15 Inventors Behind Everyday Things that Shape Our World

by Neha Bansal2 years ago
Picture 15 Inventors Behind Everyday Things that Shape Our World

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. When we talk about inventions and inventors, we tend to speak about novel devices and technologies. But, have you ever thought about who created your everyday useful items? It is easy to grab a piece of paper to pen down something, and easier still to stick a post-it note on our walls. But who were those brilliant inventors who pondered over these simple inventions? Here, we have compiled a list of 15 Inventors of everyday things that shape our world.

1 Cai Lun – Paper

In 105 CE, Cai Lun, a Chinese court official who earlier used bamboo for writing, came up with the idea of the paper. He is credited with inventing paper.

Cai Lun- Paper
The Han Dynasty Chinese inventor and eunuch court official Cai Lun (Image to the left), Oldest extant paper fragment. Image credits: Realcai via Wikimedia.org, cabinet.ox.ac.uk

The Chinese crafted cloth seeds to write around 2,000 years ago, but the actual idea of inventing paper is credited to a Chinese court official, Cai Lun.

He observed that writings and inscriptions were generally traced on bamboo pieces or strips of silk. Silk being costly and bamboo being quite heavy, neither were very practical to use. He then started working on his idea of creating paper, and finally, in 105 CE, he came up with a brilliant idea.

He first mixed hemp, tree bark, cloth, and fishnet to create a lighter material that was easy to write on. This was the first form of paper and was invented by Cai Lun in Lei-Yang, China. Cai Lun, along with his apprentice, Zuo Bo, improved their paper-making process and thus made paper famous throughout China.

Before paper was invented, people communicated via symbols and pictures carved on tree barks and cave walls using sharp stones, and it has come a long way since then! (1, 2)


2 William Addis – Toothbrush

The first toothbrush was invented by William Addis, a prisoner, in the 1770s. He tied bristles to a leftover bone from his meal as an alternative to cleaning teeth with soot and a rag.

William Addis – Toothbrush
William Edward Addis (Image to the left), Image is used for representational purposes only. Image credits: alchetron.com, Shutterstock

William Addis (1734 – 1808) was an English businessman and is regarded to be the brain behind the first mass production of toothbrushes. While in prison, he observed the function of a broom to sweep the floor and thought of a similar idea for his invention.

Earlier, everyone used a rag and soot to clean their teeth. He thought that this traditional method was quite ineffective and needed improvement. He saved a small bone from his meal eaten the previous night, drilled small holes into it, and then tied bristles through the holes.

Once he was freed from prison, he started mass manufacturing toothbrushes and also became very rich as a result. He died in 1808, after having passed over this business to his eldest son, also named William, and the business remained in their family until 1996.

The brilliant brainchild of a prisoner, our daily toothbrush is one of the most crucial ones to kickstart our day. (source)


3 Joseph Gayetty – Toilet Paper

Joseph Gayetty of New York invented the first commercially available toilet paper using manila hemp. He marketed it as “Medicated Paper, for use in a Water-Closet.” He sold toilet paper in bundles of 500 sheets for 50 cents.

Joseph Gayetty – Toilet Paper
Joseph C Gayetty (Image to the left), Gayetty’s medicated toilet paper. Image credits: Wikimedia.org, ai-bees.io

Before toilet paper came into the market, people used leaves, corn cobs, fruit skins, stone, sand, snow and water, hemp, and lace.

Joseph Gayetty, born in 1827, created the first commercially available toilet paper rolls in the world. He made loose sheets of paper using manila hemp, a plant, and treated them with aloe vera. He wanted to create a cheap and hygienic product for everyday use. Gayetty also marketed these as medicated paper that can prevent hemorrhoids.

One of the inventors of basic necessities today, Gayetty was so obsessed with his invention that he printed his name on every sheet. (source)


4 Philip Diehl – Ceiling Fan

Philip Diehl was the brain behind the first electrically-powered ceiling fan in 1882. He used the same electric motor that he engineered for the Singer sewing machine, made some alterations, added two paddle-blades, and created our most essential electronic commodity today.

Philip Diehl – Ceiling Fan
Philip Diehl (Image to the left), Diehl manufacturing Co. Fan. Image credits: medium.com, exhalefans.com

The earliest forms of ceiling fans were not electrical, but hand-powered. Later, came steam-powered fans. In 1882, German-American Philip Diehl used an electric motor that he had invented for the Singer sewing machine and created a ceiling-mounted fan from it.

It was the world’s first electrically-powered ceiling fan. Later, many improvisations were made on the ceiling fan such as replacing the two blades with four and adding a light kit to the fan to combine both functions in one unit.

