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20 Significant Inventions of the 20th Century

A canister vacuum cleaner

A canister vacuum cleaner

1. Vacuum Cleaner, 1901

Here's how inventor H. Cecil Booth came up with the idea. He noticed a device on trains that blew dust off chairs and thought it would be better to have a device that sucked the dust instead. To test his idea he laid a handkerchief on a chair, put his mouth on it and sucked as much dust as he could. Seeing the amount of dust and dirt on the underside of the hanky effectively made it the first vacuum cleaner filter and realized the idea could work. It's a good thing he wasn't looking to invent a machine that cleans manure.

A disposable razor

A disposable razor

2. Disposable razor blades, 1909

Invented by King Camp Gillette (the best a man can get) as an inexpensive alternative to using a straight razor. The straight razor was like going to your kitchen and taking a chef's knife to your face. Instead of paying two bits for a shave and a haircut, men could save one bit and just get the haircut, likely parted down the middle.

The Wright Brothers and their Flyer

The Wright Brothers and their Flyer

3. Powered, Controlled Airplane, 1903

Orville and Wilbur Wright didn't invent the first airplane, but applied the principles of jumping before flying. Through a lot of trial and error, building their own wind tunnel, and testing 200 wing designs they were finally able to fly their prototype 121 ft (37m) in 12 seconds. The design was further improved with regards to safety, power, and control to the point in October of 1905 when the aircraft could maintain a sustainable flight and land with pilot safe and the craft undamaged. Today we see the airplane's influence in aeronautical engineering, transportation, and warfare. It was only a matter of time before the Mile High Club was invented.

An early parachute rendering

An early parachute rendering

4. Parachute, 1913

With the invention of the plane it is only natural to invent the parachute. Although the idea of the parachute has been around since the 15th century, Slovakian inventor Stefan Banic is credited with the invention of the first one widely used by the military. He donated the U.S. patent to the U.S. Army and received little fame or fortune for it. The parachute was used extensively during World War I. Today it continues to be used in military and civilian aircraft as well as by thrill seeking skydivers.

Professor Goddard and the Rocket

Professor Goddard and the Rocket

5. Liquid Fuel Rocket, 1914

Powered by liquid oxygen and gasoline, the first flight of a liquid fuel rocket occurred on March 16, 1926. American professor Robert H. Goddard launched it and it rose 41 feet and flew for 2.5 seconds. It demonstrated that liquid fuel rockets were possible, eventually leading to Sputnik, the Moon Landing, and the movie Armageddon- effectively making Ben Affleck a superstar.

6. Electronic Television, 1923

Inventors Philo Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin are credited with the invention of the first fully electronic television (as opposed to electromechanical TV's). It changed the way we receive information and entertainment by providing a visual format to the sound. Nearly everyone you know now has a TV or three. We can thank Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Zworykin for our adult ADD and the inexplicable fixation with Tila Tequila's love life.

7. Sliced bread, 1928

"The greatest thing since sliced bread" says it all. Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa invented the first machine to slice bread one loaf at a time. You could say he invented convenience. Other inventors stood on the shoulder of this giant by inventing a ready to eat PB & J sandwich with the crusts cut off for the unimaginably lazy.

8. Antibiotics, 1928

Although the ancient Chinese used antibiotics 2500 years ago, it was not isolated and identified until the 20th century. It was Scottish biologist and pharmacologist Alexander Fleming who accidentally discovered that most famous of antibiotics, penicillin. After forgetting about some germ cultures he was working on he noticed that they were contaminated with fungus, like your feet. He then noticed there were zones in certain cultures where bacteria were not growing and it turned out the fungi were causing those germ free zones. After isolating an extract he identified it as part of the Penicillium genus, hence the name. It is used to treat stuff like cellulitis, endocarditus, gonorrhea, meningitis, pneumonia, and syphilis. So yes, penicillin is good stuff.

9. Ballpoint Pen, 1938:

Hungarian inventor Lazlo Biro created this eventual replacement for the fountain pen. Though not as fancy or expressive as a fountain pen, ballpoints are cheap, reliable, and maintenance free. The ink dries after contact with paper almost immediately. With fountain pens where you have to refill the ink (way too much work), ballpoint pens are easily replaced. Ever trying writing with a fountain pen? They are for cursive writers only. All this typing has killed my penmanship anyway.

