary' contributions to the world. Most of the Chinese inventions date back to the Antiquity. There is hardly more connection between Ancient and Modern China as between Ancient and Modern Egypt, or Babylon and Iraq. And even so, Ancient China invented surpringly few things that have had a direct effect on the present world compared to Ancient Middle Eastern or Mediterranean countries.

The latter much to the annoyance of the Scots. BTW Mary Queen of Scots was said to be a good golfer.

The first reference of golf in 1353 was in fact in Flanders, Belgium. I read somewhere else that it was first invented in the Netherlands (Flanders was part of the Netherlands at that time) and exported to Scotland in the 15th century where it became popular.
Most of my favorite foods are ethnic American synergisms- foods that traveled here from somewhere else or were invented by immigrants, but changed a bit sometimes for the better: California Roll, Chop Suey, Pastrami Reuben (w/mustard not thousand island), the Fortune cookie, Hawaiian spam bowl, Hawaiian Bread, the Garbage Burrito, The Cheeseburger, Pizza, California pasta, Tex-mex, California fusion... Now I'm hungry...
Yes, but it seems Japan has taken most of those inventions to a higher level. Why is that?

Look at what Bill Gates did for the Computer that IBM didn't want anything to do with. Or the copy machine that, I think, Kodak turned down. If they didn't do it, I think the Japanese would have.

Why is it that there is not a single American TV manufaturer in the US anymore? Why is it that, if you look closely at the NASA boards during a shuttle launch, they are made by SONY? Why is it that the best copiers, cameras, cars and other technologically advanced products are made by the Japanese? Why is it that the best anime in the world is Japanese? (Maybe, in the not too distant future, by the Chinese.)

I think it was an American Politician that once said back in the late 1800's, paraphrasing here, "Everything that needs to be invented, has already been invented." Heck, American scientists once assumed back in the 1800's that all the people on a train would be suffocated as the air would be pushed out of a train when it started moving.

Even Ford Motor Company purchased the patent and rights to produce a hybrid vehicle from Toyota! (Considered the best in the world at the moment.) Why in hell didn't some American or European company do it?

It just seems to me that the Japanese build on, and improve upon, the inventions, of others and it always bugged me as to why the original inventors didn't do the same. Maybe it has to do with the quarterly earnings report or something where American companies, and maybe most western ones, only look to the the next quarter and expect higher earnings and not much money is put into reasearch and development. Whereas the Japanese take a much longer term approach and don't look for profits for months or years ahead. They look for quality and market share.

In reality, the Japanese really didn't invent anything including their own written language! (save for hiragana and katagana) But, most of your better products on the market today have Japanese brand names. Go figure.
Pachipro said:
the best copiers, cameras, cars and other technologically advanced products are made by the Japanese?
That's disputable.

Why is it that the best anime in the world is Japanese? (Maybe, in the not too distant future, by the Chinese.)
Anime is Japanese, no wonder. For the quality of anime, well... that's probably a matter of taste.
Dream Time said:

a large list of Chinese inventions, however it is true that the Chinese invented almost nothing in the past 1000 years or so
I wouldn't trust this website (of a psychic?) very much. Just having a 1st short look & already found one mistake:

"The first to invent books"
AFAIK, the 1st books (codices) were used in antiquity in Rome.

Anyway, I have my problems with such lists. Many of the early inventions were made in different locations (simultaneously or at different times) independent from each other. Being the 1st doesn't really mean that much (being the 1st country even less). Sometimes it's interesting, though.
Dream Time said:
there is this myth saying that the Chinese invented ice cream and spaghetti, and Marco Polo brought the ideas to Europe in the 13th century

If we include food, it's easy to find hundreds or thousands of inventions in almost any major country. As for the spaghetti, the Chinese probably invented noodles (like ramen), but the hundreds of variety of pasta in all their shape and colour (cappelini, spaghettoni, linguine, tagliatelle, macaroni, penne, farfalle, conchiglie, etc.) are Italian inventions. Lasagna could however have first been cooked in England!
Pachipro said:
Why is it that the best copiers, cameras, cars and other technologically advanced products are made by the Japanese?

Regarding cars, even the majority of the Japanese people I know crave for European cars, usually Mercedes, BMW, Porche or Jaguar, or if they are rich Ferrari or Rolls Royce. Interestingly Peugeot is also quite popular in Japan. Japanese people buy European cars at about twice the prices they are sold in Europe, as they can't be manufactured in Japan (to to market protection laws), while Japanese cars sold in Europe are made in Europe, and therefore as cheap as in Japan. The people I know in Europe who buy Japanese cars are usually looking for service and reliability at affordable price. Those who want luxury or design go for European makers. Even those who care about safety and reliability can get a better deal with VW, Audi, Mercedes or Volvo than many Japanese makers. Recently, French cars share a lot in common with Japanese ones: innovative designs, safety, reliability, performance...

As for electronics, do you know brands such as the Danish 'Bang & Olufsen' or the Belgian 'Barco' ? This is very high-quality (and costly) electronic equipment. Barco is almost only for professional use (e.g. videoprojector), while Bang & Olufsen is the luxury version of anything made in Japan. I'd say that Japanese products are not better, but manufactured in such large quantities (first thanks to a home market of 126 million people, as opposed to 5 million in Denmark) that they can sell at very affordable prices, and are then agressively marketed all over the world. The Japanese are born salespeople (a trait that often lacks among Northern European). But look at Samsung from Korea. They are making the same products as the Japanese (which somehow proves that even a less developed country can easily manufacture the same quality of product) at a lower price. What played in favour of Japan is that its labour cost was comparatively lower than Western countries in the 1960's and 70's, so Japanese companies had very competitive prices and managed to get rid of almost all their Western rivals for electronics.

Why is it that the best anime in the world is Japanese? (Maybe, in the not too distant future, by the Chinese.)

Technically, it seems to me that Walt Disney anime are superior to Japanese anime. They use more images per second, computer graphics (3D effects, etc.), and even the music is taken greater care of (although for the style it is a matter of personal preference).

The same goes for comics. There are hundreds of European comics (especially te Franco-Belgian ones), usually unheard of in Japan and the US, but very popular in Europe. I suppose everyone knows Tintin (which is now over 70 years old), Asterix or the Smurfs. These are the "Astro Boy" generation comics. Modern ones are as varied as the Japanese manga, including "adult comics". The style is quite different though. For example the typical format is A4, not pocket format, and all pages are in colour, while Japanese manga are generally black & white, printed on cheap paper to sell in bigger quantities.

The last time I went to Belgium, I noticed that a supermarket had a 15m-long shelf full of the latest Belgian comics. There are also many comic bookshop, similar to the specialised manga shops in Japan, and the number of Franco-Belgian comics on sale certainly compares well with the number of books in Japanese shops (and Belgium is 13x smaller than Japan, both in area and population, so it's quite a feat). This site can give an idea of the style of new Franco-Belgian comics.

So again, Japanese comics are more famous, mostly because they are more widely commercialised (especialy on TV) and have a bigger home market than Belgian ones. Not because they are better or more varied. There is also the exotism linked to it that attracts the Western reader (while ironically, Japanese readers care little about non-Japanese comics - maybe because of the cultural barriers, although it is not a problem for Western readers to enjoy Japanese manga).
Maciamo you are quite correct. Maybe I should've said, "Why is that the most reliable cars, copiers, etc are made by the Japanese?" It has always amazed me that people go for brand names over reliability and quality even when a certain brand name is supposed to equal quality when in fact it doesn't.

If I were to buy a luxury car I would not even consider Cadillac, Lincoln Continental, or Mercedes; Audi AB, Jaguar S-Type, Jaguar XJ8, VolvoS80, BMW 745Li or the BMW530i as their reliability and quality has been among the worst as reported in the latest issue of Consumer Reports regarding cars. However, their satisfaction among owners has been fair.

Could it be that people are more satisfied with owning a vehicle that gives the image of "I have money or I want you to think I have money?" rather than the vehicles reliability and quality? In the case of Japan and the US I would have to yes.

If I were to buy a luxury car I would buy a Lexus as their quality and reliability is tops among the worlds luxury cars. But, even though I can afford one I wouldn't buy one as I see no sense in buying a high ticket asset like that that depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot. Also, I think it's rather stiupid and egocentric to advertise one's wealth or the perception of wealth.

As for electronics I've never heard of 'Bang & Olufsen' or 'Barco". Granted, their quality may be the best in the world, but can the average person afford it? Probably not. Japanese products may not be better but, like you said, they are more affordable to the average person and, in my experience, their quality far surpasses anything else on the market for the average consumer. If the Europeans, as you correctly stated, were better salespersons, maybe these high quality items would catch on.

Speaking of Samsung, I purchased one of their LCD TV's last year and I have been very pleased with the product. I did research before I bought it and they offered the most "bang for the buck", so to speak. They were much cheaper than any Japanese brand for the same 17 inch screen size. So they are definetly coming up in the world and, as you stated, their labor costs are what Japan's was some 20 or 30 years ago. But, do you know if the Japanese sold their technology to Samsung or are underwriting them in any way to gain a share of their profits? I don't know, but I would think they have their hand in there some way.

