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: 20/01/21


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: Designed and built the first printing press using movable type and mechanised ink. This helped print a large number of books at a lower cost for the first time.

Josephine Cochrane: Invented the dishwasher .

Leonardo da Vinci: Made designs for inventions such as the flying machine, war machines and more.

Marion Donovan: Developed the first waterproof disposable diaper.

Margaret Knight: Invented the square-bottomed paper bag .

Thomas Edison: Worked with electricity , light bulbs , telephones, motion picture cameras and more.

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.

Chocolate chip cookies: Ruth Graves Wakefield.

Clock: Various inventors at different stages - from the 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).

Pencil: Prehistoric with various modifications through the centuries.

Plastic: Alexander Parkes.

Telegraph (wireless): Guglielmo Marconi.

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 Filter by fields such as electronics or transportation, or look for name alphabetically.
  • Each entry is a short biography of the inventor and what they invented.
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

This is an educational website on ancient history around the world. It had information about prehistoric and classical era inventions and inventors.

  • Use keywords 'Archimedes' to search for information.
  • Select the article Archimedes about this Greek mathematician and engineer.
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. 'Archimedes' We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

This website is from the History Channel. It has lots of information and videos on different topics.

  • Select Topics from the menu at the top of the page.
  • Go down the list until you find the Inventions & Science topic.
  • This page has links to famous inventors and inventions like the Wright Brothers and The Invention of the Internet.
Tips: Some websites have advertisements (or ads) which ask us to buy something or tell us to ‘click here’. AnyQuestions can't control which ads a website shows. It’s best to ignore these ads and focus on the information we’re looking for.


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.

EPIC resources

A good place to look for reliable information is EPIC, a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It is 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 a librarian on AnyQuestions to help you.

Britannica School

This is an online version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

  • Choose the level best suited to you.
  • Search for an invention or inventor eg wheel.
  • Or find inventors by selecting Biographies from the main page.
  • In the box for Known for, find the heading for Technology , and select Invention.
  • Select an inventor eg Hedy Lamarr, a famous actress who developed a device that is now part of cellphone, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technology.

Science (Gale In Context)

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

  • Search using keywords eg steam engines .
  • Limit your results by subject or type of information.

Biography (Gale In Context)

This database includes historical and current biographies of famous people.

  • Go to Browse People and from the Topics menu choose Inventors.
  • The list is in alphabetical order by surname.
  • Choose an inventor eg Louis Braille.
  • Or search using keywords such as Richard Pearse.
  • Limit your results by subject or type of information.

World History (Gale In Context)

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

  • Search using keywords such as clocks .
  • 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.


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.

SCIS no: 1919313

managed by
proudly supported by

Acceptable Use

Acceptable use means acting like a good citizen online. How you behave online should be the same as how you behave offline (in the real world). AnyQuestions is a free service, staffed by real people from libraries right around New Zealand. Please be respectful and polite to our librarians. We like helping people who show good manners :)

We may end a chat session if we think you are being inappropriate or misbehaving, this includes:

  • Using racist/sexist, offensive or obscene language.

    Please don’t use mean or cruel words when talking to or about someone else; whether they are a male or female, or of another race or skin colour. Obscene language means using words that would upset your grandparents!

  • Using the service to transmit messages that harass or threaten the operators.

    Please don’t be mean to our librarians or act like a bully.

  • Visiting an objectionable website while in session with an operator.

    An objectionable website means a website that you really wouldn’t want your grandparents looking over your shoulder at!

  • Deliberately time wasting in a way that denies service to other legitimate users.

    Time wasting means being silly and not working with our librarians. Time wasting means other students are not getting help, and that isn’t nice!

  • Any form of vandalism, including damaging computer systems or networks and knowingly introducing programs such as computer viruses and worms.

    You might be technically savvy and know about web viruses and worms and how they affect computers but please don’t spread these. It takes our attention away from helping you and other students.

  • AnyQuestions reserves the right to disconnect users at the operator’s discretion. AnyQuestions might also block access to the service for repeat offenders.

    If you act like a troll then we’ll end the chat. Remember everything digital or online can be traced and we can track it back to where you came from and/or your school. If you misbehave on AnyQuestions then we will be in touch with your school or we will block you from accessing AnyQuestions.