Since the dawn of mankind, straight from the stone age so to speak, the human race has sought to improve its lot in life. To do so often meant the creation of something quite simple but, something that made life easier. That is the root of all invention, the ability to make a tool, something that would improve the standard of living. Something that advanced Neanderthal man into civilized man was the Mother of all Invention.
To comprise such a list of those greatest inventions is to chronicle mankind's growth on Planet Earth. It's taken thousands of years to reach this point in time and over those eons man attained several stepping stones, points in time where an invention changed everything. Most of those points in time are relatively recent in the age of man and that's primarily because the invention differs greatly from the discovery. Smelting, the process of creating metal out of ore, is over 8000 years old. This gave man money and weapons, two of the roots of all evil, but that wasn't an invention. Gunpowder was another discovery. Alchemists combined nitrates and sulfur to create an explosive that was first designed to thrill the populous with fireworks but soon became just another way that humans learned they could kill each other, hardly an invention.
The first real invention was the wheel. Somewhere in time, someone noticed that if you rolled something it took a lot less work. The principle was refined and an axle was added and with the taming of beasts of burden, a form of transportation was created. The chariot and then the wagon, were basic forms of transportation for thousands of years. And then, an engine was added. First it was powered by steam, and then the combustion engine was created. Combine those two inventions, the engine and the wheel, and the earth was no longer such a vast uncharted place. Trains crossed continents and automobiles took us places our ancestors never dreamed of going.
For all of time, man looked up to the sky at the birds and wondered how they flew. The invention of the airplane solved that dilemma. It was the idea of lift under a fixed wing that gave birth to the invention of the airplane. Add the engine that man had already created and there is the third of man's greatest feats. If man never learned to fly, he never would have reached the moon. And, as engines have become so much better, so has man's ability to circumnavigate this globe. Today's jet powered airplanes are so fast that man can hardly read a book while he's in the air. Yes, a book, the culmination of the invention of the printing press. The written word is testament to mankind's stay here on earth. The ability to publish a volume of words or print a daily newspaper is the fourth of man's greatest inventions.
The next step in man's progress can be defined by three items that today are almost interconnected. The light bulb, the radio and the telephone. Let there be light indeed, because candle power was inherently dangerous. To say that the light bulb took us out of the dark ages is to acknowledge it's importance as one of the greatest inventions of man. The telephone gave man the ability to converse over long distances and the radio gave him the ability to transmit sound through the air waves. Combine the two and there is wireless communication. An addendum does belong here because it was the invention of the cathode ray tube that put television and now the computer into every home. Well, that makes seven inventions that changed history, with an asterisk for the cathode ray tube. I would add it to the list but, there are still three more that have to be considered top ten.
The ability to stay alive has been man's major concern since he first set foot on this planet. There are so many things that can kill you. Weaponry solved some of that but, as time went on man realized that famine and pestilence were just as fatal. To round out the top ten, we have the sewer and indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and antibiotics and vaccines. Cleanliness is next to godliness, hence the sewer and the throne that sits upon it. The ability to keep and store food goes without saying. We are no longer hunter gatherers. We store our provisions in the freezer content that the Christmas goose will not spoil. And finally, medicine has given us the ability to prevent disease and stop infection. How many billions of lives have been saved through medical research and man's never ending search to cure the sick?