Scientific Anthology: Discoveries Ahead of Their Time


Throughout time, monumental discoveries have been made that have greatly benefited society. Although every discovery eventually receives its time in the spotlight, the brilliance of many discoveries by hardworking scientists go overlooked until long after the scientists are gone. We who benefit from these discoveries end up saying that these people were "ahead of their time," and therefore they were not recognized for their greatness and potential during the time in which they lived.

This anthology includes 20 instances where discoveries from a wide variety of scientific fields were made before the world was ready for them. Also included in these 20 examples are the profiles of scientists who did not receive the recognition they should have at the time, simply because their discovery was not made in a time period that could fully implement and comprehend their discovery’s advanced features and societal importance.

1. Nikola Tesla and the Idea of the Cellphone


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Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and physicist who was born on July 10, 1856, in what is now known as Croatia. He moved to the United States in 1884 and resided in New York, where he began working with Thomas Edison. While working with Edison, the two men found that they had differing opinions concerning direct currents and alternating currents, which is what ultimately drove Tesla to leave his partnership with Edison and create the Tesla Electric Company in 1885. Tesla is considered a futurist for his invention of the modern alternating current electrical system. After developing the alternating current system, Tesla held 40 U.S. patents on the system, and he introduced his motors and electrical systems in a paper named, "A New System of of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers" in front of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888.

PBS quotes W. Bernard Carlson stating that "Tesla may have had a brilliant mind, but he was not as good at reducing his ideas to practice" (Carlson). This quote sums up the essence of how Tesla's vision of the smart phone and wireless internet in the year 1901, was lost amongst its time. While Tesla was trying to invent transatlantic radio, he described an idea to his business partner that he could invent "a new means of instant communication that involved gathering shock and telegram messages, funneling them to his laboratory, where he would encode them and assign them each a new frequency" (PBS). Nikola Tesla's idea of the cell phone was developed way before the technology and society was ready to accept it. After trying to develop his wireless communication system, Tesla abandoned his project around 1900, and later died in January 1943 without completing his experiment. Like many other scientists whose discoveries were ahead of their time, the legacy of the work Tesla left behind still lives on today as we use our cell phones and wireless internet, and life as we know it would not be the same without them.
2. The Discovery of Contact Lenses


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Similarly to many other discoveries, the idea to create an alternate option for people who are visually impaired and have to wear eyeglasses came way before contact lenses were actually introduced into society. Between 1500 and 1508, Leonardo da Vinci filled a bowl with water and then dunked a man's face into it. The general consensus from da Vinci's practice was that for the first time, the man whose head was under water was actually able to see clearly and with improved refraction and peripheral visual acuity. Leonardo da Vinci's first attempt at constructing a contact lens resulted in a glass lens that contained a funnel on one side of it so that water could be poured into it.  Leonardo's invention was quickly deemed as impractical, and it was clear that the technology at the time was not advanced enough for a discovery of this nature.

Almost 150 years after da Vinci's invention, around 1636, a French scientist and mathematician, René Descartes, reviewed da Vinci's work and from his findings he introduced a new method for creating a lens, one that is more similar to the contact lenses that we have today. Descartes idea involved a tube that could be filled with water and then placed directly onto the person's cornea. Descartes invention was similarly deemed as impractical since the tubes had to rest on the eye for support and therefore the person could not blink normally. Although Descartes' invention was not ultimately efficient, he was the first person to suggest that the lens should rest directly on the cornea. Nick Siviglia from the The Edward Hand Medical Heritage Foundation points out that during the time when da Vinci and Descartes were imagining contact lenses as an alternate solution to glasses, "the early technology did not make it possible to develop and manufacture devices that would fit directly on the eye and produce good vision. That being the case, spectacle lenses were the only devices used to correct vision" (Siviglia). Even though da Vinci and Descartes had the initial idea to create something that has changed the lives of so many things today, the technology of their day was not able to support their bold thinking and large dreams.

