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The changes in the 1700s are the changes that laid the foundation for building the world we live in. "The Age of Enlightenment," Industrial Revolution, and the spread of capitalism all took place in the 18th century. 

It was the era of flourishment. The manual labor and predominant religious beliefs were challenged by science, machinery, and rational thought. The innovative minds started questioning the old ways and found a way to pave the path for progress.

Who are these brave individuals that dared to think outside the box? What kind of innovations had left the people in awe in the 1700s? That's what we are about to uncover.

Here are some of the most notable inventions and the exceptional innovators that stand behind them.


1. The Piano (Invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori)

The music enthusiasts and piano players have Bartolomeo Cristofori to thank for inventing the modern piano (the pianoforte). Cristofori was the keeper of instruments in the court of Prince Ferdinand de Medici. His discontent with not being able to control the volume level of the harpsichord was the trigger. Around the year 1700, he changed the plucking mechanism with a hammer and thus set the groundwork for the modern piano.


2. The Diving Bell (Invented by Edmond Halley)

Dr. Edmond Halley, known for the comet bearing his name, build the first diving bell. His invention used lead-lined barrels and leather tubes to supply air while the diver is underwater. He published the results of his finding in the Philosophical Transactions (volume 29, dated 1714) with a suggestive title: “The art of living underwater”. 


3. The Mercury Thermometer (Invented by Gabriel Fahrenheit)

The German physicist, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, first invented the alcohol thermometer in 1709, followed by his invention of the mercury thermometer in 1714. This thermometer is considered to be the first modern thermometer with a standardized scale. Accordingly, the standard temperature scale carries his name – Fahrenheit scale.


4. The Lightning Rod (Invented by Benjamin Franklin)

In his explorations of electricity and groundbreaking discoveries, Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1752. The idea was sparked (pun intended) with a desire to protect people and structures from lightning. His pointed lightning rod conductor or Franklin rod soon began to protect homes and buildings.


5. The Navigational Clock (Invented by John Harrison)

A self-educated carpenter and clockmaker from England, John Harrison, was the man who invented the navigational clock or marine chronometer in 1761. The problem of calculating longitude while at sea was no longer an issue. Harrison’s navigational clock successfully determined the ship's position by celestial navigation.


6. Soda Water (Invented by Joseph Priestley)

Naturally-carbonated water was no stranger to men since prehistoric times. However, the artificially-produced carbonated water (or soda water) was the invention of Joseph Priestley. In 1767, Priestley, an English chemist, started experimenting with adding gases in liquids. These experiments led him to the very first man-made carbonated water. In addition to being a chemist and inventor, Joseph Priestley was also a supporter of the French Revolution and an unorthodox philosopher.


7. The Steamship (Invented by Jacques Perrier)

A discovery that contributed to the success of the Industrial Revolution was the steamship. Jacques Perrier invented a ship that can be powered by steam in 1775. The coal transfer became cheaper for both the buyer and seller as the steamship run on coal. The coal converted water to steam that powered the steam engine.


8. The Submarine (Invented by David Bushnell)

The below-water inventions accompanied the above-water inventions. In, 1775 David Bushnell invented a submarine. Bushnell was an American inventor that is responsible for designing and building the first submarine. The first submarine that was used by the military was a one-man submarine named Turtle.


9. The Bifocal Eyeglasses (Invented by Benjamin Franklin)

Benjamin Franklin was a man of many inventions. Another one of those inventions was the bifocal eyeglasses. Now you have the contact lenses and fancy glasses that allow you to read literature essays here without even thinking about your vision problems. Franklin had to solve the vision problem on his own. He was both nearsighted and farsighted, thus, switching between different pairs of glasses was a tiresome necessity. That's until 1780 when he made a pair of glasses that could focus on the near regions with the bottom half of the lenses and far regions with the top half of the lenses.


10. The Hot-Air Balloon (Invented by the Montgolfier Brothers)

Joseph and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier were brothers as well as inventors of the hot-air balloon. They realized that the hot air is lighter than the cool air. With that in mind, they made their first air-balloon from paper and heated the air that launched it by burning wool. The very first flight took place in 1782 and the balloon reached an altitude of 985ft. In 1783, they launched a hot-air balloon with its first passengers: a duck, a rooster, and sheep. They rose to an altitude of 1,640ft and successfully landed. King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France observed this event.


11. The Battery (Invented by Alessandro Volta)

An Italian physicist, count Alessandro Volta, invented the chemical battery in 1799. Even though he made several discoveries in meteorology, electrostatics, and pneumatics, his most notable invention was the first battery. The battery, also known as the voltaic pile, managed to produce a steady and reliable electric current.  Interestingly, this great invention was motivated by a professional disagreement between Volta and Galvani over the galvanic response.


Final Thoughts

The innovators of the 18th century had impacted how people live, work, and think. Their inventions transformed the world and opened the doors to new possibilities. Thanks to their progressive thinking, the people had realized that change is possible.


Citation of Sources:

  • BBC. “Inventions and innovations in the Industrial Revolution.” Accessed February 22nd, 2021.
  • Duignan, Brian. “Inventors and Inventions of the Industrial Revolution.” Britannica. Accessed February 22nd, 2021.
  • Eisenman, H. J. “Overview: Technology And Invention 1700-1799.” Encyclopedia. Accessed February 22nd, 2021.
  • McCloy, Shelby T. French Inventions of the Eighteenth Century. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1952.
  • Powers, Wendy. “The Piano: The Pianofortes of Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731).” Met Museum. Accessed February 22nd, 2021.