Timeline of historic inventions

Last updated

The timeline of historic inventions is a chronological list of particularly important or significant technological inventions and their inventors, where known. [nb 1]



The dates listed in this section refer to the earliest evidence of an invention found and dated by archaeologists (or in a few cases, suggested by indirect evidence). Dates are often approximate and change as more research is done, reported and seen. Older examples of any given technology are often found. The locations listed are for the site where the earliest solid evidence has been found, but especially for the earlier inventions, there is little certainty how close that may be to where the invention took place.

Lower Paleolithic

The Lower Paleolithic period lasted over 3 million years, and corresponds to the human species prior to the emergence of Homo sapiens. The original divergence between humans and chimpanzees occurred 13 (Mya), however interbreeding continued until as recently as 4 Ma, with the first species clearly belonging to the human (and not chimpanzee) lineage being Australopithecus anamensis . This time period is characterized as an ice age with regular periodic warmer periods – interglacial episodes.

Middle Paleolithic

The dawn of Homo sapiens around 300 kya coincides with the start of the Middle Paleolithic period. Towards the middle of this 250,000-year period, humans begin to migrate out of Africa, and the later part of the period shows the beginning of long-distance trade, religious rites and other behavior associated with Behavioral modernity.

Upper Paleolithic to Early Mesolithic

50 ka has been regarded by some as the beginning of behavioral modernity, defining the Upper Paleolithic period, which lasted nearly 40,000 years (though some research dates the beginning of behavioral modernity earlier to the Middle Paleolithic). This is characterized by the widespread observation of religious rites, artistic expression and the appearance of tools made for purely intellectual or artistic pursuits.

Agricultural and proto-agricultural eras

The end of the Last Glacial Period ("ice age") and the beginning of the Holocene around 11.7 ka coincide with the Agricultural Revolution, marking the beginning of the agricultural era, which persisted until the industrial revolution.

Neolithic and Late Mesolithic

During the Neolithic period, lasting 8400 years, stone remained the predominant material for toolmaking, although copper and arsenic bronze were developed towards the end of this period.

Bronze Age

The Nippur cubit-rod, c. 2650 BCE, in the Archeological Museum of Istanbul, Turkey Nippur cubit.JPG
The Nippur cubit-rod, c.2650 BCE, in the Archeological Museum of Istanbul, Turkey

The beginning of bronze-smelting coincides with the emergence of the first cities and of writing in the Ancient Near East and the Indus Valley. The Bronze Age starting in Eurasia in the 4th millennia BC and ended, in Eurasia, c.1300 BC.

Iron Age

The Late Bronze Age collapse occurs around 1300-1175 BC, extinguishing most Bronze-Age Near Eastern cultures, and significantly weakening the rest. This is coincident with the complete collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation. This event is followed by the beginning of the Iron Age. We define the Iron Age as ending in 510 BC for the purposes of this article, even though the typical definition is region-dependent (e.g. 510 BC in Greece, 322 BC in India, 200 BC in China), thus being an 800-year period. [nb 5]

With the Greco-Roman trispastos ("three-pulley-crane"), the simplest ancient crane, a single man tripled the weight he could lift than with his muscular strength alone. Trispastos scheme.svg
With the Greco-Roman trispastos ("three-pulley-crane"), the simplest ancient crane, a single man tripled the weight he could lift than with his muscular strength alone.

Classical antiquity and medieval era

5th century BC

4th century BC

Egyptian reed pens inside ivory and wooden palettes, the Louvre Musee du Louvre - Antiquites egyptiennes - Salle 06 - 02f.jpg
Egyptian reed pens inside ivory and wooden palettes, the Louvre

3rd century BC

An illustration depicting the papermaking process in Han Dynasty China. Making Paper 4.PNG
An illustration depicting the papermaking process in Han Dynasty China.
The earliest fore-and-aft rigs, spritsails, appeared in the 2nd century BC in the Aegean Sea on small Greek craft. Here a spritsail used on a Roman merchant ship (3rd century AD). Museum fur Antike Schiffahrt, Mainz 02. Spritsail.jpg
The earliest fore-and-aft rigs, spritsails, appeared in the 2nd century BC in the Aegean Sea on small Greek craft. Here a spritsail used on a Roman merchant ship (3rd century AD).

2nd century BC

1st century BC

1st century

2nd century

3rd century

Schematic of the Roman Hierapolis sawmill. Dated to the 3rd century AD, it is the earliest known machine to incorporate a crank and connecting rod mechanism. Romische Sagemuhle.svg
Schematic of the Roman Hierapolis sawmill. Dated to the 3rd century AD, it is the earliest known machine to incorporate a crank and connecting rod mechanism.

4th century

5th century

A Nepali Charkha in action Nepali charka in action.jpg
A Nepali Charkha in action

6th century

7th century

8th century

9th century

A Mongol bomb thrown against a charging Japanese samurai during the Mongol invasions of Japan after founding the Yuan Dynasty, 1281. Moko Shurai Ekotoba.jpg
A Mongol bomb thrown against a charging Japanese samurai during the Mongol invasions of Japan after founding the Yuan Dynasty, 1281.