In 1801 an English scientist Thomas Young created a prototype based on Descartes design and used those lenses himself to observe that different lenses could help different people. Additionally, an English astronomer Sir John Herschel suggested lens grinding and fitting so that they could be as close to the cornea as possible.  As the world progressed through the 19th century, contact lenses became more of a reality for common people. As the technology used for glass blowing, lens grinding, and medical anesthesia advanced by the time the 20th century rolled around contact lenses were a more promising visual corrector. The newspaper clipping shown above is one of the first public advertisements for transparent contact lenses, which as we know have changed the world as we know it today.

3. Sir John Harrington and the Flush Toilet


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The idea of the flush toilet was around much longer than one might expect. In 1596 Sir John Harrington, an English courtier, author, and godson of Queen Elizabeth I, wrote an article called "Plan Plots of a Privy of Perfection" in which he described his idea of a flush toilet. Queen Elizabeth I was so impressed by this idea that she asked him to install one in the royal palace, which Harrington did. Nate Barksdale from the History Channel reported that "Harrington's device called for a 2-foot deep oval bowl waterproofed with pitch, resin, and wax, and fed by water from an upstairs cistern. Flushing Harrington's pot required 7.5 gallons of water--a veritable torrent in the era before indoor plumbing" (Barksdale). Although Harrington was a proud inventor, it is reported that he ended his career with this invention because "he was ridiculed by his peers for this absurd device. He never built another one..." (P&M Magazine). When Harrington died, the idea of the flush toilet also died, and went untouched for about the next 200 years.

The first patent for the flush toilet was issued in 1775 to Alexander Cummings, an English inventor, who was interested in reinventing Harrington's water closet. Cummings is known for inventing the S-trap, which is the S shaped sliding valve located between the bowl and the trap. Cummings' toilet was a precursor to the modern toilet, and not long after Cummings invention of the S-trap, many other inventors followed his lead by creating different parts that added to both the efficiency of the flush toilet, and improved upon its various problems, especially the issues associated with sewer gasses that were leaking into the house through the toilet. One notable inventor in the late 19th century was a London plumber named Thomas Crapper, who was one of the first people to develop a very successful line of flush toilets. "Crapper did not invent the toilet, but he did develop the ballcock, an improved tank filling mechanism still used in toilets today" (Barksdale). The flush toilet is yet another discovery that was made before its time. If Sir John Harrington was alive and had thought of his idea for the flush toilet 250 years later than he did, he would have been more credited, like Crapper, for his invention of such an important item. The flush toilet has truly influenced our lives, because a life without a flushing toilet is hard to imagine in this day and age.

4. The Telegraph 


Image Courtesy from the Telegraph Office

  Communicating is a big part of our society today. We like to stay connected with each other and keep in contact with our loved ones and close family members. The telegraph is one important invention that was made before it’s time. Today we have the advantage of having the cellphone, internet, social media and more. However, the idea of long distance communication was something people were yearning for during the 1800’s (Norman). Finally, in 1823 the idea became a reality thanks to Francis Ronalds. Ronalds made an electrostatic telegraph spanning with eight miles of wire. It was insulated in glass tubing and the wire connected both ends to clocks marked with letters of the alphabet. It was created in a way that electrical impulses sent along the wire transmitted messages ( . When Ronalds created the telegraph the Lord of the British Admiralty said his invention was, "conveying telegraphic intelligence with great rapidity, accuracy and certainty"(Norman). It was truly a remarkable invention made ahead of it's time. 

This development gave rise to Morse code developed by Samuel Morse and it would take another development in technology to bring things together to form the telegraph. Furthermore, in 1832, a Russian diplomat named Pavel Schilling designed a small telegraph system that could send messages using a binary system of transmissions(  However, Samuel Morse the creator of the Morse code independently held the patent of the electrical telegraph in the United states in 1837. People were able to communicate long distance through an electrical wire laid between stations (

The invention of the telegraph was picked to be in this anthology because it came about from the creation of Morse code. This connection of Morse code led to the invention of the telegraph. It is amazing how science connects and builds off of other inventions. Communicating is very important to people because it helps us with our daily lives. During this time period when people traveled they made arrangements for communication. The invention of the telegraph was amazing and made a difference in society for years to come.

