By A. Santiago
Did you know we spend 2.5 billion Euros on research every year are own the rights to 15,000 patents? The great inventors of the past are a constant source of inspiration for all of us at Thales, so we’ve put together our very own list of the Top 10 inventors of all time. Let us know what you think. Did we leave anybody out?
1. Thales of miletus
Call us biased, but we think the top slot goes to Thales of Miletus, who lived in the 6th century BC. He was the father of Western philosophy and one of the first people to explain natural phenomena without reference to mythology—technically making him the world’s first scientist too. He even invented mathematics. How cool is that?
2. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo was an all-round genius. Not content with being a Renaissance artist and a visionary scientist, he also stands out as one of history’s most brilliant engineers. Long before they were technically feasible, he invented the helicopter and the battle tank. He came up with designs for mechanical looms and hydraulic saws. He drew plans for submarines and robots. The list of his contributions to the world of engineering is virtually endless.
3. Thomas Edison
Edison was the archetypal inventor and epitomises the American spirit of inquiry and entrepreneurship. A shrewd businessman with unbridled imagination, he is credited with thousands of inventions, including the phonograph, the electric light bulb, the telephone (although Alexander Graham Bell made it to the patent office first on that occasion), the movie camera, the microphone and alkaline batteries. Did you know that Thomson, one of the companies that later became the Thales Group, was set up to exploit some of Edison’s patents?
Archimedes was undoubtedly one of the big names of engineering in the 3rd century BC. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists of classical antiquity. We owe it to Archimedes for inventing the pulley, the lever, the catapult and the cog… not to mention the Archimedes screw. And where would fluid mechanics be today without that original Eureka moment?
5. Benjamin Franklin
As a founding father, Benjamin Franklin was one of the people who invented America! But the man now hailed as America’s first scientist was also a printer, an activist, a statesman and a diplomat—and above all a respected inventor and engineer. His legacy includes the lightning conductor, bifocal lenses, and, according to some, the first experiments in nanoscience.
6. Louis Pasteur and Alexander Fleming
These two tie for 6th place in our list because they both made discoveries that are still saving millions of lives today. Frenchman Louis Pasteur was the first microbiologist. He invented the principles of vaccination and pasteurisation, which turned out to be hugely important for human health. Across the English Channel, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin a few decades later, so he’s the one that made antibiotics possible. They go together because they were both pioneers of modern medicine and the first scientists to declare all-out war on viruses and bacteria!
7. the Montgolfier brothers and Clément Ader
We all know about Pegasus and Icarus in ancient Greece. But in modern times the history of flight was written by three Frenchmen—the Mongolfier brothers with their hot air balloon, and Clément Ader, who invented the aeroplane. Ader’s contraption was the first piloted aircraft to take off under its own steam (literally) and make a brief uncontrolled hop across a field near Paris.
8. Nikola Tesla
No, he didn’t invent the world’s coolest electric car. But Nikola Tesla was arguably the greatest geek who ever lived, always fixing things that weren’t broken and coming up with amazing inventions in the process. We have him to thank for alternating current, the modern electric motor, remote controlled boats and, rumour has it, radar technology and wireless communications. He didn’t get credit for much of it in his lifetime and died alone in poverty.
9. Auguste and Louis Lumière
The Lumière brothers—yet another pair of pioneering Frenchmen—invented the cinema. Seriously! They patented the cinematograph, and their first movie, released in 1894, is considered the first real motion picture in history.
10. Tim Berners-Lee
Sir Timothy Berners-Lee is known as the man who invented the Internet, the biggest breakthrough of the late 20th century. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. The Internet started life at the Pentagon as a distributed computer network designed to withstand a nuclear attack. That system was known as ARPANET and dates back to 1969. Sir Tim took the idea and added the concept of hypertext as a way for researchers at the CERN, where he worked, to share resources more efficiently. He and his team went on to develop HTML, web servers and browsers, making the World Wide Web a reality in 1989 and opening it up to the public in 1991.