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The best Tech inventions of all time 3: Science

In this series we take a look at everything, large and small, that has changed the way we do things and enhanced our lives in some way. In part three we take a look at advancements in science that have changed our understanding of the world.
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By Eileen Brown, Contributor on
The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
1 of 12 Didgeman

Battery cells

The electric battery was first built by Alessandro Volta in 1800 although Leydon jars, storing static electricity had been invented in 1745 in Leyden, Germany. The voltaic pile battery could produce an electric current which used chemical reactions to produce an electric current.

Positive and negative terminals provide current flow. Without the discovery of this chemical reaction, we would have no mobile phones, no remote controls and we would have to start our cars with a starting handle crank.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
2 of 12 Efraistochter

Compass

The compass was first used for divination in China in 200 BC and first recorded in Europe and Persia in the 13th century. The magnetised needle aligns itself with magnetic north of the Earth's magnetic field. This field is constantly moving, so adjustments need to be made.

Magnetic variation, depending where you are located on the Earth, and deviation, depending on the amount of iron around the compass, need to be taken into consideration to get an accurate reading.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
3 of 12 Pix1861

Telescope

The word, 'Telescope' comes from Ancient Greek. It means 'to see far'. It was used to describe one of Galileo Galilei's first instruments in 1609, based on a working telescope from the Netherlands in 1608.

Telescopes either refract or reflect light. Reflected light gives a reduction in the 'aberrations' caused by faulty lenses. In the 20th century, radio telescopes were developed to capture light not visible to the naked eye such as radio or gamma waves.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
4 of 12 Skeeze

Eye glasses

Convex lenses to magnify images were first mentioned in a book published in 1021. Eyeglasses were invented in Italy in 1286 and were used to correct farsightedness and age related sight issues. The use of concave lenses for near-sightedness was explained by Kepler in 1604.

Benjamin Franklin probably invented bifocal glasses in 1784. Glasses to correct astigmatism appeared in 1825. Other lenses; trifocal, adjustable, and varifocal lenses remove the need to have several pairs of spectacles. Sunglasses offer protection against UV light, and photosensitive lenses darken when adjusted to light.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
5 of 12 Condesign

Camera

Pinhole cameras were used as far back as the fifth century BC where a Chinese philosopher noticed that an inverted and focused image was created when light passed through a pinhole.

This 'camera obscura' was often used to aid drawing and painting from the 1600s to the 1800s. The first photograph was taken in 1826. The image was permanently fixed on a pewter plate coated with bitumen after an eight-hour exposure.

As photographic chemicals became more sensitive to light, exposure times reduced. Photographic film was invented in 1885 and the first box camera, the Kodak, was created in 1888. This century, digital cameras have become dominant with the digital camera incorporated in a mobile phone, the most prevalent.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
6 of 12 Felixioncool

Microscope

Optical microscopes started to appear in Holland in the 1620s. These use light to look at the sample under the lens and even early versions of the device achieved up to 300 times magnification.

Electron microscopes were developed in the 1930s which use electrons instead of light. These microscopes allow for a much higher resolution. There are also scanning probe microscopes and scanning acoustic microscopes for acoustic impedance.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
7 of 12 Geralt

Match

Matches, sticks of pine wood impregnated with sulphur were first used in AD 577 in China. Strike anywhere matches, made with white phosphorous, can be struck and lit by struck on any suitable abrasive surface.

Safety matches have a chemical compound at the tip, usually containing potassium chlorate, and red phosphorous on the striking surface on the outside of the box. Rubbing these two chemicals together generates a vigorous burn.

We have come a long way from striking flint, or rubbing two pieces of tinder together to get a flame.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport


The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
8 of 12 Hans

Waterproof material

Imagine getting soaked every time you go out in the rain. Your leather cloak gets weighed down with water and takes days to dry out. Thank goodness for waterproof material. Fabrics are treated to become resistant to water or wetting. Fabrics are treated with rubber, PVC, silicone, polymers and wax.

There are degrees of weather resistance, depending on how long it takes liquid water to pass through the material. Water vapour or perspiration passes through breathable fabric, keeping the person dry. Fluoropolymers are added to fabrics, such as Gore-Tex to make them repel water from the surface.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
9 of 12 Feiern

Plastic

The first plastic, based on a polymer called Bakelite, was invented in New York in 1907 by Leo Baekeland. It was made from phenol and formaldehyde. Plastics tend to be organic polymers, are malleable and can be moulded into objects.

There are many different forms of plastics including polystyrene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride or PVC, and polyamide which is used to make nylon panty hose and other fabrics.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
10 of 12 Health Tips Express

Contact lenses

Like the helicopter, Leonardo da Vinci is credited with creating the contact lens by describing a method to alter the power of the eye by wearing a water filled glass hemisphere over the eye.

In 1888 German ophthalmologist Adolf Fick fitted contact lenses made from blown glass. Soft hydrogel lenses were launched in the 1960s and disposable soft lenses were introduced in 1972.

Coloured, and patterned lenses, used to change the appearance or eye colour, or size of the pupil are used for fashion or to make the wearer look more appealing.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
11 of 12 Taken

Teflon

Teflon was discovered in 1938 by accident by American chemist Roy Plunkett when trying to make a new refrigerant gas. This polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) has one of the lowest coefficients of friction of any solid.

This makes it ideal as a none stick coating for pans and cookware. It is also resistant to corrosion and has high heat resistance. PTFE is hydrophobic, used in waterproof fabrics and is used as a thread seal tape.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

The best Tech inventions of all time 3 Science ZDNet
12 of 12 Science Daily

Telekinesis

No longer the realm of sci-fi and horror stories, Telekinesis actually does exist. In 2013, a remote controlled quadcopter drone flew around the college gymnasium in Minnesota using the power of thought waves. The study showed that humans could control robots using their thoughts sensed from non-invasive brain waves.

Electroencephalography (EEG) recorded electrical activity of the brain through a cap fitted with electrodes. Students were asked to imagine using their right hand, left hand and both hands together. This instructed the copter to turn left, lift and fall respectively.

Related: The best Tech inventions of all time 2: Transport

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