5. The Invention of the Videophone 

videophon e

Image Courtesy from The Museum of Public Relations

The invention of the videophone was made way ahead of time and has only recently become more popular due to skype and Facetime. It is a promising invention consisting of talking to someone and seeing them in real time. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and earned high acclaim. The patent of the phone was successfully granted to Alexander Graham Bell on March 7, 1876 ( . People could talk through a phone and hear the voice of the other person. At the time, it was out of this world to imagine a invention that could allow people to talk to someone and look at them.  

The Germans created the first public videophone which was founded in 1936. It was made in a German post office using early mechanical televisions and a system of broadband cables. The name of the man who created it was, "Dr. Georg Schubert, developed the world’s first public video telephone service and called it the Gegensehn-Fernsprechanlage (visual telephone system)"(The Museum of Public Relations).However the videophone made was used by the Nazi’s to broadcast the Berlin Olympics. It cost so much money for people to use it and if people used a videophone, the other person had to be in the same room with a videophone. The videophone died down and eventually became a reality during America’s postwar development. It would appear in commercials and advertisements but never came out as a single videophone. Finally, the development of technology in the late 1900’s and the 21st century consisted of telephones, the internet, tablets and more added the videophone(Novak). Now, the videophone concept is very popular and used everyday by millions of people. Whether it is through Skype, Face time or Google hangout the videophone has it’s origins from long ago.

I think it was a good idea to include the invention of the videophone to this anthology because it shows the outcome of a slow hunch and also the fact that people use videophone technology everyday.
6. The Invention of the Parachute


Image Courtesy of Leonardo-Da-Vinci-Biography

Leonardo da Vinci thought of, and sketched, the idea of the parachute long before many other inventors claimed this valuable invention. Accompanying one of da Vinci's early sketches of a parachute, such as the one shown above, he wrote, "if a man have a tent made of linen of which the apertures (openings) have all been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia (about 23 feet) across and twelve in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury" (Leonardo da Vinci Inventions). Leonardo da Vinci's parachute design gathered many skeptics during his time, mainly because of the triangular canopy design and the linen covered wood frame. Although da Vinci's idea was ahead of its time, in 2000 a brave daredevil named Adrian Nichols built a parachute based on da Vinci's drawing and tested it. Despite the criticism da Vinci received when he first thought of this idea, "da Vinci's design worked as intended and Nichols even noted that it had a smoother ride than the modern day parachute" (Leonardo da Vinci Inventions). Nichols safe ride could also be attributed partly to the sturdier supplies and resources we have today, rather than the ones that were available in the 1400s.

Many years later in 1783,  a Frenchman named Louis-Sebastien Lenormand created a parachute using two umbrellas, and jumped from the top of a tree in order to test his design. Lenormand is the person who is usually credited for the invention of the first practical parachute because of this successful jump. Later in 1783, Lenormand "mounted the tower of the Montpellier Observatory in France and jumped with a 14-foot parachute, landing unharmed" (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica). Another inventor, André-Jacques Garnerin was credited as the first person to design the frameless parachute, and test these parachutes, which he designed to have the capability of slowing a man's fall from a high altitude. The idea of the parachute is a great example of an idea that was built upon by a variety of people in order to make it into what it is today. The parachute was definitely a discovery before its time, and required the advancing technologies of the coming centuries in order for the design to be implemented.

7. Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine 


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Charles Babbage was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer who is known for having the first idea about creating a programmable computer. Babbage developed the first thought of automatic computing engines, which "helped lay the foundation for the personal computers we have today" (Love). In 1821, Babbage and his friend were checking tables that were manually calculated and found numerous errors because of the unreliability of manually calculated tables, despite the fact that they required an extremely tedious amount of work. The Computer History Museum shared that Babbage claimed that he "wished to God these calculations had been executed by steam" and that from that moment Babbage set out on "the ambitious venture to design and build mechanical calculating eliminate the risk of human error" (Computer History Museum). The first attempt at building Babbage's difference engine was stopped abruptly in 1833 as a result of a dispute between Babbage and the toolmaker. The first difference machine would have required 25,000 parts and would have weighed almost 4 tons. The second difference engine was designed to be a simplified version of the first, requiring only 8,000 parts. Unfortunately, although Babbage thought of the earliest idea and model for a programmable computer, he was never able to build one in its entirety during his lifetime.

In 2002, 153 years after it was designed by Charles Babbage, the difference engine number 2 was built in London. It was built exactly according to Babbage's design, including the 8,000 parts, and it ended up weighing 5 tons and measuring in at 11 feet long. The Computer History Museum remarks that "though the legend of his [Babbage] was never lost it was only in the 1970s that his designs were studied in any detail and the scale of his accomplishments emerged more clearly" (Computer History Museum). Babbage's invention of the difference machine was a perfect addition to this anthology because the knowledge and drive he had to accomplish such a task during the 1820s is an admirable characteristic as an inventor. Had Babbage been alive hundreds of years later, he would have received similar recognition to the computer pioneers of today, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Just like many other inventors, Babbage had a futuristic mind, and his inventions had to wait for technology and society to catch up in order for them to be fully appreciated.

8. Ignaz Semmelweis: The Champion of Hand-Washing

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In today’s world it is common knowledge that hand washing should be practiced often and by everyone.  Washing hands is one of the best defenses against the spread of germs and it is a key practice for doctors who work with many patients on the daily.  Ignaz Semmelweis is credited with the discovery about how important hand washing is and how it could stop the spread of germs and diseases, the only problem is that this discovery was in fact before its time.

The following  article states how in 1846, Ignaz Semmelweis was starting his new job at a maternity clinic at the General Hospital in Vienna.  He was curious about why so many women in the ward were dying of puerperal fever, also known as childbed fever.  After researching one maternity ward staffed by midwives and one with doctors, he noticed that the death rate of women in the doctor staffed clinic was almost five times higher.  Semmelweis began testing various hypotheses such as whether women were giving birth on their sides or back, as well as, if the bell of a priest could have scared the women bad enough to have them develop the fever.  As these reasons did not pan out, Semmelweis became frustrated and took a leave of absence in Venice.  After returning and learning that one of his close work colleagues had died of the fever, he realized that people working in the ward could contract the disease too.  Further thinking had him come to the conclusion that because doctors were also performing autopsies, the particles from the bodies were getting inside the women when they delivered babies.  Semmelweis did not know too much about the concept of germs, however he ordered everyone in the wards to start cleaning their hands and instruments with chlorine, which ultimately cut down the death rate in the wards from childbed fever drastically.  Unfortunately, the doctors in the wards felt like they were getting too much blame for the deaths so they stopped washing their hands and other doctors in Europe did not think Semmelweis was correct.  This time in the 1800’s did not allow for specific proof that these germs were being killed by hand washing, which is a shame based on the many deaths that could have been prevented from Semmelweis’s discovery.  
9. Gregor Mendel's Famous Genetics Research

