Inventors and inventions

Where can I find information about different inventors and what they invented?

Image: The Fowler Traction Engine by Bernard Spragg NZ on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 17/08/18

Introduction

People who discover new methods of doing things or technology which improve our lifestyle are called inventors. The new technologies which they develop are inventions.

Famous inventors

Many inventors worked on a number of inventions. Others made discoveries which later were developed into new or better inventions by other inventors or were part of a team that combined their inventing. Here is a list of some of them.

Alexander Graham Bell: Invented a dehusking machine, telephone, photophone and made other technological discoveries which future inventors carried further.

Alfred Nobel: A detonator, Dynamite, Gelignite.

Benjamin Franklin: Lightning rod, bifocal glasses and many others.

Isaac Newton: Reflecting telescope and other discoveries.

Johannes Gutenberg: Combined and improved inventions such as movable metal type and ink used these to improve printing technology.

Josephine Cochrane: Invented the dishwasher.

Julius Robert Oppenheimer: Led the team which developed the atomic bomb.

Leonardo da Vinci: Produced designs for numerous inventions.

Marion Donovan: developed the first waterproof disposable diaper.

Mary Anderson: Invented windshield wiper blades.

Margaret Knight: Invented the square-bottomed paper bag.

Thomas Edison: Worked with electricity and sound improving light bulbs and telephones as well as motion picture cameras and other inventions.

Famous inventions

Here is a list of some inventions and their inventors but there are many more. You will find information about these on the websites we have chosen for this entry. Some inventions have their own official websites like the ones highlighted below.

Britten V1000 motorcycle : John Britten.

Chocolate chip cookies:  Ruth Graves Wakefield.

Clock: Various inventors at different stages - from sundial to atomic clocks.

Computer: Charles Babbage, Howard Aiken and others.

Flush toilet system: Sir John Harrington.

Light bulb : Joseph Swan (UK) Thomas Edison (US).

Monopoly: originally called 'The Landlord’s Game', was invented by Elizabeth Magie.

Pencil: Prehistoric with various modifications through the centuries.

Plastic: Alexander Parkes.

Sellotape : Colin Kinninmonth and George Gray.

Shoes: prehistoric with various modifications through the centuries.

Telegraph (wireless): Guglielmo Marconi.

Telephone: Alexander Graham Bell.

Television: John Logie Baird.

General websites

Here are some good places to find out more about inventors and their inventions.

Inventor Archive

This has an extensive list of international inventors. It is part of the Lemelson-MIT programme to encourage young inventors. You can browse by name or search by keyword.

Tips: A website’s address (URL) can give you a hint about how reliable it is. Look for addresses in the results that include .gov or .edu in the URL. These are quality sites from overseas government or educational organisations.

Ancient History Encyclopedia

A great website for information on prehistoric and classical era inventions and inventors.

  1. Use your keywords to search.
  2. Select an article from the results e.g. Archimedes or writing.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, e.g. 'writing' We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

ExplainThatStuff

This website is all about how technology works, and includes information about how different technologies were invented. You can find out who is behind the website by checking the About us page.

Tips: Look at the date on each article to see when the information was last updated.

History.com

This website is from the History Channel, which is part of a wider television network called A+E Networks. It has lots of videos about different topics.

  • Select Topics from the menu at the top of the page.
  • Go down the list until you find the Inventions topic.

This page has short videos that introduce some famous inventors and inventions.

Tips: Some websites have advertisements (or ads) which ask us to buy something or tell us to ‘click here’. It’s best to ignore these ads and focus on the information we’re looking for.

Wikipedia

Another place to look is Wikipedia which has great coverage of many topics, including inventions and inventors. You can browse a list of inventors or do a keyword search using the inventor's name, or the invention.

Tips: You need to be aware that this information is contributed by lots of different people. It always pays to check the information you find against other sites or books from the library. You can also check the About link to find out what the organisation’s mission and values are.

EPIC resources

A good place to look for reliable information is EPIC. EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics, and it's put together especially for New Zealand school students.

You may need a password from your school or local library to access EPIC, or you can ask librarian on AnyQuestions to help you.

Britannica School

A great source of information is Britannica School, an online version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

  1. Choose the level best suited to you.
  2. Search using your keywords.
Tips: Remember that search words are the most important words in your question, e.g. 'inventors'. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Science in context

This particular database has lots of articles from encyclopedias, magazines and journals.

  1. Search using keywords such as 'steam engines'.
  2. Limit your results by subject or type of information.

Biography in Context

This database includes historical and current biographies of famous people.

  1. Search using keywords such as Richard Pearse.
  2. Limit your results by subject or type of information.

World History in Context

This database provides an overview of world history that includes inventors and inventions.

  1. Search using keywords such as clocks.
  2. Limit your results by subject or type of information.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Books

There are a number of books and stories that have been written about inventors and inventing - check out your local public or school library to see what they have there.

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