May 292013

Fire Dicoveries

There have been many momentous occasions when an individual, group or generations ended up discovering some hidden nuggets of wisdom floating in the lap of nature. Many such discoveries changed the world forever. While some of these discoveries are well-known to most people, several others are quite subtle that get easily overlooked usually because their applications or outcomes appear obvious to the modern world. Here is the list of top 10 amazing discoveries that changed the world forever.

1. Fire:

Nothing could have been possible if some unknown caveman hadn’t literally ‘played with fire’. The discovery of fire is one of the greatest ones done in the history of mankind. We have come a long way indeed from producing fire by rubbing two stones. The way fire is produced and the carriers of it have extended over thousands of years but fire, being an element of Earth, remains what it was since time immemorial. Of all things it has helped us in accomplishing, fire is the reason we love our food. We owe a lot to that caveman. Fire indeed deserves to top the list of most amazing discoveries.

2. Wheel:

There is no record of how discovered the wheel. It was one of those discoveries that probably laid the foundation of human civilization! Without wheels, we could not have moved beyond few hundred kilometers. There would have been no exchange of knowledge, language, commodities etc. The discovery of the round object, which experienced the least amount of friction, was nothing short of a miracle or a boon for the mankind.

3. Earth is not flat; its round:

While you know it to be so obvious today, you couldn’t have guessed it so easily few hundred years ago! There was a time (not a thousand years ago, really), when people believed their boats in the ocean would fall off the edge if they went too far! Many scientists had to lose their lives only because they said ‘earth was round,’ and some guys at authoritarian churches thought it was ‘outrageous and blasphemous’ to say so!

4. Vaccination:

Vaccination is perhaps one of the greatest and most amazing discoveries that changed the world forever largely because it has helped saving the lives of millions ever since it was tried as an experiment in 1796. Had it not been for the sustained efforts of Edward Jenner, many would have lost their lives even in their infancy to diseases like small pox. Jenner inoculated a young boy using matter from the cowpox lesions of a dairymaid and then introduced the smallpox virus to the boy but he was not infected. The word vaccination traces its origin to the Latin word ‘vacca’ meaning cow.

5. Penicillin:

Penicillin was discovered accidently by a famous biologist Sir Alexander Fleming. The biologist was particularly famous for being absent-minded on most occasions as he paid great attention to small ‘changes’ taking place around him. It was the habit of close observation that helped this absent minded biologist to discover the principle that one set of micro-organisms could kill or restrict the growth of other microorganisms. Over the next several decades, the newly discovered drug, known as penicillin, saved millions of lives.

6. Photosynthesis:

It was Joseph Priestley who first established ‘indirectly’ through a series of experiments that animals consumed the gas which is produced by plants. It was Jan I., an Austrian scientist, who later defined the process of photosynthesis. It was a discovery that made people all over the world aware of how plants were restoring the balance by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. We could have, otherwise, wiped out all forests by now!

7. Oxygen – the fine air:

Even an 8 year old knows about oxygen today. When it was first discovered in the year 1772, it was known by the name ‘fine air.’ It was known to be a gas that accelerates combustion. The discovery laid the foundation of high-end combustion engines that now power vehicles, motors and other devices. When the discoverer of Oxygen, Carl Wilhelm demonstrated the action of oxygen to a French scientist, he successfully went on to discover that oxygen was also responsible for supporting the respiration in all animals!

8. Electricity generation:

It is impossible to imagine a life without electricity today. Everything – yes, everything in our day to day lives is depended on fundamental principles of ‘flow of electricity’ and ‘electricity generation.’ It was Michael Faraday who discovered the profound scientific relation in magnetism and electricity. The first electric generator could be created after the discovery that electricity could be generated by moving a metallic wire around a magnet. Rest, as we know, is history!

9. Anatomy:

It is the field of anatomy that today helps medical professionals all over the world to understand and treat the human body. Diagnosis or treatment of various conditions would have been nearly impossible if the mankind had no knowledge of the anatomy. Although ancient texts on some anatomy topics date back to 1600 BC in Egyptian history and 5000 BC in Vedic history, it was only in the year 1543 that Andreas Vesalius started discovering the human body in fresh light. He created the modern text that laid the foundation of thousands of treatment methods, accessible to billions of people on the planet today.

10. Gunpowder:

In the recorded history, there is no clear mention of the people who discovered gunpowder. It is believed that Chinese alchemists, during a series of experiments ended up discovering a powder that that could change the nature of warfare and hunting forever. While the discovery of gunpowder almost certainly resulted in the death of millions over the past few decades, it has also helped the mankind to enter Space.

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