Where are some stairs when you need one?

Where are some stairs when you need one?

10. Slinky, 1945

Elegant and ingenious in its simplicity, the Slinky is one of the greatest toys ever. When picked up nobody with a soul can resist its allure to walk it down stairs or simply wobble it back and forth. In 1943 after observing the movement of a torsion spring (a spring with no tension or compression) after it fell off a table, engineer Richard James told his wife Betty of the possibility of making it a toy. After various tests and materials they came up with the toy we know and love today. Forget the cheap plastic ones, the metal ones rule.

11. Microwave Oven, 1945

This common kitchen appliance was discovered by accident. Working at Raytheon, Percy Spencer noticed a peanut chocolate bar he had in his pocket started to melt while he was working on an active radar set. It was the microwaves from the radar, not pocket pool,that caused the gooey mess. He then deliberately cooked popcorn, then an egg. Spencer then isolated the microwaves by feeding them into a metal box, rapidly heating the food placed in it. After Raytheon filed a U.S. patent it had the first microwave oven built in 1947. It was 6 feet (1.8m) tall, weighed 750 lbs (340 kg) cost about $5,000.00, and consumed 3000 watts (compared today's standard 1000 watt) Thankfully, today they are a tad smaller and a wee bit more economical. Because of the microwave, ordinary non-scientific types can now generate the heat of the sun's core with the apple cobbler in a Swanson's TV dinner.

12. Integrated Circuit, 1958

Although the invention of what we know as the microchip has been attempted a couple of times, the successful manufacturing of integrated circuits was done independently by two scientists: Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor. The impact of the microchip is obvious in all our modern digital technology, including the internet. Our modern society is wholly dependent on the integrated circuit. I wouldn't be writing on Hub Pages without it.

13. Laser, 1960

As with a lot of inventions, the laser didn't spring out of nowhere but was the result of a series of steps based on sound theory. Theodore H. Maiman made the first laser that worked at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California in 1960, beating some other researchers to the punch. They knew they had something with this laser, but didn't know what the hell kind of problems they were going to solve with it. Today it's used in everything from DVD players, to check out counters, to corrective eye surgery, to precision guided munitions. Sweet.

Will not play Halo.

Will not play Halo.

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14. Video Game Console, 1968:

Although the earliest known "electronic interactive game" was in existence as early as 1948, the Magnavox Odyssey invented by Ralph Baer was the first commercially available video game console. (He also invented the light gun and the 80's game sensation Simon) The Odyssey and its successors ushered in the multibillion dollar video game industry; it makes more money than the movie industry. Definitely influential and definitely not kid's stuff anymore.

15. ARPANET, 1969

The global Internet owes its existence to the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) of the United States Department of Defense. It was the world's first operational packet switching network originally used for countermeasures in the event of nuclear attack by the commies. Today the Internet permeates our lives and greatly changed the way we communicate (e-mail), shop (Amazon, etc.), do our banking (, etc.), conduct business (insert business name here), find information (Google), and entertain ourselves (porn). Best (and worst) of all, anyone can publish anything. It's the freest of free speech, as long as net neutrality remains in place.

The beginning of frustration.

The beginning of frustration.

16. Rubik's Cube, 1974

Erno Rubik created a monster. Ever since I got my Rubik's Cube when I was a kid in 1984, I've never been able to solve this thing. Ever. Even when I peeled off the stickers. To this day whenever I see one I impulsively pick it up and go through the motions, but my brain hurts.

17. Mobile Phone, 1977

The invention of the mobile phone in 1977 (probably the size of a Buick back then) by Bell Labs brought in a new era of communication convenience. Once reserved for business executives or the super-rich, cell phones are now so ubiquitous that they have effectively replaced payphones and in some cases household land lines. Your grandma has a cell phone. Kids in Third World countries have cell phones. If only someone would invent a machine that enforces cell phone courtesy, with force, the world would be a better place.



