Invented 100 years ago in 1914

1914. A year that resonates across time as almost a living memory, irrespective of the fact that none of us were there. And yet through our families* and our cultures (especially in Europe) we were there.

The War would, by necessity, be the catalyst for a massive surge in invention and innovation. But 1914 offered surprisingly few startling discoveries and inventions. It was a year of quality not quantity. So here are seven of the years most interesting inventions and firsts, the spectre of War of course still dominates.

To begin with, let’s start with the humble Traffic Cone, which was invented in 1914 by Charles P. Rudabaker, made from concrete, for use on the streets of New York. It wasn’t until 1961 that the stackable PVC cones were created (in the UK by David Morgan in Oxford.)

Charlie Chaplin made his film début in February the comedy short Making a Living.

The Panama Canal, the 48 mile ship canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean officially opened on August 15, 1914. It had taken 33 years and cost, in today’s money, nearly $9 billion, shifting 204,900,000 m3  (Over 25 times more earth than in the Channel Tunnel) and had a loss of life of over 5000 people (mainly due to disease).

Fighter Plane

The Vickers FB5 Gunbus

American Frank Shuman invented a process for making two types of Safety Glass: laminated (where two layers of glass are separated by a plastic coating) and wire mesh glass (where a mesh of wire is embedded in the glass). Safety glass was not immediately adopted by car manufacturers, but laminated glass was used in the eyepieces of gas masks during World War I from 1915.

The first Fighter Plane, described as a two-seater aircraft with sufficient lift to carry a machine gun and its operator as well as the pilot (as opposed to an aircraft where the pilot fired a revolver at his enemy), first flew in 1914. The first fighter was the British biplane Vickers F.B.5 Gunbus of 1914. It first flew on 17 July 1914 and was powered by a single 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome Monosoupape nine-cylinder rotary engine driving a two-bladed propeller, capable of 100 mph. It was built with a wooden frame, covered with fabric. A total of 224 were produced, 119 in Britain by Vickers, 99 in France and six in Denmark.

blood transfusion

The first safe, successful blood transfusion

On June 28 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria triggered the war that would become the First World War. The term was first used in September 1914 by the German philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that “there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared ‘European War’ … will become the first world war in the full sense of the word.” More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised. 17 million were killed and 20 million were wounded. Dubbed as ‘The war to end all wars’ it became instead the first modern war and led to the invention of almost all of the accruements of death on a massive scale as well as the technology to defend against them.

But the most important invention of the year, that went almost uncelebrated at the time, must be responsible responsible for saving the lives of many millions of people. After the invention of the blood anticoagulant a few years earlier, the first non-direct Blood Transfusion was performed on March 27, 1914 by the Belgian doctor Albert Hustin.

* My Granddad was 18 when he went off to fight at the start of the war.


Other articles of interest:

Invented 50 years ago in 1963

Invented 100 years ago in 1913

Invented 100 years ago in 1912


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Invented 50 years ago in 1963

As we begin 2013 and we wonder what the year will bring, have a thought for what happened 50 years earlier, in 1963 and consider what a momentous year it was.

There were numerous cultural and artistic milestones, most notably the year marked the beginning of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ with the Beatles first number one single Please Please Me on 22nd February, followed by their first album of the same name, beginning their domination of the singles and album charts for the rest of the decade.

But what inventions were made that year? Was anything invented in 1963 that we still use and perhaps take for granted today? There are actually many more than the ten presented here, but I decided that this selection presents us with an interesting mix that help define 1963 as the dawn of the modern world that we find ourselves in today.

So here are 10 surprising inventions from 1963:

1. The Lava Lamp

Doctor Who and the Daleks lava lamp mathmos

Lava Lamps were seen in the Dalek city in the 1965 film ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’.

The Lava Lamp was invented by British inventor, entrepreneur and eccentric Edward Craven-Walker in 1963 and still manufactured today by his company, Mathmos.

2. The smiley face

The smiley face was invented in 1963 to motivate bored office workers. Harvey Bell was hired by a State Mutual Life Assurance Company to come up with something to make their unhappy employees a little less grumpy. It was originally just the smile, but he realized people could turn it upside down and make a frown, so he added two dots for eyes.

3. Push-button telephone

The first publicly available push-button telephone was released in 1963, by the Bell System. Dials remained the standard method of entering numbers on telephones for another twenty years.

4. Computer mouse

Doug Engelbart invented the computer ‘mouse’ in 1963 in his research lab at SRI International (then Stanford Research Institute), for which the patent was issued in 1970. he basic idea first came to him while sitting in a conference session on computer graphics in 1961. He wondered what would be an efficient and easy way to control a pointer on a graphic display screen. One idea he had was to use small wheels traversing the tabletop, one turning horizontally, one turning vertically, each transmitting their rotation coordinates for analysis. With the wheels mounted in a small wooden box, and a cable connecting the box to the computer, ‘mouse’ was an obvious name for the new device.

5. Instant coffee

Freeze-dried instant coffee was first introduced by Maxwell House in this year.

6. Weight Watchers

Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers. Another sign that 1963 was the dawn of our modern world with its wonders and its side effects following post-war austerity.

7. Hypertext

The word “hypertext”, the idea behind a common text based system for linking computer information that led to the internet, was first coined by Ted Nelson in 1963.

8. The Hang-glider

John Dickenson from Australia, invented the modern hang glider.

9. Cassette tapes

They would become the dominant medium for music and computer data in the the 1980s but were first introduced in 1963 (they had been invented the previous year by Philips). Rumour has it that the first four cassette recorders arriving in the UK were given to the Beatles.

