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Top 10 inventions that changed the world

The compass

Top 10 inventions that changed the world

Ancient mariners used the stars for navigation, but this method didn’t work during the day or on cloudy nights, making it dangerous to travel far from land. 

The first compass was invented in China during the Han dynasty between the 2nd Century B.C. and 1st Century A.D.; it was made of lodestone, a naturally-magnetized iron ore, the attractive properties of which they had been studying for centuries. However, it was used for navigation for the first time during the Song Dynasty, between the 11th and 12th centuries,

Soon after, the technology to the West through nautical contact. The compass enabled mariners to navigate safely far from land, opening up the world for exploration and the subsequent development of global trade. An instrument still widely used today, the compass has transformed our knowledge and understanding of the Earth forever. 

The printing press

Top 10 inventions that changed the world

German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press sometime between 1440 and 1450. Key to its development was the hand mold, a new molding technique that enabled the rapid creation of large quantities of metal movable type. Though others before him — including inventors in China and Korea — had developed movable type made from metal, Gutenberg was the first to create a mechanized process that transferred the ink (which he made from linseed oil and soot) from the movable type to paper.

With this movable type process, printing presses exponentially increased the speed with which book copies could be made, and thus they led to the rapid and widespread dissemination of knowledge for the first time in history. In her book “The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe” (Cambridge University Press, 2012), late historian Elizabeth L. Eisenstein wrote, “printers’ workshops would be found in every important municipal center by 1500.”  It has been estimated that up to twenty million volumes had been printed in Western Europe by 1500, although Eisenstein estimates that it was around eight million.

Among other things, the printing press permitted wider access to the Bible, which in turn led to alternative interpretations, including that of Martin Luther, whose “95 Theses” a document printed by the hundred-thousand sparked the Protestant Reformation. 

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