From Caves to Cables: Scientific Milestones of the 20th Century

From Caves to Cables: Scientific Milestones of the 20th Century

Caves to Cables


Society often underestimates the importance of the painstaking research, studies, trials and hard work of researchers and scientists but the truth is, we would be nowhere without them. The discoveries and inventions of these individuals have done everything from saving lives to paving the road to major advances in technology. During the twentieth century, science saw several important milestones which are arguably some of the most important in all of history. From the discovery of Vitamins to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, these are twenty five of the most crucial discoveries and inventions of the twentieth century.

Early 1900s- The Discovery of Vitamins

In the early 1900s Christiaan Eijkman of the Netherlands discovered that certain types of foods were more nutritious to animals and could even prevent disease; these were later called anti-neuritic vitamins. Shortly thereafter, Sir Frederick Hopkins of England discovered that some foods have certain qualities that improve the function and growth of animals; these were later called growth stimulation vitamins. These vitamins would go on to be a very important part of millions of individual’s well-being. For their impressive discoveries they were each awarded a Nobel Prize.

1902- Blood Groups

Using the relatively new microscope in 1902, Karl Landsteiner of Austria discovered that not all blood is the same. Upon further studies he was able to categorize blood into four blood groups. These studies revolutionized the understanding of human blood and gave us the knowledge necessary to perform modern day blood transfusions.

1905- E=mc^2 

This incredible discovery was made by Albert Einstein in 1905. The formula hypothesizes that everything that has mass also has energy, even if that object is not moving. This is an important discovery because it eventually led to the discovery of black holes as well as the Big Bang Theory.

1906- Earth Core Liquid

Using seismology reports from several earthquakes, Richard Oldham was able to calculate that the earth had a molten liquid core. Humanity had simply assumed the earth was entirely solid up until this point. This research led others to discover that the center of the planet was actually made of molten iron with a smaller solid iron core.

1909- Idea of Genetic Diseases

Archibald Garrod made the discovery that some diseases are genetically passed down in families. This is important to the scientific community because it means that once diseases are identified as genetic it can then be predicted to occur in offspring. Since 1909, this has led to the rise of healthcare and medical fields devoted to helping treat genetic disorders.

1911- Continental Drift

Alfred Wagener is famous for his theory that all continents were once one giant land mass and slowly drifted apart to where they are now. Since he had no concrete evidence, he was not taken seriously until the 1950s when several researchers found solid proof that this actually happened. This idea gave us a much greater understanding of prehistoric times and the placement of fossils all over the world.

1911- Superconductivity

Heike Onnes discovered that certain materials do not resist conductivity at low temperatures. Using this discovery, electricity could be revolutionized as the possibilities could be limitless. Being able to move more power through a conductor means more powerful, and useful, machines can be powered. This discovered paved the way for future electronic devices such as the computer.

1916- Theory of General Relativity

Albert Einstein’s second appearance on this list is for his theory of relativity. It is an explanation of gravity and how it relates to space and time. It was this theory that first theorized the existence of black holes in the universe. Due to this theory and the equations he formulated as a result we have a much better understanding of the universe as a whole as well as space and time.

1928- Penicillin

Biologist Alexander Fleming is credited with the discovery of the antibiotic derived from mold known as Penicillin. Prior to this invention, infections that were not caught in the early stages regularly led to horrible circumstances such as amputation or death. Due to the introduction of penicillin, bacterial infections were no longer a matter of life and death and this even led to the curing of previously devastating diseases such as gangrene and tuberculosis.

1929 -Expanding Universe

Edwin Hubble was a pioneer in the world of astronomy. He was the first to discover galaxies other than our own and was soon able to calculate that the universe is expanding and that this is most likely as a result of the Big Bang. This discovery led Edwin Hubble to win several awards such as the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

1932- Discovery of the Positron

Carl D. Anderson discovered an atomic particle that he described as being the exact opposite of the electron. In 1932 he noted that it had the same mass as the electron however there was no particle known to exist by this description which led to it becoming known as the positron. Using this new discovery, several new important studies began and Carl won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1936.

1935- Nylon

A humongous advancement in the world of synthetics was the invention of nylon. Wallace Carothers discovered this synthetic material as an affordable and reliable substitute for silk in 1935. Today nylon is used in stockings, toothbrushes, rope etc.

1935- Discovery of Neutrons

In 1935 James Chadwick discovered the existence of neutrons. These gained their name because of the fact that they do not have an electric charge like other atomic particles and are therefore neutral. This was important because it led to the discovery of new elements as well as provided the information necessary to encourage the invention of nuclear reactors later on. 

1938- Nuclear Reactor

Credited for the creation of the Nuclear reactor, Enrico Fermi is a pioneer in modern power. This technology uses a self-sustaining nuclear chain- reaction to create clean power that can run cities. For his efforts Enrico was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

1939- Nature of the Chemical Bond

Linus Pauling was among the first to study molecular biology, and during the 1930’s he studied tirelessly and published several papers regarding the circumstances that are necessary for atoms to form together to create molecules. This was very important to the field as it allowed for a greater understanding of different types of bonding which are the building blocks of how the field is researched today. For his efforts he became one of only a select few in the world to be awarded more than one Nobel Prize.

1946- Radio Carbon Dating

Willard Libby was the inventor of the technique of carbon dating. This technology is important because it can allow archeologists to determine the age of practically any object. This could mean determining exactly what age a certain artifact is and make tracking something historically much easier.

1953- DNA Double Helix

In 1953 two men discovered that DNA is organized into a double helix, their names were James Watson and Francis Crick. This discovery was important because it allowed scientists to greater understand how DNA works and paved the way to genetic engineering. They both received the Nobel Prize for their efforts in 1962.

1957- Satellites

The world’s first satellite was launched in 1957 by Sergei Korolev of the Soviet Union. This jump started the technology rivalry with the United States known as the “space race”. To this day thousands of satellites have been launched into orbit and are now being used for many things such as weapons, communication, television, radio, astronomy etc. And instead of making cables obsolete, they are now more important than ever. Many innovations have been made in information and power cables over the years. Coaxial cable has been especially influenced by satellite TV. RG59 cable and RG6 cable are used to connect the satellite reciever to your TV. Find out the difference between RG59 and RG6.Today, many of us take this technology for granted as we watch TV at home or listen to the radio in our cars almost everyday. As an aid to hanging these modern TVs on the wall, the recessed power outlet has also been developed to help hide TV cables.

1960’s- Quarks 

Until this time, atomic particles such as neutrons and protons were thought to be the smallest possible particles and it was Murray Glenn-Mann who discovered that this simply was not true. He discovered that there are objects that he named quarks which are a type of particle that makes up atomic particles. Due to this discovery a new smaller particle is known to exist and many researchers went on to continue his work. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969.

1960- The first Laser

Actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, the Laser was first created by American physicist Theodore Maiman. Since then the laser has been a huge part of modern technology and is widely used for such things as reading CDs and DVDs, modern weaponry, and many more. 

1974- Discovery of Lucy

Also known as the Australopithecus Afarensis, Lucy is the skeletal remains of a humanoid believed to have lived over 3 million years ago. Donald Johanson, Marice Taieb and their team of archaeologists discovered the remains in 1974. This revolutionized the thinking of human evolution as it was not known there were humanoids that walked on two legs at that time.

1978- Observation of astronomical dark matter

Vera Rubin discovered the existence of dark matter in 1978 when she realized that something was holding stars in their orbits of galaxies other than the gravity of the known masses, such as planets and the stars around it. The equations simply did not add up and the only solution was that there was something there that we have not yet discovered with tremendous mass and gravitational force. The composition of dark matter still remains a mystery to scientists, but developments made each day will eventually bring them to the answers they seek. 

1984- DNA Profiling

The development of the technique now called DNA Profiling is all thanks to Sir Alec Jeffreys. The technique he created is now used all over the world for positively identifying DNA found at crime scenes as well as paternity testing. His work continues to help close cold cases to this very day. For his efforts in this field he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1994.

1991- The World Wide Web

Invented by scientist Tim Berners-Lee of England, the World Wide Web was based off of several much smaller private and public network projects developed in the past. Open to the general public, the Internet is now used by over 30 percent of the planet’s population. The invention of the Web has revolutionized the way people do just about everything from communication to education to entertainment. For example, online video streaming services let people watch movies, TV shows, and even home videos on the computer. Some of these services are also available on your TV. But even if your TV doesn't connect to the internet you can use a PC to TV adapter to watch content from your computer on your telveison screen.

Connecting to the internet has evolved greatly since it was first invented. It used to be that users had to connect to the internet via a dial-up modem. Now the internet is available all the time, without having to wait several minutes to connect. You can even access the internet wirelessly, although many people still perfer wired Ethernet networks over Wi-Fi. You can even wire your own Ethernet networks using bulk cat5e cable that can be purchased directly from most cable suppliers. 

1996- First successful mammal cloning

Ian Wilmut and his team are credited with the first successful cloning of a mammal which was a sheep named Dolly. The sheep was able to successfully reproduce on two separate occasions which was something previously thought to be impossible. Ian was knighted in 2008 for his work in genetic engineering.

Late 1900s- Global Warming

In the late 1900s researchers and theorists began to emerge explaining that the climate has been increasing in temperature over a period of several years. The explanation was that “greenhouse” gases from pollution were causing this to occur. This has caused our culture to much more environment cautious in an effort to stop this trend.

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