Here’s a look at some discoveries that have changed the world. It’s nearly impossible to rank their importance though.
This is known to be the very fist human to exist. The skull was actually discovered by an unknown South African but further investigations were made by Raymond Dart. The fossil was recorded to be 3.7 million years ago. The brains of most species of Australopithecus were roughly 35% of the size of that of a modern human brain. Most species of Australopithecus were diminutive and gracile, usually standing no more than 1.2 and 1.4 m (approx. 4 to 4.5 feet) tall. Actually, the skull found by the South African native was thought be the skull of an ape, but after seeing that the spinal column was connected below the skull and not at the back, it was later concluded that it should be a skull of a man and not of an ape.
Everybody knows the story – or at least, should – the brilliant yet notoriously absent-minded biologist Sir Alexander Fleming was researching a strain of bacteria called staphylococci. Upon returning from holiday one time in 1928, he noticed that one of the glass culture dishes he had accidentally left out had become contaminated with a fungus, and so threw it away. It wasn’t until later that he noticed that the staphylococcus bacteria seemed unable to grow in the area surrounding the fungal mould. Fleming didn’t even hold out much hope for his discovery: it wasn’t given much attention when he published his findings the following year, it was difficult to cultivate, and it was slow-acting – it wasn’t until 1945 after further research by several other scientists that penicillin was able to be produced on an industrial scale, changing the way doctors treated bacterial infections forever. Penicillin antibiotics are historically significant because they are the first drugs that were effective against many previously serious diseases such as syphilis and Staphylococcus infections.
Oxygen was first discovered by Swedish pharmacist Carl Wilhelm Scheele. He had discovered it by about 1772. Scheele called the gas “fire air” because it was the only known supporter of combustion, and wrote an account of this discovery in a manuscript he titled Treatise on Air and Fire, which he sent to his publisher in 1775. However, that document was not published until 1777. Meanwhille, oxygen was also identified by Joseph Priestly in 1774. Priestly discovered a colourless gas from heated red mercuric oxide. He found this gas was highly combustible. He called it dephlogisticated air. Priestly shared his discovery with the French scientist Antoine Lavoiser. Lavoiser was able to show oxygen supported animal life respiration.
Isaac Newton, an English mathematician and physicist, is considered the greatest scientist of all time. Among his many discoveries, the most important is probably his law of universal gravitation. In 1664, Newton figured out that gravity is the force that draws objects toward each other. It explained why things fall down and why the planets orbit around the Sun.
The discovery that fingerprints are unique to each individual, are left behind on objects a person touches and can be lifted off those items is nothing short of miraculous. This discovery completely changed the way that law enforcement conducted investigations. In today’s modern age, Jack the Ripper would eventually be caught. Even though it was 1823 when Jan Evangelista Purkinje noticed how unique our fingerprints are, it took some time for law enforcement to figure out ways to use this knowledge. Today, this discovery is used in everyday police work.
If electricity makes life easier for us, you can thank Michael Faraday. He made two big discoveries that changed our lives. In 1821, he discovered that when a wire carrying an electric current is placed next to a single magnetic pole, the wire will rotate. This led to the development of the electric motor. Ten years later, he became the first person to produce an electric current by moving a wire through a magnetic field. Faraday’s experiment created the first generator, the forerunner of the huge generators that produce our electricity.
4. Alien Life
NASA’s paper, along with pictures of the microscopic earthworm-like creatures, were published in Feburary,2011 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Cosmology. A NASA Scientist Richard Hoover opened fragments of several types of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which can contain relatively high levels of water and organic materials, and looked inside with a powerful microscope. He found bacteria-like creatures that he calls “indigenous fossils,” which he believes originated beyond Earth and were not introduced here after the meteorites landed. “He concludes these fossilized bacteria are not Earthly contaminants but are the fossilized remains of living organisms which lived in the parent bodies of these meteors, e.g. comets, moons, and other astral bodies,” said the study. “The implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.” The journal’s editor in chief, Rudy Schild of the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard-Smithsonian, said Hoover is a “highly respected scientist and astrobiologist with a prestigious record of accomplishment at NASA.” Earlier in december 2010 NASA began to tease us with tantalizing hints regarding the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft– which is currently sending back massive amounts of data from Saturn—had confirmed the existence of microscopic life on Saturn’s moon Rhea. Well then that would be the first example of extra-terrestrial life. That study drew plenty of criticism, particularly after NASA touted the announcement as evidence of extraterrestrial life. Scientists are currently attempting to replicate those findings. (Link)
3. DNA Double Helix
The discovery of the DNA was made by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher. It was first called as a “nuclein” because it resides in the nuclei of a cell. This reconstruction of the first ever model of the DNA molecule contains some of the original parts used by Crick and Watson in 1953. Their breakthrough made it possible to finally understand both how organisms pass on their genes, and how the workings of cells are governed. This now-familiar structure is still at the heart of huge scientific endeavours.
And with genome sequencing becoming ever cheaper, we’re only going to become more familiar with it.
2. Rosetta Stone
On Napoleon’s 1798 campaign in Egypt, the expeditionary army was accompanied by a corps of 167 technical experts. In mid-July 1799, as French soldiers under the command of Colonel d’Hautpoul were strengthening the defences of Fort Julien, a couple of miles north-east of the Egyptian port city of Rashid, Lieutenant Pierre-François Bouchard spotted a slab with inscriptions on one side that the soldiers had uncovered. He and d’Hautpoul saw at once that it might be important and informed general Jacques-François Menou, who happened to be at Rosetta. This exciting discovery in 1799 was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs and unlocking the history of the ancient world texts. Prior to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and its eventual decipherment, there had been no understanding of the Ancient Egyptian language. It provides a window into the real history of Egypt rather than an imaginary one; all other decipherings of ancient languages since the Rosetta Stone’s initial decoding in 1822 are based on its precedents.
1. The Earth is Round
So, yes, the earth isn’t flat. But seriously, would you ever have guessed that all by yourself? It’s not like people on the other side of the world are walking upside down. And no, Columbus didn’t discover this fact; he was too busy infesting the natives with smallpox. Duh! So how did this little smidgen of science know-how change the course of humankind? Because no longer did people think that their boats would fall off the edges of the ocean. Trade routes opened up to capitolism and horrible 80’s B flicks like The Gods Must be Crazy. This little fact created a tiny fissure in the assurity of humankind’s all-knowing senses and mastery of the world. Simply put, it made us look like a bunch of asses.