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Landmark Inventions of the Millennium
1. The last 1,000 years have produced an incredible number and variety of scientific and technological breakthroughs – but which of these were the most important? Narrowing a list of the thousands of inventions made since the year 1000 to the ten greatest requires some exact criteria. The qualifying inventions either provided radically new ways to do an important job, or they made possible tasks that were previously unimagined. Their impact was felt, if not right away then eventually, by a large portion of humanity. These developments have made possible significant new technological innovations and scientific discoveries. And finally, they have had an enduring effect on the world.
2. The inventions that meet these criteria, in chronological order, are the compass, the mechanical clock, the glass lens, the printing press, the steam engine, the telegraph, electric power, wireless communications, antibiotics, and the transistor. Missing from this list are many extremely significant technological advances, including the airplane, telephone, automobile, and computer. In many cases these inventions were omitted because they are based on earlier developments or breakthroughs.
3. In considering the ten most significant inventions of the past 1,000 years, a subtle distinction must be made: the difference between «invention» and «discovery» is not as clear as one might think. A discovery can be as simple as the observation of a previously unnoticed phenomenon, while an invention is a human-devised machine, tool, or apparatus that did not previously exist.