Concerning the anime, I would have to say that I base my opinion on what I know and what is available. Granted Disney may produce better quality anime than the Japanese, but there is something about Japanese anime that just draws me to it. Don't get me wrong here, I am no big fan of anime, but I do enjoy watching one now and then on TV here. And I do get a better feeling inside my 50 year old body than I do when watching a disney movie. I can't explain it.

I checked out the Belgin link you mentioned concerning the Franco-Belgin comics and I must agree with you, they do look interesting and something I may enjoy reading or watching once in a while. The artwork does look good, but why don't they market it more? They just may find a bigger audience than they could conceive. I am just amazed at the popularity of Japanese anime here in the states. They have whole sections of video and electronic stores devoted solely to Japanese anime. But, like you said, it's because they are more commercialized. Other countries should market this genre more as they would probably find a bigger audience.

However, getting back to the topic of this thread I still hold to my opinion that it is the Japanese who have taken others' inventions to the next level, improved upon the product, thereby, making it more available to the general public at a higher quality and more reliable than the original. It may be debatable, but it is proven in almost everything that I own own a daily basis.

One example: I drive an 18 wheeler from my hometown of Nashville, TN to Memphis, TN and back everynight. That's almost 800km per night. I see quite a few broken down cars on the side of the road and I must say less than 1% of those cars are Japanese brands. If I do see a Japanese car it is usually one that is 10-20 years old. I see quite a few Mercedes, BMW's and other so called luxury cars with American brand names, not to mention late model "regular" cars and SUV's for the average American. Most of them late model cars to boot, but nary a Japanese brand name car. Why?

Some years back Toyota management in Japan went crazy when some Lexus's were recalled for a manufaturing flaw. Since then there has not not been one recall. Could it be that the Japanese care more about satisfying the consumer with a reliable product than the bottom line? "A satisfied consumer, with a reliable product will always return," so they say.

I can vouch for this as my wife and I have owned 5 brand new Toyotas since returning to the states 17 years ago. One Celica, One Camry Solara and three Camrys. The first three cars (Celica and two Camrys) were all driven over 150,000 miles (240,000 km) and not one single item ever failed or had to be replaced. This included brakes and clutch; water pump, thermostat, air conditioner etc. Nothing had to be repaired! The only thing we ever did was change the spark plugs at 100,000 miles (161,000 km), change the oil every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) and change the timing belt at 80,000 miles (128,000 km).

To give you some perspective on this, I drive 80 miles (128 km) roundtrip to work and my wife drives 62 mile (99 km) to work everyday. Granted, it is all highway driving, but the point I am making is that the vehicles are reliable and have never failed us. Is it no wonder that Toyota is the best selling car in America? And most are made here? Why are Toyotas more reliable than American made cars when both are made here in the USA by American workers?

The same could be said for everything else from copiers to cameras. Nothing Japanese named (and Samsung for the TV) has ever failed us. But anything with an American name (except for Kenmore [Sears]) has always failed us within the first year. Why?
I see quite a few broken down cars on the side of the road and I must say less than 1% of those cars are Japanese brands.
Perhaps your personal experience is not representative? German statistics regarding medium class cars show the following top10 regarding reliability:

1 Toyota Avensis
2 Mercedes CLK
3 Audi A4/S4
4 Mercedes C-Klasse
5 Mazda 626
6 Mitsubishi Carisma
7 BMW 3
8 VW Passat
9 Citroen C5
10 Nissan Primera

Japanese cars are doing well, but not extraordinary. In the upper & upper medium class, there is no Japanese car in the list, but this is probably due to sales of less than 10000 cars (only above that number reliable statistics are possible, acc. to the source).
Pachipro said:
If the Europeans, as you correctly stated, were better salespersons, maybe these high quality items would catch on.
But, like you said, it's because they are more commercialized. Other countries should market this genre more as they would probably find a bigger audience.

Always the same problem, especially in Belgium. The Dutch and Swiss seem very good at marketing their products around the world, but the Belgian aren't. Even their most famous chocolates, Godiva and Cote d'or, are now owned and markted by American companies.

And I do get a better feeling inside my 50 year old body than I do when watching a disney movie. I can't explain it.

This is because Disney anime are almost exclusively destined to children, while Japanese anime/manga (and Belgian comics) aren't. This partly has to do with the stigma on "maturity" in Western countries. Anime are just not considered to be for adults in the West (even in Belgium, although comics are ok, as long as they are not made for a younger audience in the first place). The Japanese do not have this "complex", which explains why the industry has grown so big. They also don't have complex about hentai or other adult-only stuff. People just read that in the train in front of everyone and nobody cares. That's a very big cultural gap with all Western countries.

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