The top 10
1. The printing press. It’s on most top 10 lists for a very good reason; it was the first tool that enabled true knowledge sharing and mass communications.
2. The steam engine. The invention that powered the Industrial Revolution. Without it, we’d still be living in pre-industrial gloom.
3. Electricity. No human invented electrons, of course. But the inventors who found ways to harness them illuminated our world, both literally and metaphorically.
4. Lenses. Glass-based optics helped us to see further in all kinds of ways. Eyeglasses made us more literate, while telescopes, microscopes and cameras made it possible to examine previously invisible facets of our universe.
5. Antibiotics. The discovery of drugs that can cure and prevent some of our most destructive diseases saved uncountable millions of lives and opened the door to a safe new era of life-saving surgery.
6. Refrigeration. The ability to make food and air cold has had a profound impact not just on what we can eat but where we can live, too – opening up new parts of the globe to habitation and commerce.
7. The car. No other invention has changed the rhythm of our lives as much as the motor car – complete with its tyres, of course – nor wrought such extraordinary change on our landscapes.
8. Semiconductors. Far more than mere computer chips, semiconductor-based technologies are the engine of change for every industry – key devices driving the unstoppable trend of global digitisation.
9. The internet. The digital glue that binds the world together; a powerfully democratic and data-neutral platform for all the ideas that we haven’t yet thought of.
10. The smartphone. On one level, just a small boxful of well-known and well-integrated digital technologies. On another, a revolutionary invention that puts powerful knowledge and communications tools within reach of literally everyone on the planet.