Philip Diehl had to face tough competition to survive in the industry even though he was among the first inventors of an electrically-powered ceiling fan. He did not patent his design, and there were many others who quickly worked on improving his invention. (1, 2)


5 Nicolas-Jacques Conte – Modern Pencil

Nicolas-Jacques Conte was a French mechanical genius who thought of graphite embedded in wood to be used for writing. This modern pencil was invented in 1795.

Nicolas-Jacques Conte – Modern Pencil
Nicolas-Jacques Conte. Image credits: alchetron.com, Shutterstock

Before the modern pencil was invented, people used metal rods or styluses to write on papyrus. The first depiction of a modern pencil was created in 1565, after graphite, an element that left metallic imprints on paper, was discovered, but this idea never really materialized until the late 1700s.

In the late 18th century, French engineer Nicolas-Jacques Conte, who was interested in mechanical arts, science, and portrait painting, created the “Crayons Conte,” which was the first modern pencil. He mixed cheap graphite with wet clay and sculpted it into a rod-like structure and baked it. After this, many improvisations were made on the modern pencil.

Thanks to Conte, today we have a very basic writing tool that is present in every household and factory. Pencils are prized stationery items of every school-going kid as well! (1, 2)


6 Philo Farnsworth – Electronic Television

Philo Taylor Farnsworth conceived the world’s first fully functional all-electronic television in 1927. He dreamt of an electronic television instead of a mechanical one while driving a horse-drawn harrow on his family’s farm.

Philo Farnsworth – Electronic Television
On March 14, 1957, Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of electronic television and vice president and technical consultant for the Farnsworth Electronics Co., shows off one of the early television sets produced by his company in Fort Wayne. Image credits: Thefamouspeople.com, news-sentinel.com

Born in 1906 in Beaver, Utah, Philip Farnsworth was a technical prodigy right from a very young age. At the age of 14, he once noticed furrows in his family’s farm and thought of them as models to transmit parallel lines of light at electrons, which he called, “capturing light in a bottle.”

This is how he conceived the basic idea of electronic television. By 1922, he had prepared a basic outline of electronic television. Due to some personal family issues, he had to postpone his dream of inventing the first-ever electronic television until 1926. In 1927, he made his dream into a reality and also patented his device the same year.

Most of our entertainment comes from televisions. Although today, even it is kind of replaced by smartphones, it will not be wrong to say that electronic televisions shaped our childhoods. (source)


7 Levi Hutchins – Alarm Clock

The first alarm clock was invented in 1787 by Levi Hutchins in New Hampshire. He initially made the device only for himself to wake him up at 4 a.m. The device could only ring once at 4 a.m.

Levi Hutchins – Alarm Clock
Levi Hutchins (Image to the left), The first evolutionary step in the development of the “tin can” alarm clock. Image credits: cowhampshireblog.com, clockhistory.com

Levi Hutchins of Concord, New Hampshire invented the first alarm clock in 1787. He was a clockmaker by profession and invented the alarm clock because he did not want to be late for his job.

The alarm rang only once at 4 a.m. It was housed in a 29-inch x 14-inch wooden cabinet. It had mirrored doors and extra gear was provided to allow them to set the alarm time. He mechanized the clock in such a way that the bell would ring at a predetermined hour. He lived to the age of 94, and yet, he never patented or manufactured his clock.

The alarm clock taught the world the importance of time and also helped humans to use their time to its best potential. (source)


8 Willis Haviland Carrier – AC

Willis Haviland Carrier designed the first modern air-conditioning system in 1902, using the laws of humidity control.

Willis Haviland Carrier – AC
Willis Haviland Carrier (Image to the left), The first centrifugal refrigeration machine invented by Willis H. Carrier. Image credits: Carrier Corporation via Wikimedia.org, worldkings.org

The first modern air conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier. He was a skilled engineer who once observed humidity and mist in a shabby train station and decided to make use of the same relationships in his invention.

Carrier wanted to experiment with the laws of humidity control. He created a system that would send air through coils filled with cold water, thereby cooling the air simultaneously and removing moisture to control the humidity in the room.

In 1902, Carrier installed his first air-conditioning system in the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company in Brooklyn. His invention controlled the humidity and temperature that helped to maintain consistent paper alignments and ink dimensions at the printing plant.

Today, whether it is 40 degrees Celsius or more, air-conditioners have solved the problems of living in scorching heat. (source)

Also Read:
11 of the Most Interesting Failed Inventions From the Past

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