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Though we all remember Gregor Mendel's experiments from high school, many would be shocked to hear that Mendel's research was not made popular until after his death. When Mendel conducted different experiments with pea plants, people of his time did not think much about his results.  What the world would come to learn later was that one monk essentially discovered how traits are passed through generations.  The following article explains Mendel’s findings.  By breeding these pea plants for eight persistent years, he was able to note similarities and differences in plant height, pod shape, and color.  Most people in this 1860’s time period believed that offspring would always showcase a blend of both parent’s traits, however when Mendel bred two purebred plants he noticed that the offspring would look like one or the other, not a blend of both.  He would go on to classify the trait the offspring took after as the dominant trait.  The recessive trait was basically explained as a trait that could be carried down from an earlier generation, but won’t always show in every generation’s offspring.  Mendel came to this conclusion by testing many trials of plants with either round or wrinkled seeds.  Mendel did not know anything about DNA during this time and I believe his discovery was not fully recognized right away because he was working with plants, which it is now clear that not all organisms pass down traits like pea plants, and because of what biologists at that time believed to be true.  Although Mendel seemed to have disproved the idea that offspring would always exhibit traits from both parents with his finding of dominant traits, people in the 1860’s were not ready for findings like his.  Biological inheritance was not a subject that was backed up by any significant science, until Mendel and his pea plants came along.     

10. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar's Black Hole Theory

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As the human race we are naturally curious about the the world that exists beyond our own.  Over the years we have learned a lot about space, but naturally there are many things that we do not know, as well as, things that are hard to believe.  Astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, spent his twenties intensely studying white dwarf stars.  Even in 1930, it was known that in a few billion years the sun will complete its stellar evolution cycle and become a white dwarf, or electron-mattered remnant of what it once was.  Chandrasekhar believed the common knowledge that all stars will eventually turn into white dwarfs was wrong and he began to study the relationship of mass to his hypothesis.  He concluded that a white dwarf can only exist if it has a mass less than or equal to 1.4 times the sun’s mass.  If a star’s mass was greater than this number then the fate of the star would entail it shrinking down until it turns into a black hole.  Pressure from nuclear reactions and gravity pulls the star inward, and this is what turns the star into a neutron star, or black hole, with zero volume.  Chandrasekhar’s concept about stars being able to turn into black holes was not initially accepted by most, especially by renowned astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington.  Eddington did not believe that something with as much matter as a star could be crushed into something with no volume.  Chandrasekhar would go on to win the nobel prize, however it took a slow 30 years for him to win and finally get the public to agree with his work.  The discovery of how black holes are formed was a concept that seemed too outlandish for people to believe based off of the wonders of space.

11. Vending Machines of Antiquity 

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In today’s modernized world when people are hungry for a snack, they could find the nearest vending machine and conveniently purchase food.  The invention of the vending machine has been around a while now, but the first one is believed to have been created as far as the early 100’s.  The historic Greek traveler Hero of Alexandria is credited with creating the very first vending machine, which is surprisingly similar to today’s modern model.  Besides traveling, Hero was known for his hand-made inventions and was able to craft up something to solve the Greco-Roman authority’s problem of people taking more holy water than their donations called for.  Hero worked to create a system that would dispense a fair amount of holy water for the right price.  He made the machine and had it set up so that different weights of coins would weigh down the lever for a certain amount of time.  The more money the coin was worth based off its weight, the more holy water was dispensed out of the machine by the lever for the person paying.  An invention this genius was discovered way before its time especially in the sense of how much the modern day vending machine has evolved today.  The initial concept is the same, however, now there are photo-sensors that determine the type of coins used, not just weight.  The vending machine was also not ready for mass commercializing in its early age because there were no companies ready to dispense their products as their is today.  There are many businesses that utilize vending machine technology to generate revenue today, not just the historic  Greco-Roman Church.

12. Kane Kramer and the MP3 Player

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When we think of music today our minds immediately wander to our cellphones and computers that hold an infinite source of song choices right at our fingertips.  Apple is often credited with the creation of the first mp3 player because of their success with the iPOD, however, way back in 1979, Kane Kramer predicted most of the common features we see with mp3 technology.  Kramer created the IXI digital audio player that contained a IXI chip the size of a credit card and the capacity to hold around thirty minutes to an hour of audio.  His first sketches of the device closely resemble the few iPODS that first hit the market, and Apple even admitted that Kramer was the genius behind iPOD technology.  His 1979 proposal details his ideas for the device to include many of the things we take for granted today with mp3 devices such as immediate music delivery, the ability to select and play any track order, and the ability to download music straight to the device in a matter of seconds.  Kramer even predicted that this mp3 technology would eventually discourage the mainstream use of records and tapes, which was ultimately true as in today’s world people rarely even buy CDs anymore.  Although all of the right ideas were there for Kramer, 1979 was simply too early for the true potential of his mp3 technology to be harvested and mass produced.  A little over 20 years later, Apple was ready to put most of his ideas into practice and in regards to the success of the iPOD, the rest is history.