10th century

11th century

12th century

13th century

14th century

The 15th-century invention of the printing press with movable type by the German Johannes Gutenberg. Handtiegelpresse von 1811.jpg
The 15th-century invention of the printing press with movable type by the German Johannes Gutenberg.

15th century

16th century

Modern era

17th century

A 1609 title page of the Relation, the world's first newspaper (first published in 1605) Relation Aller Fuernemmen und gedenckwuerdigen Historien (1609).jpg
A 1609 title page of the Relation , the world's first newspaper (first published in 1605)

18th century










19th century



Karl von Drais on his original Laufmaschine, the earliest two-wheeler, or hobbyhorse, in 1819 KarlVonDrais.jpg
Karl von Drais on his original Laufmaschine, the earliest two-wheeler, or hobbyhorse, in 1819









20th century



BERy articulated streetcar no. 2 in 1913. The Boston Elevated Railway was the world's first street railway system to use articulated streetcars. BERy Articulated number 2 side view, 1913.jpg
BERy articulated streetcar no. 2 in 1913. The Boston Elevated Railway was the world's first street railway system to use articulated streetcars.






The original 0 series Shinkansen train. Introduced in 1964, it reached a speed of 210 km/h (130 mph). 0 series Yurakucho 19670505.jpg
The original 0 series Shinkansen train. Introduced in 1964, it reached a speed of 210 km/h (130 mph).




  • 1991: The first commercial flash-based solid-state drive is launched by SunDisk. [456]
  • 1994: IBM Simon, World's first smartphone is developed by IBM.
  • 1994: First generation of Bluetooth is developed by Ericsson Mobile. A form of data communication on short distances between electronic devices.
  • 1995: DVD is an optical disc storage format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than compact discs while having the same dimensions.
  • 1996: Ciena deploys the first commercial wave division multiplexing system in partnership with Sprint. This created the massive capacity of the internet. [457]
  • 1997: The first weblog, a discussion or informational website, is created by Jorn Barger, later shortened to "blog" in 1999 by Peter Merholz.
  • 1998: The first portable MP3 player is released by SaeHan Information Systems.
  • 1999: The first digital video recorder (DVR), the TiVo, is launched by Xperi.

21st century


  • 2000: Sony develops the first prototypes for the Blu-ray optical disc format. The first prototype player was released in 2004.
  • 2000: First documented placement of Geocaching, an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.
  • 2007: First Kindle introduced by Amazon (company) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who instructed the company's employees to build the world's best e-reader before Amazon's competitors could. Amazon originally used the codename Fiona for the device. This hardware evolved from the original Kindle introduced in 2007 and the Kindle DX (with its larger 9.7" screen) introduced in 2009. [458]
  • 2007: The term "cli-fi" was coined in 2007 or 2008 by Dan Bloom, an English teacher and former journalist. "Cli-fi" is short for "climate fiction" and describes an emerging literary genre that expresses concerns about climate change. The term has been retroactively applied to a number of works. [433] [459]
  • 2008: Satoshi Nakamoto develops the first blockchain. [460]



See also

By type


  1. Dates for inventions are often controversial. Sometimes inventions are invented by several inventors around the same time, or may be invented in an impractical form many years before another inventor improves the invention into a more practical form. Where there is ambiguity, the date of the first known working version of the invention is used here.
  2. Earthen pipes were later used in the Indus Valley c. 2700 BC for a city-scale urban drainage system, [102] and more durable copper drainage pipes appeared in Egypt, by the time of the construction of the Pyramid of Sahure at Abusir, c.2400 BCE. [103]
  3. Shell, Terracotta, Copper, and Ivory rulers were in use by the Indus Valley civilisation in what today is Pakistan, and North West India, prior to 1500 BCE. [136]
  4. A competing claim is from Lothal dockyard in India, [141] [142] [143] [144] [145] constructed at some point between 2400-2000 BC; [146] however, more precise dating does not exist.
  5. the uncertainty in dating several Indian developments between 600 BC and 300 AD, due to the tradition that existed of editing existing documents (such as the Sushruta Samhita and Arthashastra) without specifically documenting the edit. Most such documents were canonized at the start of the Gupta empire (mid-3rd century AD).
  6. A 10th century AD, Damascus steel blade, analysed under an electron microscope, contains nano-meter tubes in its metal alloy. Their presence has been suggested to be down to transition-metal impurities in the ores once used to produce Wootz Steel in South India. [182]
  7. Although it is recorded that the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) court eunuch Cai Lun (born c. 50–121 AD) invented the pulp papermaking process and established the use of new raw materials used in making paper, ancient padding and wrapping paper artifacts dating to the 2nd century BC have been found in China, the oldest example of pulp papermaking being a map from Fangmatan, Gansu. [232]


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