Firsts: Origins of Everyday Things That Changed the World

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Dental floss was introduced in by Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans. Parmly had one of the most successful dental practices in the South and published several books intended to help laymen understand the importance of oral hygiene. If you find buttons quite a fuss as you dress up for work, then you have Chicago-based inventor Whitcomb L.

The first clasp locker design was used as a shoe fastener, which was thought to be an invention designed to simplify the complex process of buttoning the boots that were in fashion toward the end of the 19th century. Although Judson obtained many patents related to the clasp locker during his lifetime, he never truly saw the commercial success that the zipper would achieve. The clasp locker and the Ferris wheel were introduced at the same Chicago World's Fair in The first electronic hearing aid was invented in by Miller Reese Hutchinson, an inventor from Alabama. Around , Hutchison invented what he called the "akouphone," an electrical hearing aid.

Although he wasn't a doctor, he did take classes at the Medical College of Alabama in order to gain a better understanding of the anatomy of the human ear. Hutchison developed an interest in the subject due to a childhood friend who was deaf. The original "akouphone" was quite bulky and impractical, and, in , Hutchison invented another version called the "Acousticon. Defibrillators deliver a large dose of electrical energy to a heart affected with arrhythmia, ventricular fibrillation, and tachycardia. William B. Kouwenhoven developed an academic interest in the relationship between electricity and medicine when, in the early 20th century, it became apparent that utility linemen suffered from ventricular fibrillation rapid, unstable heartbeat and nobody knew why.

Between and , Kouwenhoven and his research team at Johns Hopkins University studied the effects of electricity on the human body. In , the team successfully prevented ventricular fibrillation in a dog's heart by jolting it with electricity. Defibrillators were first successfully used on humans by Dr. Claude Beck in ; they were initially used during open chest operations only. In , Kouwenhoven and his team revealed their first prototype, and by , they introduced the first portable defibrillator.

Aside from his invention of cardiac defibrillators, William Kouwenhoven was also known as the "father of CPR" due to his development of the closed-chest cardiac massage technique. The technique to determine the age of artifacts from archaeological expeditions is called radiocarbon dating or carbon dating. This was developed by Willard Libby, who calculated the half-life of carbon at the University of Chicago in Libby realized that this certain type of carbon carbon is incorporated into the bodies of living things and, when they die, the carbon decays at a predictable rate, which can be determined by a mathematical formula.

This allows scientists to determine how long ago biological samples stopped collecting carbon, and, based on the rate of decay, approximately when they died. Managing the traffic of pedestrians and vehicles at intersections would be nearly impossible without the help of the traffic light. The modern electric traffic light as we know it today was invented in by Lester Wire, a policeman from Salt Lake City. It was originally just red and green for stop and go, respectively. Prior to the invention of the traffic light, policemen were forced to direct traffic themselves.

The traffic light wasn't automated until , and until then had to be operated manually.

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An early version of the traffic light was introduced in London in ; however, it was declared a public health hazard after a police officer was badly injured while operating it, and the project was immediately stopped. Wire never patented the traffic light, and James Hoge is usually credited with its invention. Hoge received a patent for the first electric traffic signal in William Ghiglieri obtained the patent to the first traffic signal with red and green lights in Over the years, many inventors have patented newer, improved versions of the traffic light.

However, Wire is generally believed to be the first American to invent the traffic light as we know it today. The first crash test dummy was developed in by Samuel W.

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Alderson, an inventor from California. He graduated from high school at the age of 15, after which he attended several colleges and intermittently worked for his family's sheet-metal business. During World War II, he designed electric motors for missile guidance systems. He later worked for IBM, where he designed a motorized prosthetic arm.

A pioneer in biomechanics, he eventually started his own company where he began to design the first crash test dummy. Information from research on animals and human cadavers was used to design the crash test dummy, introduced in , which was initially used to test aviation safety.

A History of the World in Objects - Wikipedia

Today, descendants of these crash test dummies are used in a wide array of situations to simulate human body response. Now a common kitchen appliance, the microwave oven has become the irreplaceable gadget for cooking, thawing, or reheating food; popping popcorn, and making stews. The microwave was not originally intended for kitchen use. In , Percy Spencer, an engineer from Maine who was working on the magnetron for radar sets at Raytheon, discovered that the microwaves had unintentionally melted the chocolate bar in his pocket.

While others had noticed the effects of the magnetron, they had been too afraid to further investigate its powers.