13. Early Submarines: Cornelius van Drebel and The Turtle

Scale model of the Turtle submersible
Scale model of the Turtle submersible

Image Courtesy of New England Historical Society

While many remember submarines as a staple of modern warfare, they actually were invented almost four centuries ago. According to, Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebel designed the prototype for the submersible in the early 1600’s, creating models out of wood and leather that could carry up to sixteen passengers. Drebel demonstrated the largest (and last) of these submarines for King James, making him the first monarch to travel underwater.

In 1776, American revolutionary David Bushnell implemented van Drebel’s designs for warfare, creating an eight-foot submersible to fight British ships in New York Harbor. Dubbed the Turtle for its odd shape, the vessel was used to anchor underwater mines to the bottom of British ships. Only one operator could fit inside of The Turtle at a time, and it was totally hand-powered through cranks and pulleys. The vessel’s first excusion occurred on September 7, 1776, where Ezra Lee tried to sink the HMS Eagle but failed to drill through the ship’s sturdy hull. The Turtle made a few more attempts to sink British ships, though all of them were unsuccessful due operators making mistakes. Though the Turtle was never able to sink a ship, the floating mines that it was created to deploy were used to damage many British ships. David Bushnell was given a commission as an Army engineer by George Washington, and was eventually stationed at West Point. Stories like these just go to show American ingenuity at its finest.

14. Virtual Reality: Nintendo’s Virtual Boy Stumble

Nintendo's Virtual Boy
Nintendo's Virtual Boy

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Today, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding virtual reality (VR) technologies such as Occulus Rift and HTC Vive, both promised to be available to the public with plenty of simulations and games later this year. However, virtual reality was not always such a sound investment. Nintendo once sold a virtual reality headset called the Virtual Boy. Released in 1995, the red and black system perched on a desk stand with a controller and a visor that allowed one to see in stereoscopic 3D, the same technology used in their current 3DS handheld. Many factors turned the public off from this system. Not only did the hunk of plastic sport an exorbitant $179 price tag, it also lacked games and forced people to use an uncomfortable headset that was hard to wear for long periods of gaming. Not only that, there were many rumors of players experiencing migraines and headaches which circulated then. All of these things came together to make The Virtual Boy was a commercial failure for Nintendo, and they discontinued the project in 1996. Even today, fans still remember the console as a sort of inside joke about the company’s past missteps. However, it seems that our current technology has allowed us to get virtual reality right. Hopefully, the success of VR headsets this year will change the Virtual Boy from a farce to a wise predecessor to our current VR tech.

15. Sixth Sense Technology- Pranav Mistry’s Revolutionary Idea

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We have written a lot about inventions from the past that predicted the present, but what about ones from the present that predicted the future? According to its web site, “‘SixthSense’ is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information”. In a manner that reminds one of Tony Stark’s hologram computers in the Iron Man films, this technology uses a small projector, a camera, four colored markers for one's fingers, and a mirror to take in information from the world around it and project information onto walls and other objects. It is manipulated by gesturing in front of the camera with one’s fingers. Holding one’s fingers in a rectangle in front of the camera will take a picture; drawing an @ symbol tells the projector to project emails. It is very cheap and there are even instructions on how to make your own SixthSense projector for around $350. The inventor of this technology, MIT graduate Pranav Mistry, has taken the tech world somewhat by storm. While this was his flagship idea, he now works for Samsung as the Global Vice President of Research and is known for his work creating the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch. In the near future, we may see this technology being implemented as a substitute for phones. However, this project may also flop completely. There is simply no knowing what the future holds for technology of tomorrow, but here’s hoping that we will soon be able to mess around with something similar to Iron Man’s holograms.

