Our nation wouldn’t be the same without the incredible inventors who have made America what it is today.

National Inventors’ Day is a day to acknowledge past and present great inventors. First signed into a declaration on February 11, 1983, President Ronald Reagan chose this date because it was Thomas Edison’s birthday. To honor this day we are highlighting 5 inventions that revolutionized history.

The Compass (c. 200 BC)

The compass has helped humans to explore and navigate around the world. In today’s world of satellites and GPS, it may seem irrelevant, but it was an important invention in its day. However, the compass may have originally been created for spiritual purposes and only later adapted for navigational purposes. The earliest compasses were most likely invented by the Chinese, around 200 BC. Some were made of lodestone, which is a naturally occurring form of the mineral magnetite.

There is also evidence that other civilizations may have used lodestone for navigation or for spiritual purposes. At some point, possibly around 1050 CE, people began suspending the lodestones to allow them to move freely and using them for navigation. A description of a magnetized needle and its use among sailors occurs in a European book written in 1190, so by that time, it is likely that the use of a needle as a compass was commonplace.


The Calendar

Historians believe timekeeping goes as far back as the Neolithic period, but actual calendars weren’t around until the Bronze Age in 3100 BC. The Sumerians in Mesopotamia made the very first calendar, which divided a year into 12 lunar months, each consisting of 29 or 30 days.

Astronomy was huge when it came to keeping track of time. The Sumerians used the sighting of the first full moon to mark a new month. Hundreds of years later, the Egyptians, Babylonians, and other ancient civilizations created their own calendars, using the rotation of the sun, moon, and stars to figure out how much time had passed.





The Printing Press

The printing press is a prominent part of the foundation on which modern civilization was built upon. German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg is credited with inventing the printing press around 1436, although he was not the first to automate the printing process. Woodblock printing in China dates back to the 9th century, and Korean bookmakers were printing with moveable metal type around 100 years before Gutenberg.

Johannes Gutenberg’s machine, however, improved on the already existing presses and introduced them to the West. By 1500, Gutenberg presses were operating throughout Western Europe, with a production of 20 million materials, from individual pages, to pamphlets, and books. The printing press not only allowed the mass production of newspapers and pamphlets, it also lowered the price of printed materials, making books and newspapers accessible to many, and fostering literacy.




The first vapor-compression refrigerator was patented in 1835 by Jacob Perkins. British engineer James Harrison built the first mechanical refrigeration system, to create ice, in around 1851. He founded the Victorian Ice Works and is often called “the father of refrigeration”. In 1873, he demonstrated that meat kept frozen for months remained perfectly edible.

However, the first refrigerator to be manufactured for widespread use was the General Electric “Monitor-Top” refrigerator of 1927. While it helped to rev up industrial processes initially, it became an industry itself later on.



Computers are one of humanity’s greatest inventions. Initially built for doing complex mathematical calculations, the bulky computers of the past have evolved into machines that sit on almost every desktop and are carried in our pockets.

Mechanical engineer Charles Babbage laid the foundation for this remarkable and most reliable invention, along with Ada Lovelace, who created the first programs. In the early 19th century, the “father of the computer” conceptualized and developed an early mechanical computer. Although there’s no single inventor of the modern computer, the principle was proposed by Alan Turing in his seminal 1936 paper.




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