20 American Inventions That Changed the World

However, Spencer soon began using it to heat up his lunch, and, in , Raytheon patented "high frequency dielectric heating apparatus"—the first microwave. He never received any royalties. Cars, mobile phones, beauty products, processed food, and even jewelry have something in common—they are all manufactured through an assembly line. The assembly line is a systematic, sequential method of production of goods, which is cost effective since it lessens mistakes and hastens production time. In , the basic concept was introduced by Ransom Olds through his motor vehicle company in Michigan.

Olds is also widely recognized as the founder of the automobile industry in the United States, and one of his vehicles, the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, was the first car successfully mass-produced on an assembly line. Initially, the assembly line was composed of workers, but it was later replaced with machines and, most recently, sophisticated robots.

Often associated with science fiction, a laser is an instrument that emits light that has been amplified through simulated emission. The word laser is actually an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. The concept of a laser was first proposed by Gordon Gould and was based on masers, which amplify microwaves.

The first laser was built by Theodore H. While others doubted the ability of artificial rubies to act as the medium for lasers, Maiman questioned their calculations and successfully developed the first laser, using artificial rubies, in Today, the applications of the laser range from industrial, medical, and law enforcement to entertainment.

In the current campaign for the use of green energy, the use of light-emitting diodes for lighting and image displays has increased because of the minimal energy it requires to produce light. The LED has come a long way from its initial use as an indicator light for electronic devices. It was developed in by Nick Holonyak, Jr.

Holonyak's first LEDs were red due to the gallium arsenide phosphide used to make them. It wasn't until about a decade after their invention that LEDs were designed to be different colors. It is for this reason that many indicator lights on products were, and still are, red.

15 Accidental Inventions You Can't Imagine Your Life Without

The technology of today is the Global Positioning System, which uses the global navigation satellite system managed by the government of the United States to pinpoint locations on a map. This was developed in by the U. Department of Defense, but it only became fully operational in The technology developed from satellite navigation experiments that tracked U. With the help of satellites, submarines were able to detect changes in radio signal position based on the "Doppler effect. Although it was primarily intended for military use, it can be accessible by anybody with some limitations—for navigation, map making, clock synchronization, and other uses.

Today, cancer and chemotherapy are sadly two commonly understood words. The use of chemotherapy for cancer treatment started in the s when two pharmacologists from Yale University, Louis S. Goodman and Alfred Gilman, made observations that nitrogen mustard, a chemical warfare agent, suppressed the growth of lymphoid and myeloid cells. The pair began to research the effects of using mustard agents in treating lymphoma, first experimenting on mice, then injecting nitrogen mustard into a patient with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

They discovered that, although the patient had to return for repeat injections, the tumor masses were significantly reduced from the treatment. The results of their initial research were published in Their study sparked an interest in the subject for other scientists, and, after World War II, further research uncovered the benefits of folic acid in treating cancer. Since then, researchers have honed in on more advanced combination chemotherapy techniques, and countless lives have been saved.

The First Spam Email

Since the s, cancer mortality rates have been steadily declining. Aside from social networking, the most popular computer-based pastime is video gaming. A video game allows interaction between a user and a device with video feedback. The first video game was actually an analog electronic game using a cathode ray tube.

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Called the "cathode-ray tube amusement device," it was created by Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. Cathode-ray tubes were a ubiquitous element of life in the 20th century and were essentially the element that facilitated the electron beams that allowed images to appear on television screens. Since the 21st century, however, electronics manufacturers have moved toward LCD and plasma screens.

Players would control a missile on the screen to hit a target. The target would be, for example, a picture of a plane physically taped to the screen. The controls for reaching the target were similar to that of an Etch-a-Sketch. Although the game was non-programmable and not very advanced, due to its high production cost, it was never released to the public and only handmade prototypes were created. However, the duo's legacy has contributed to the development of Atari, Nintendo, PlayStation, and other gaming consoles, aiding in the proliferation of a massive worldwide industry that continues to grow.

Email became popular at the onset of the 21st century. It has become the preferred form of communication because it enables quick relay of messages and, at the same time, saves resources like ink and paper. People want to talk to other people—not a house, or an office, or a car.

Given a choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire. At first, the mobile phone was tailored for busy professionals—people who were always on the go. But it has become commonplace and almost a necessity for everyone in contemporary society. The first handheld mobile phone was developed by a team headed by Dr.

Martin Cooper.

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Cooper was formerly the vice president of Motorola. He was the division head when he showcased the first mobile phone in It weighed in at nearly four-and-a-half pounds. Since Dr. Cooper's invention, mobile phones have taken off.