Inventions and Discoveries

1. Who coined the term ‘global warming’?

Ans: While it’s difficult to identify who coined ‘global warming’, its principle was first put forth by S Arrhenius in his 1869 paper ‘On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground’. This concept gained ground in the late 1980s and early ’90s when it was found that the earth’s air temperature had, in fact, warmed over the past century, most likely because of increased carbon dioxide emission. Recently, Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ has got policy makers again discussing its ramifications.

2. Who created the smiley?

Ans: Research professor at the Carnegie Mellon University Scott E Fahlman is said to be the creator of the smiley, an emoticon used in internet parlance. It is believed that Fahlman sent an e-mail to his colleagues on September 19, 1982: ‘I propose the following character sequence for joke markers; 🙂 . Read it sideways.’’ This year, the emoticon which has endeared itself the world over, turned 25. To celebrate its silver jubilee, an annual Smiley Award meant for CMU students was created. It carries a cash prize of $500. Prof Fahlman says that the Smiley Award is for ‘innovation in technology-assisted humanto-human communication’.

3. Who invented Lego bricks?

Ans: The Lego Group had very humble beginnings in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a poor carpenter from Billund, Denmark. He started creating wooden toys in 1932. Two years later, Kristiansen adopted the name Lego as a brand name for his toys. The name is derived from the Danish words ‘leg godt’, which mean ‘play well’. In 1947, he and his son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen obtained samples of interlocking plastic bricks produced by the company Kiddicraft. These ‘Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks’ were designed and patented in the UK by Hilary Harry Fisher Page, a child psychologist. In 1949, Lego began producing similar bricks, calling them ‘Automatic Binding Bricks’. The first Lego bricks, manufactured from cellulose acetate, were developed in the spirit of traditional wooden blocks that could be stacked upon one anothe.

4. Who invented the helicopter?

Ans: French inventor Launoy and Bienvenue created a toy with rotary wings which could take off vertically and fly. The term helicopter was later coined by French writer Ponton D’Amecot: helico for spiral and pter for wing. It was only in 1907 that the first helicopter was piloted by Paul Cornu, who also created the model. The 100th anniversary of the helicopter’s first flight was celebrated on November 13, 2007.

5. Who invented the clock?

Ans: The primitive type of clock was invented by Henry de Wick in 1368. He installed it on the tower of the castle of the king of France. Using the technique of a pendulum, the clock was developed by French engineer Hyudhence in 1639. Electricity was deployed in the clock by Alexander Ben around 1840-50.

The earliest way of telling the time was by looking at the progress of the shadow cast by a twig stuck upright in the ground. Round about 1300 BC, this was developed by the inhabitants of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia into the sundial. The sundial served for a thousand years until the invention of the clepsydra, or water clock. This was the first clock with moving parts. The mechanical clock was not invented until the 13th century and it was driven by weights. The spring-driven clock was invented sometime around 1450 AD.

6 . Who devised the sign language used by the hearing impaired?

Ans: Jerome Cardan devised the sign language. Deaf and mute people faced unreasonable brutality at one point of time. Jerome Cardan was an Italian doctor who believed that the mute and deaf people could be taught to communicate by using written characters. Finger characters were worked out for them in the seventeenth century which was very similar to the present-day finger alphabets. About seventy five years ago the deaf were taught to communicate ideas almost entirely by means of signs, facial expressions and finger alphabets.

7. Who invented the biometric system?

Ans:     The use of biometric technology, which utilities body characteristics to identify a person, goes back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt and China. However, modern-day biometrics has evolved thanks to the contribution of several minds. Joao De Barros, a European explorer is credited with recording the first known system of fingerprinting in the 14th century. Alphonse Bertillon, a policeman from Paris, studied body mechanics in an effort to identify criminals. In recent years, John Daugman, a physicist, has done pioneering work in developing the biometric iris recognition system. Owing to its accuracy, biometric systems are being used to help nab terrorists. Pakistan recently installed biometric systems at its border to keep a check on cross-border militancy from Afghanistan.

8. Who invented the toothbrush?

Ans: Toothbrushes came into existence in 1938. People used them in the form of ‘chew sticks’ as early as 3000 BC. People would chew a thin twig with a frayed end and then rub it against the teeth. A similar toothbrush in use today was invented in China in 1498. The Chinese used pig’s neck hair as bristles and attached it to handles made of bone or bamboo. Dupont de Nemours introduced nylon bristles in 1938 for the first time. William Addis of England created the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780. The first patent for a toothbrush was for H N Wadsworth in 1850 in the US, but mass production only started in 1885.

9. Who designed the Lincoln Memorial?

Ans:     The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is a United States presidential memorial built to honour its 16th President Abraham Lincoln. The architect is Henry Bacon (an American Beaux-Arts architect), the sculptor is Daniel Chester French, and the painter of the murals inside is Jules Guerin. The building is in the form of a Greek Doric temple and contains a large, seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two well known speeches by Lincoln.

10. Who invented chewing gum?

Ans: Thomas Adams, a rubber scientist, invented chewing gum. He was working with a substance called chicle, a gum prepared from the latex of the saphodila tree, a tropical evergreen plant. By chance, he popped a small piece of chicle into his mouth and chewed it casually to while away time. Suddenly, it occurred to him that others may derive pleasure from chewing chicle, which is, even today, a chief ingredient in chewing gum.