The timeline of historic inventions is a chronological list of particularly important or significant technological inventions.
Note: Dates for inventions are often controversial. Inventions are often 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.
Note that the dates in the Paleolithic era are approximate and refer to the earliest discovered use of an invention, and are likely to change as more research is done and older sites are found. Similarly, the locations listed are for the site where the earliest example to date has been found, but in most cases there is little certainty how close that may be to where the invention actually first took place.
5th century BCE: Cast iron in Ancient China: Confirmed by archaeological evidence, the earliest cast iron was developed in China by the early 5th century BCE during the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BCE), the oldest specimens found in a tomb of Luhe County in Jiangsu province.
2nd century BCE: Finery forge in Han DynastyChina, finery forges were used to make wrought iron at least by the 2nd century BCE in ancient China, based on the archaeological findings of cast and pig iron fined into wrought iron and steel found at the early Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 AD) site at Tieshengguo.
2nd century BCE: Paper in Han DynastyChina: Although it is recorded that the Han Dynasty (202 BCE – CE 220) court eunuch Cai Lun (born c. 50 – CE 121) 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 BCE have been found in China, the oldest example of pulp papermaking being a map from Fangmatan, Gansu.
4th century: Field mill in Ancient China, first mentioned in the Yezhongji, or 'Record of Affairs at the Capital Ye of the Later Zhao Dynasty' written by Lu Hui in the 4th century, describing a field mill built by two engineers, Xie Fei and Wei Mengbian.
4th century: Fishing reel in Ancient China, in literary records, the earliest evidence of the fishing reel comes from a 4th-century AD work entitled Lives of Famous Immortals'.
7th century: Porcelain in Tang DynastyChina: True porcelain was manufactured in northern China from roughly the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century, while true porcelain was not manufactured in southern China until about 300 years later, during the early 10th century.
9th century: Playing cards in Tang DynastyChina: The first reference to the card game in world history dates no later than the 9th century, when the Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang, written by Su E described players enjoying the "leaf game" in 868.
9th century: Numerical zero in Ancient India: The concept of zero as a number, and not merely a symbol for separation is attributed to India. In India, practical calculations were carried out using zero, which was treated like any other number by the 9th century, even in case of division.
10th century: Fireworks in Song DynastyChina: Fireworks first appeared in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), in the early age of gunpowder. Fireworks could be purchased from market vendors; these were made of sticks of bamboo packed with gunpowder.
1119: Mariner's compass (wet compass) in Song DynastyChina: The earliest recorded use of magnetized needle for navigational purposes at sea is found in Zhu Yu's book Pingzhou Table Talks of 1119 (written from 1111 to 1117). The typical Chinese navigational compass was in the form of a magnetic needle floating in a bowl of water. The familiar mariner's dry compass which used a pivoting needle suspended above a compass-card in a glass box was invented in medieval Europe no later than 1300.
13th century: Dominoes in Yuan Dynasty China: The earliest confirmed written mention of dominoes in China comes from the Former Events in Wulin written during the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368). Dominoes first appeared in Italy during the 18th century, and although it is unknown how Chinese dominoes developed into the modern game, it is speculated that Italian missionaries in China may have brought the game to Europe.
13th century: Hand cannon in Yuan Dynasty China: The earliest hand cannon dates to the 13th century based on archaeological evidence from a Heilongjiang excavation. There is also written evidence in the Yuanshi (1370) on Li Tang, an ethnic Jurchen commander under the Yuan Dynasty who in 1288 suppressed the rebellion of the Christian prince Nayan with his "gun-soldiers" or chongzu, this being the earliest known event where this phrase was used.
1822: The pattern-tracing lathe (actually more like a shaper) is completed by Thomas Blanchard for the U.S. Ordnance Dept. The lathe could copy symmetrical shapes and was used for making gun stocks, and later, ax handles. The lathe's patent was in force for 42 years, the record for any U.S. patent.
1876: Telephone: A patent for the telephone is granted to Alexander Graham Bell. However, others inventors before Bell had worked on the development of the telephone and the invention had several pioneers.
1903: First manually controlled, fixed wing, motorized aircraft takes place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina by Orville and Wilbur Wright. First modern fixed wing aircraft.
1915: The tank was invented by Ernest Swinton, although the British Royal Commission on Awards recognised a South Australian named Lance de Mole who had submitted a proposal to the British War Office, for a 'chain-rail vehicle which could be easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches' complete with extensive drawings in 1912
December 1947: The Transistor, used in almost all modern electronic products was invented in December 1947 by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain under the supervision of William Shockley. Subsequent transistors became steadily smaller, faster, more reliable, and cheaper to manufacture, leading to a revolution in computers, controls, and communication.
1982: A CD-ROM contains data accessible to, but not writable by, a computer for data storage and music playback. The 1985 Yellow Book standard developed by Sony and Philips adapted the format to hold any form of binary data.
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