5 Forgotten Inventions: Unseen Pillars of Modern Civilization

Dive into the captivating history of five unsung inventions that served as pillars for our modern society and sparked monumental shifts across industries.

5 Forgotten Inventions: Unseen Pillars of Modern Civilization

Wednesday July 19, 2023,

3 min Read

Despite being surrounded by countless inventions that significantly influence our day-to-day lives, many of us remain oblivious to their origins or the stories behind their creation. Some inventions, whether due to their mundane nature or the passage of time, have become lost in the annals of history, despite having profoundly altered the course of humanity. Let's travel back in time to shed some light on five such forgotten inventions that undeniably revolutionised the world.

1. The Jacquard Loom: Weaving a New Future


Before computers dominated the world, there was the Jacquard loom. Devised by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the early 19th century, it was a mechanical loom that simplified the process of manufacturing textiles with intricate patterns. It used punched cards to control the loom's actions, a system considered a precursor to modern programming. Through automating the weaving process, the Jacquard loom not only transformed the textile industry but also laid the groundwork for the development of modern computers.

2. The Steam Engine: The Catalyst of the Industrial Revolution


When contemplating the Industrial Revolution, the steam engine might not be the first invention that springs to mind. Yet, it was indeed the driving force behind this massive transformation. The steam engine, first conceived by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 and later improved by James Watt, was used in a myriad of applications, from powering factories and mills to locomotives and steamships. By providing a reliable and efficient source of power, it spurred industrialisation and set the stage for the modern world.

3. The Mouldboard Plough: The Silent Harbinger of Agriculture


The history of civilisation is deeply intertwined with the history of agriculture. The mouldboard plough, often overshadowed by other agricultural advancements, had an impact far beyond its humble appearance. It allowed for deep cultivation of soil, turning it over in a manner that buried crop residues and weeds while bringing fresh nutrients to the surface. This technology boosted agricultural productivity, paving the way for stable, settled communities and contributing to the growth of societies worldwide.

4. The Printing Press: Spreading the Power of Words

Printing press

Despite its monumental impact, the printing press is an invention often relegated to the backbenches of history. Before Johannes Gutenberg introduced his printing press in the mid-15th century, books were laboriously hand-copied, limiting their availability and influence. Gutenberg's invention led to a dramatic drop in the cost of producing books, enabling the mass dissemination of knowledge. The ensuing literacy revolution spurred scientific advancements, democratisation of knowledge, and, ultimately, the enlightenment period.

5. The Sextant: Guiding the Age of Exploration


Navigating the open seas was a hazardous endeavour before the invention of the sextant. This device, first developed in the 18th century, allowed sailors to measure the angle between a celestial object and the horizon accurately. These readings were crucial in determining latitude, providing seafarers a reliable method for navigation. As a result, the sextant played a pivotal role in the Age of Exploration, facilitating the discovery and colonisation of new lands.

While these inventions might not seem remarkable in our era of digital technology, they played pivotal roles in shaping the society we inhabit today. From enhancing agricultural productivity to catalysing industrialisation, from promoting the dissemination of knowledge to enabling accurate navigation, these forgotten inventions have fundamentally transformed our world. Understanding their significance not only enriches our appreciation of history but also reminds us of the incredible potential of innovation to effect profound change.