Although there are many worthy contenders, these are the top ten discoveries that changed the history of the world:

10. X-rays

Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays in 1895 created a groundbreaking method for medical diagnostics. This technology has led to more advanced imaging solutions, such as CT and MRI scans.

9. Plate Tectonics

The discovery of plate tectonics has enabled scientists to learn more about the configuration of our planet. By analyzing the movement of the earth’s plates, scientists are able to more accurately forecast earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

8. Fingerprints

In 1823, Jan Evangelista Purkinje discovered that every person has a distinctive set of fingerprints. By analyzing fingerprints from a crime scene, law enforcement officials can identify possible culprits.

7. Germ Theory

Louis Pasteur fostered the idea that germs were responsible for many diseases and launched the scientific fields of immunology and microbiology. Alexander Fleming’s research on bacteria produced penicillin, and Edward Jenner’s work on smallpox that led to vaccines, which eradicated the disease. Lab technicians use clinical compound microscopes to identify pathogens, which enable doctors to save millions of lives.

6. DNA Double Helix

Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss physician, first discovered nucleic acids in 1869. His work provided the framework for Francis Crick and James Watson to discover DNA and its double helix arrangement in 1953. Scientists use these insights to study genetics, cellular structures, and diseases to customize treatments.

5. Electricity

In the 1800s, Michael Faraday made discoveries that led to the development of the electric motor and electric generator. These accomplishments, combined with Nikola Tesla’s discovery of alternating current, enable us to harness electricity for everyday use.

4. Gravity

Our knowledge of why planets orbit the sun and objects fall to earth is based on the discoveries of renowned mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton. He formulated the Law of Universal Gravity in 1664.

4. Rosetta Stone

In 1799, French soldiers found an object that would reveal the true history of ancient Egypt. The Rosetta Stone enabled archeologists to decipher texts written in ancient hieroglyphics.

2. Wheel

The wheel is one of humankind’s oldest and most important inventions. It facilitated essential devices, such as windmills, vehicles, cogs and pulleys, which has made labor-intensive tasks easier and the world more accessible.

1. Round Earth

Approximately 200 years B.C., Greek mathematician and astronomer Eratosthenes of Cyrene discovered that the world was round. He calculated the circumference of the Earth to within two percent of its actual size.


Author Bio:  Hayley is an amateur scientist, author and blogger residing in Portland Oregon. Interested in fun and interesting science projects you can perform at home? Visit chemistry.about.com.