16., The First Social Network

web page for
web page for

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Nowadays, everyone thinks that social media started with MySpace and Facebook. However, there were many predecessors to these web sites back in the days of dial-up internet and Windows 98’. was a social network launched in 1997 by Andrew Wienreich, an entrepreneur from Brooklyn, NY. The name of the site comes from the theory of “six degrees of separation”, the idea that there are six or fewer steps between any two people, ideas, or things in this world. The site was the first which allowed one to mark other uses as friends or family and suggest people they might know through friends of friends, much like the social media sites seen today. At its height, the site had over 3,500,000 fully registered members. In 1999, a company called YouthStream Media Networks bought out the web site for $125 million. However, its popularity soon gave way to more efficient social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. This site laid the groundwork for most social media sites, and likely would have succeeded if launched about ten years later. This web site’s short story just goes to show that, as they say in the world of startups, “being early is the same as being wrong.”

17. Ambrose Godfrey and The Fire Extinguisher

A soda-acid (CO2 and Sulfuric Acid) fire extinguisher
A soda-acid (CO2 and Sulfuric Acid) fire extinguisher

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Fire extinguishers are present in just about every building one walks into, yet few people know where they come from. According to Wikepedia, acclaimed chemist Ambrose Godfrey patented the first device that could be described as a fire extinguisher in 1723. The device ignited gunpowder in order to spread loads of fire-extinguishing solution onto a fire. One ignited the gunpowder by lighting a series of fuses, and those fuses triggered the reaction in the gunpowder and spread the fire retardant on the flame. Though the device did not get used widely, a newspaper in London reported its efficiency in stopping a fire in London in 1729.

This may not seem like much, but it predates the invention of the modern fire extinguisher (by George William Manby in 1818) by almost a century. In addition, a fire extinguisher was not patented in the United States until 1881, when Almon M. Granger patented an extinguisher which used a combination of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid to expel pressurized water onto a fire, in a similar fashion to a hose. The fire extinguisher has gone through many changes since then to become the small red object that we all know. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now requires that all employers keep fire extinguishers available to employees in case of emergency, and that they check them regularly in order to make sure they still function. All in all, the fire extinguisher has grown from the rejected brainchild of a chemist into a mandated staple of most businesses in the U.S.
18. The Steam Engine 

Steam Engine

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Another example of an invention made ahead of it’s time is the steam engine. A steam engine is an engine that uses the expansion of rapid condensation of steam to generate power. The steam engine became very popular during the Industrial revolution, however it was invented 2,000 years ago before early in the first century A.D by a Greek inventor, named Hero of Alexandria (ancient . At the time his steam engine consisted of a hollow sphere on a pair of tubes. The tubes were heated below by fire and the steam was transferred to the sphere. The steam that came through the device made it possible for the sphere to revolve. This first steam engine created was called a aeolipile. At the time the steam engine created was used as a novelty and rarely used in ancient Alexandria. After Hero of Alexandria created this primitive steam engine the steam engine does not gain its popularity until the Industrial Revolution.

During the Industrial Revolution the steam engine made its mark in manufacturing, agriculture and more. Thomas Savery was the person during the Industrial Revolution accredited for the creation of the steam engine ( . He was an English engineer and inventor. When he created the steam engine, there were many advertisements surrounding his invention which made it possible for the general public to be aware of it. The discovery of the steam engine occurred way before its time. It did not become popular until several years after. The discovery has changed the world drastically and has made the manufacturing world move more efficiently. During the Industrial Revolution steam powered vehicles were made that could run on tracks.  This slow hunch was an exciting read and created the course of railroads.
19. Rudolf Virchow: A leader in medicine 

Rudolf Virchow

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Rudolf Virchow is known as one of the most influential physician’s in history. His discoveries developed in the 19th century were far ahead of his time.  Rudolf Virchow was a German scientist born in Poland. He analyzed the effects of diseases in different organs and tissues in the body. His discovery is the concept of pathological processes. Virchow discovered that “diseases arose, not in organs or tissues in general, but primarily in their individual cells”. He went on to publish a scientific document titled “Omnis cellula e cellula”, which means every cell stems from another cell.  His work in cells was so in depth that he became the first person to recognize Leukemia cells ( He found that diseases could be characterized not by a group of clinical symptoms but anatomic changes. This finding encouraged physicians to track the changes a patient had and accurately diagnose them.

Virchow found it very important to have clinical observations and experiment on animals. He was the first person to coin the term “zoonosis” ( .  Zoonosis are infectious diseases of animals that can naturally be transmitted to humans.

Virchow's findings left a long lasting legacy, relevant to issues today. When people learn about cells, they are always tought that “every cell stems from another cell”( US National Library of Medicine). We can thank Virchow for finding finding this unique property. Also, many people are diagnosed with Luekumia today. Virchow made it possible to look for certain aspects in the human body when finding a virus. Physcians today are aware of what to look for. Finally, the term “zoonosis” helped the infectious disease world greatly. The Ebola virus, salmonella and influenza are “zoonoses”(US National Library of Science).  This is pertinent information due to the recent outbreak of ebola. His findings were intelligent and has helped medicine advance.


20 Leonardo Da Vinci and the Helicopter 

ancient helicopter

Image Courtesy of LeonardoDavinci'

Leonardo Da Vinci is an example of an artist who could think way ahead of his time through his paintings and art. The helicopter was not created until the 1940’s. However, Leonardo’s sketches from the last fifteenth century indicated the beginning of the helicopter. Leonardo Da Vinci was known for exploring ideas and drawing them but not actually testing the ideas. His screw like machine sketch came with the description, “If this instrument made with a screw be well made – that is to say, made of linen of which the pores are stopped up with starch and be turned swiftly, the said screw will make its spiral in the air and it will rise high”( ). This is exactly what the helicopter does today. Da Vinci designed his airscrew to compress air to obtain flight. His creation ended up being for experimental design. At the time there was no adequate technology to create such a machine. His idea was way ahead of time.

Finally, in the 1900’s a Russian engineer named Igor Sikorsky crafted the first working helicopter. He worked in Russia for a little but eventually moved to America to escape the Bolshevik Revolution. In America, Sikorsky “focused on the possibility of a single main motor”( ). On January 14, 1942 Igor Sikorsky successfully conducted the flight of a helicopter he built. His hard work established a standard for the future of helicopters. As a result, he created his own aviation company titled” Sikorsky Aviation Company” and it came to be a leader in helicopter design( .

Predicting the future is a nearly impossible task. In our chaotic world, one needs tremendous foresight and awareness to sift through the millions of tiny factors that affect our lives, and see what direction those changes will take us in. Even the most sound of predictions can fail spectacularly if one does not account for everything. This idea rings eerily true in the realm of science. Who can say what inventions will catch on, what advancements the world will need in the coming years, and when to implement a good idea in order to make it into a long-lasting company? Science has no prophets to discern the future with the eyes of God, only data sheets and models and theories that are constantly in dispute. For this reason, a number of our largest scientific achievements went unnoticed for generations before they were implemented. Most of the computer technology we use today comes from groundwork laid by Charles Babbage and his unfinished Difference Engine. Gregor Mendel died thinking that he would be known more for his devotion to God rather than his research into pea plants. Some of the world’s greatest inventors were normal, creative people when they were alive. We must appreciate these inventors’ bright minds and indomitable spirits, as work towards building the best future we can for those who come after us.
Scientific Anthology: Discoveries Ahead of Their Time

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