18. Compact Disc, 1980

Electronics giants Sony and Phillips joined forces to design a digital audio disc as a spin-off from those cumbersome and expensive Laserdiscs. The CD was commercially available in 1982. As costs of development for CD's and CD players became lower it became the primary format for music. Although MP3's are quickly replacing CDs as the primary media for music today, CD technology is still used in CD-ROMs, DVDs, and Blu Ray. I can't imagine physically rewinding or fast forwarding anything anymore.

19. Global Positioning System, 1993:

Another engineering breakthrough developed by the U.S. DoD, the Global Positioning System is the currently the world's only Global Navigation Satellite System that is fully functional. Russia, the European Union, China, and India are all working on their own versions. Our GPS is maintained by the USAF 50th Space Wing and costs $750 million per year to maintain, but it is worth every penny because I'm always getting lost.

Manhood pills.

Manhood pills.

20. Viagra, 1997:

Pfizer originally developed it to treat angina, but clinical trials demonstrated it had...other uses. Viva Viagra!


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lola on June 19, 2016:

this didn't help me at all i searched for late 20th century and it showed me 19th century read my lips (i am saying this as i write) you need to update your research

daniel on November 02, 2015:

its so bad

dumdumb on November 02, 2015:

what a fantastic list

Kay on November 01, 2015:

nice list really help meAdd Your Comment...

Derabe on November 01, 2015:

Great job!

Amazing facts! :)

AsseceNiz on September 01, 2015:

Is that true? I’ll spread this information. Anyway, nice article

Santi on February 21, 2015:

that, let me inform you just what exltacy did give good results. The article (parts of it) is certainly very powerful and that is most likely the reason why I am taking an effort to comment. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Secondly, even though I can easily notice a jumps in reasoning you make, I am not necessarily confident of just how you seem to unite the points which inturn help to make the actual conclusion. For the moment I shall yield to your issue however wish in the near future you link your facts better.

Jenifer on June 17, 2014:

What about the traffic cone? that's a 2oth century invention and those things are everywhere. It's got quite a history:

Butter on May 20, 2014:

This is gr8

bob on May 08, 2014:

needs more info

Dorothy dosgrove on March 30, 2014:

hi thanks for telling me- some are funny hehe. thanks for the help now i know a website for looking at thing like this if i am ever doing work on it or something.

pranavi on December 14, 2013:

Thanx a lot 4 the informaions....they were really useful


Don't Care Just Want Facts on December 02, 2013:

Great but I would have put the atomic bomb in there

Totally Random Person on November 24, 2013:

This is. Kind of useful as I am doing a project on inventions

literate on November 01, 2013:

How about you learn to spell before calling someone an idiot?

watever on October 30, 2013:

dude u didn't even mention necluer power ur a beeping idiot this stinks

Simran gill on October 26, 2013:

Amazing facts

lavanya on September 28, 2013:

what an awesome words to say.......great

SkyDoesMinecraft on April 16, 2013:


christopher on March 10, 2013:

it help for my strem homework

Deema Jihad on December 05, 2012:

Really helpful on my language arts homework ;-)

Shortie on September 14, 2012:

Was hoping for some good info for a 500 word essay... these were okay.

Rajat Narwal on July 25, 2012:

it helped in doing my wrk proprly...... i just liked it

VISGWA SETH on July 09, 2012:

My grandson was given home task to find out the information about best inventions of the 20th centuary. The information was available on the internet by just clicking. Indeed this helped much and I thank all those who joined together in compiling this information

Tom on June 26, 2012:

Any greatest inventions list that's ignores beam steam engines is useless

It was one of the most profound changes in human history

For the first time ever we could do more work than manpower alone offers

epicness on May 18, 2012:

integrated circuit: really helpful on my science project! thx

frank on May 14, 2012:

Elevators Refrigeration


Umm-e-Ruman on May 12, 2012:

wernrt these supposed to be the inventions of 20th century

matthew dequarto on May 11, 2012:

this site is awsome its were i can look at really cool thing that i dont know about yet.

berthalamu on May 09, 2012:

thx aloy

vinod kumar jha on May 04, 2012:

Good lessons above all

kala on April 22, 2012:

really a slice of bread so dumb

kala on April 22, 2012:

you rock cool

momo on April 22, 2012:

great i love it

sasha on April 19, 2012:


bridget on April 18, 2012:

nice work it really helped thanks

SOMESH KUMAR on March 27, 2012:

That's good but not about that for which I wanted to know! You must add some good inventions!!

