When I asked what the greatest innovation ever was, I thought we'd all be happily arguing between, say, the printed-circuit board and the Faraday cage. Wrong.
My Greatest Innovation article drew unexpected responses. I thought we’d all be happily arguing whether the printed-circuit board or the Faraday cage had a greater effect on the advancement of engineering. Wrong. Your comments began with specific inventions, but moved quickly into the broad innovations without which humans would never have advanced beyond cavemen. The only thing everyone seemed to agree upon was that the 1800s, or more specifically the Industrial Revolution, was the most innovative century.
As far as innovations, I’m not sure if it is possible to narrow them down to the one most influential—the one without which humans wouldn’t have reached life as we know it (assuming life as we know it is a good thing). But I promised a vote, and I feel bound to deliver.
I went through the entire 90-comment discussion and culled six categories of innovation. Take a look and thencast your vote for the most influential. Oh, and there is one additional item that I felt obliged to include, you’ll see it in the survey…
Language/communication (including symbolism, writing, numerals, and measurement)
Travel/transportation (including the sail and the wheel)
Power generation (including fuel, electricity, and all innovations electrical)
Agriculture (yes, including the plow)
Medicine (including antibiotics and anesthesia)
Weapons (I didn’t think this was worthy of inclusion, but “2001: A Space Odyssey” says otherwise)