10. Doctor Who and the Daleks

The BBC television programme Doctor Who began on 23rd November, the first episode was delayed due to extended news coverage of the assassination of president Kennedy the day before. The first adventure featuring the Daleks began on 21st December.

Many inventions and discoveries, like those here, often take time to catch on, to be fully realised, or in some cases, their significance is not fully known at the time. It reminds us that if we make a discovery, or invent a new product idea or method, we need to try to take that idea as far as we can, to make sure we’re giving it all it needs to make the biggest impact it deserves.

Click here for a similar list of inventions from 1913, 100 years ago and here for inventions from 1912.

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Invented 100 years ago in 1913

Last year, my most popular blog was a short article on a list of inventions from 1912, one hundred years earlier.

Here’s another list, from 1913, of a collection of everyday things that still have importance today.

Some of these were invented by professional experts, some by ordinary people who saw a way to solve an everyday problem. Some of them were not invented by the person who filed the patent at all but that person who did benefited from the massive sales of the invention: they saw that the invention of someone else was not being utilised and took the initiative.

So here are 10 inventions from 1913:

1. The Bra

The first modern brassiere to receive a patent was the one invented in 1913 by a New York socialite, Mary Phelps Jacob.

2. The Parachute

The parachute was invented in 1913 by Austria-Hungary born Stefan Banic, then living in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

3. Ecstasy

The Merck Chemical Company patented a mind-altering drug, N-methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyphenylisopropylamine, or MDMA, what is now know as ecstasy.

The world’s first ever crossword. Click on the image for the clues.

4. Windscreen Wipers

Windscreen wipers were made standard on all motor cars in 1913. They had been invented and patented by Mary Anderson from New York in 1902.

5. The crossword puzzle

The crossword puzzle was invented on December 13, 1913 by Liverpool born newspaperman Arthur Wynne.

6. Modern X-Ray tube

William D. Coolidge invented the Coolidge tube, an X-ray tube with an improved cathode for use in modern X-ray machines that allowed photography of deep anatomy and tumors. Its basic design is still in use today.

7. Geological Time-Scale

The first geologic time scale was proposed in 1913 by the British geologist Arthur Holmes. He was the first person to realise that the Earth was billions of years old and not millions, as had been previously believed.

8. Brillo Pads

Brillo Pads were patented by lawyer Milton B. Loeb who was approached by a costume jewellery maker who had invented a new way to clean aluminium pans which had just become fashionable. Loeb then set up a company to produce this mixture of soap and metal fibres and called it Brillo.

9. Mass production

Henry Ford installed the first ever production factory conveyer belt in his Ford motor car factory in Highland Park, Michigan. It allowed Ford to produce a complete car every two-and-a-half minutes: mass production was born, making cars far quicker and cheaper to produce.

10. Stainless Steel

Harry Brearley was researching ways to stop excessive wear in rifle barrels for the British Army when he discovered that by adding 10% chromium and 8% nickel to an iron carbon mix. It produced a steel with a bright surface finish which did not tarnish or rust.

Have a think about those three ways I mentioned above in which all of us could invent something this year and change the world. Ask yourself:

  • what in your field of expertise could be made better, quicker, cheaper?
  • what ordinary, everyday problem could you see a simple solution to?
  • what idea that already solves a problem have you come across that hasn’t been given the chance it deserves?

By finding an answer to one of those questions we may yet all be inventors.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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Invented 100 years ago in 1912

In our modern complex world we tend to think that all the best ideas have been thought of. History proves that is never the case.

Here are 7 inventions that were invented one hundred years ago, in the year of 1912. (Click here for 1913) All of them are still relevant today. Also with all of them, the technology for their operation was already in existence and had been for some time. So they could all have been invented 1, 10 or maybe 50 years earlier. But weren’t.

Most of us don’t invent anything much in our lifetimes. Part of that reason is that we think of invention as grandiose and that we’d need to invent time travel, teleportation or anti-gravity to have invented something worthwhile.

Inventors don’t think like that. Instead they look at a problem, a real problem that they or other people they know actually have. Their inventions are solutions to those real life problems.

The kitchen worktop surface was invented by Daniel J. O’Conor and Herbert A. Faber who originally conceived it as a substitute for mica used as electrical insulation. It was made of wrapped woven fabric coated with Bakelite thermosetting resin, then slit lengthwise, flattened, and cured in a press. Because the new product acted as a substitute “for mica”, Faber coined the name “Formica”.

The Electric Blanket
Invented by the American physician Sidney I. Russell.

The Zip
A Swede, Gideon Sundback, working in America, invented the zipper.

Belgian chocolates
Chocolate pieces filled with a soft fondant center were invented by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier.

Slot Cars
The first commercial slot cars (now most famously made by Scalectrix) were made by the Lionel model company in the USA, drawing power from a toy train rail sunk in wide slot between the rails (see pic).

The Traffic Light
The first traffic controlling light was invented in by a Detroit policeman named Lester Wire as a two-color, red-and-green light with a buzzer to warn pedestrians ahead of the impending  change.

The Pentathlon
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games invented the modern Pentathlon which was was first contested at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm.

We should all be focusing on real life problems within our own spheres of interest and work on how to solve them. Perhaps we too could come up with a solution that would benefit the world.

Don’t get bogged down thinking there’s nothing left to invent. At every point in the history of civilisation where people thought ‘everything that could be invented has been invented’ – it has always been soon followed by an amazing era of progress and invention.

They’ll be nothing left to invent when the world has no more problems to solve. And that’s a long way off….

So have a think. What could YOU invent this year? Can you imagine an idea that will still be in general use in 2112?

Have a look at 10 things that were invented the following year, in 1913, here.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: