Did you know? - Fascinating facts and useful trivia factoids about people, products and places

Fast facts about inventions and inventors

| Animals | Arts & literature | Body | Earth & universe | Factoids | Food | History | Inventions | Money | Movies & TV | Music | People | Politics | Religion | Science | Sports | Statistics | Vehicles | War |


In 1894, Lord Kelvin predicted that radio had no future; he also predicted that heavier-than-air flying machines were impossible.

The word “sneaker” was coined by Henry McKinney, an advertising agent for N.W. Ayer & Son.

Charles Macintosh invented the waterproof coat, the Mackintosh, in 1823.

Air-filled tyres were used on bicycles before they were used on motorcars.

The paperclip was invented by Norwegian Johann Vaaler.

Music was sent down a telephone line for the first time in 1876, the year the phone was invented.

The can opener was invented 48 years after cans were introduced.

Traffic lights were used before the advent of the motorcar.

Optical fibre was invented in 1966 by two British scientists called Charles Kao and George Hockham working for the British company Standard Telecommunication.

The first neon sign was made in 1923 for a Packard dealership.

The first fax process was patented in 1843.

The Monopoly game was invented by Charles Darrow in 1933. He sold the rights to George Parker in 1935, then aged 58. Parker invented more than 100 games, including Pit, Rook, Flinch, Risk and Clue.

One hour before Alexander Graham Bell registered his patent for the telephone in 1876, Elisha Gray patented his design. After years of litigation, the patent went to Bell.

The hair perm was invented in 1906 by Karl Ludwig Nessler of Germany.

The first vending machine was invented by Hero of Alexandria around 215 BC. When a coin was dropped into a slot, its weight would pull a cork out of a spigot and the machine would dispense a trickle of water.

Leonardo da Vinci never built the inventions he designed.

Thomas Edison filed 1,093 patents, including those for the light bulb, electric railways and the movie camera. When he died in 1931, he held 34 patents for the telephone, 141 for batteries, 150 for the telegraph and 389 patents for electric light and power.

Count Alessandro Volta invented the first battery in the 18th century.

During the 1860s, George Leclanche developed the dry-cell battery, the basis for modern batteries.

Joseph Niepce developed the world’s first photographic image in 1827.

The very first projection of an image on a screen was made by a German priest. In 1646, Athanasius Kircher used a candle or oil lamp to project hand-painted images onto a white screen.

In 1894 Thomas Edison and W K L Dickson introduced the first film camera.

In 1895 French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere demonstrated a projector system in Paris. In 1907 they screened the first public movie.

The first electronic mail, or “email”, was sent in 1972 by Ray Tomlinson. It was also his idea to use the @ sign to separate the name of the user from the name of the computer.

In 1889, Kansas undertaker Almon B. Strowger wanted to prevent telephone operators from advising his rivals of the death of local citizens. So he invented the automatic exchange.