LE ME on March 22, 2012:

video games consols should be number one

and slice bread should be last


mildred on March 21, 2012:

de inventions not reaally good for a student who want to do an assignment for good marks. Please next time post important inventions, not a razor blade

sam on March 08, 2012:

just used this for an assignment

Demo on February 09, 2012:

Why isn't the internet on this list?

anonimous on February 06, 2012:

these are good inventions

qassam on February 06, 2012:

:D its so good

lianne mae on January 26, 2012:

alright helpful nice

Jenn on January 24, 2012:

Velcro! 1951

Choko on January 05, 2012:

good inventions

stupid on December 14, 2011:

this was not help ful at alllllllllllllllll

joumana barbakh on November 20, 2011:

great invention i have haif of those things

Truefacts on November 20, 2011:

Rubik's cube, razor blades, ..Slinky?? Are u serious? Didn't even bother to mention Nuclear Power or the real Internet's inventor, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee or the PC!! Shame on ya

someone on October 25, 2011:

this website thing is alright!

Bob on June 02, 2011:

This was an okay thing to use

Kamarialiy Dasom on April 14, 2011:

So helpful,Used in almost all my tests!!

Lenny on April 10, 2011:

You missed the most important one. The transistor!!! It makes at least 6 of your most important inventions possible.

I on March 10, 2011:

this thinks

Pamela Gonzalez on February 23, 2011:

Hey I LOVE this website thingy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

chris on February 23, 2011:

using this for my project

has lots of information!!

annon. on January 31, 2011:

nice list but these are not important per-say

sam on January 26, 2011:

I love it!!!!

jack on January 26, 2011:

This is an awsome list!

Jorge on January 04, 2011:

I would like to know why no one engeneer invented a flyer chair yet?

motorcicles are kiling so many peoples around the wuord!! I think that a simples motor of a motorcicles coud eject and move a person in the air, so accidents could be avoid!!

Dan Fugate on December 21, 2010:

Wow, this is a great list. We missed some of these dates on Flash Past when we covered interesting dates in the 20th century.

Johnson loves rebekah on October 24, 2010:

lolollllool woop woop

Aidan eats noobs on October 24, 2010:

what the hell is this

h on August 22, 2010:

when was te artificial heart invented????

Paul Swendson on August 17, 2010:

Good list, although I can tell that a few are just for fun: slinky, rubik's cube, etc. I cheated back in junior high and bought a book to teach me how to solve the rubik's cube. I think that my record was slightly over a minute. You might add the assembly line for auto production and anything related to either nuclear weapons or energy. Maybe also the birth control pill, and twinkies.

jack on June 29, 2010:

you suck

Gilbert M. (author) from California on May 21, 2010:


Yeah, the airplane, the internet, antibiotics...totally unimportant.

blah blah on May 20, 2010:

this page doesn't help at all because i need important inventions and none of these are important seriously a vacuum cleaner is important really

JennyBabez*(; on April 05, 2010:

This page was really usefull (:



Brandon on March 23, 2010:

this dosent help me at all

ComeOnNow on March 09, 2010:

How about "The Bomb"... probably the most significant invention in the 20th Century.

hoyhoy on February 16, 2010:

erm. interesting tbh., could have more info on each one.

and try extending the list?

poop scoop on January 31, 2010:

your all geeks

Jenny on November 16, 2009:

Thanks for the nice information! it will be very useful to my speech tmr!

Aiste on November 07, 2009:

I'll use that info in my english classes. thx for info I've found here!

Jade on July 08, 2009:

they r very useful information. I've just used it in my test ! thanks a lot!

jim10 from ma on May 29, 2009:

So many great inventions.

aliyshs on February 04, 2009:

very good info

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