10 Classic Examples that Prove Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
6 In 1991, too many trips to the coffee pot led computer scientists Dr. Quentin Stafford-Fraser and Paul Jardetzky to invent the world’s first webcam that let everyone know when the pot was full.
The invention of the webcam is a story born out of laziness and necessity. In a computer lab at Cambridge University, a team of researchers had to make too many disappointing trips to the coffee pot, only to find it already empty. To make life easier, Dr. Fraser and Paul Jardetsky set up a camera that took pictures of the coffee pot around three times a minute. Then they set up the software for all researchers that let them access those pictures on their local network. This saved time, increased concentration on studies, and of course, saved them from many fruitless trips across floors. (1,2)
7 Tim-Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web to make information sharing more accessible, as he had to constantly go to other computers for information and add them to his own.
Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN when the idea of the World Wide Web came to him. At CERN, scientists from different universities brought their own computers. Thus, scientific knowledge sharing proved to be very difficult. Every time Tim wanted to access information, he had to go to his colleagues and add their information to his own computer. This made him desperately search for a way in which there would be one information system accessible to everyone. In 1989, Tim combined three different ideas together. In his own words, “I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the TCP and DNS ideas and…, Ta-da! – the World Wide Web.” Tim also has three essential technologies that are still the basis of today’s internet – HTML, URL, and HTTP. (1, 2)
8 John Boyd Dunlop invented the first pneumatic tires in 1888 to cushion rides after his son complained of headaches while riding his tricycle on uneven terrain.
John Boyd Dunlop, a veterinary surgeon, had purchased a tricycle for his son. In those days, because of cobblestone roads, the hard tires of the tricycle were uncomfortable for the riders and gave his son headaches. This gave Dunlop the idea of using an inflatable rubber tube to cushion the ride. He took his son’s tricycle, wrapped the wheels in rubber sheets, and glued them together. Then he pumped the tires with a football pump. That is how the rubber tube “pneumatic” tire, which Dunlop himself had coined, was born. Later, Dunlop tires would be a worldwide phenomenon and a very successful commercial venture. Therefore, his success story started on three small wheels instead of four. (1, 2)
9 James Harrison invented and patented the world’s first mechanical ice-making machine in 1854 because importing ice from the United States and Norway was becoming too expensive.
Did you know that before James Harrison, a Scottish-born Australian, invented the first mechanical ice-making machine in 1854, everyone still used ice boxes and ice harvesting? His ice-making machine soon developed into a vapor-compression refrigeration system that he patented as a refrigerating machine in 1855. Harrison’s machine could produce 3,000 kg of ice per day. This invention’s first commercial use was to cool beer. (1, 2)
10 Theophilus Van Kennel invented the revolving door as an airlock to prevent chilly air from coming into buildings, but also because he didn’t like holding doors for women.
There is a rumor that Theophilus Van Kannel did not like holding doors for women. This is what inspired him to invent the revolving door in 1888 that let women pass through on their own. He invented the three-way storm door with weather stripping that prevented the chilly, cold wind from entering warm buildings. The doors also blocked out street fumes and noises. International Steel later bought Van Kannel’s revolving door business, and this still survives today as the International Revolving Door Company.
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