Some of the forgotten inventions of the history of science are credited with revolutionizing the world. While they may have been ahead of their time and incredibly inconvenient, these inventions are important as relics of an era in human history.
10 Forgotten Inventions of the History of Science
Personal Nuclear Reactor
Chen’s story is one of the many stories of a world-changing invention that was almost forgotten. After graduating from the University of Science and Technology of China, he received his PhD from Indiana University and worked for Argonne National Laboratory, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Chen then moved back to China to build the reactor that would change the world. Chen was struck by the young energy scientists at his institute and the confidence they had in their work, which he hadn’t seen in U.S. nuclear circles for decades.
After decades of development, China has finally started manufacturing a nuclear reactor that is safe for personal use. The Shanghai Institute has been investigating molten salt-fueled reactors for nearly 30 years. But China didn’t start its first nuclear plant until 1991. The reason for the delay is that China did not have the money and expertise to develop advanced reactors. Instead, it relies on conventional nuclear power plants.
One of the most overlooked inventions in the history of the world is the electric car. Although it has made great strides in technology, the electric car was not adopted widely until the 1970s. However, there are many other forgotten inventions that have impacted the modern world. Here are some of them. They may surprise you! But they will surely inspire you to learn more about the past. And if you have some spare time, you can read more about them!
The electric car was once referred to as a “water-powered” car. But before this technology was developed, horse-drawn trolleys had already been used in cities. In 1935, a water-fueled automobile was demonstrated at White Rock Lake in Dallas. According to urban historian Sam Bass Warner, the electric car supercharged the growth of the metropolis. Working class people could use the crosstown lines to travel through the city. Meanwhile, the wealthier had the freedom to ride on the longest lines. Moreover, these suburbs were a sanctuary from the grueling industrial city.
Sloot Digital Coding
Jan Sloot is an engineer, inventor, and computer scientist who invented Sloot Digital Coding, one of the earliest technologies for electronic communication. He developed this technology with the help of an assistant called Roel Pieper, and the company suffered severe conflicts, including the suspicion that Sloot had secretly been leaking the code to other companies. Sloot eventually died in his own garden on July 11th, 1999. He had stored the technology on a floppy disk, but when he came to hand it over, he had forgotten to include it. The floppy disk was never found, and Sloot’s death is still a mystery, which has led to speculation of murder.
The Sloot Digital Coding System was patented in 1959, and was a breakthrough in digital coding. It claimed to compress an entire motion film into 8 kilobytes, orders of magnitude better than the best technology available in the 2010s. Unfortunately, Sloot died shortly before he could turn his invention into a commercially-available product. No one has been able to recover the full source code or verify
Cloudbusterthe technology’s capabilities.
The Cloudbuster is a pseudoscientific device created by Wilhelm Reich in the 1950s. Designed to manipulate “orgone energy” in the atmosphere, it could cause rainstorms and disrupt UFOs. However, after Reich mysteriously died two days before transferring the invention to his company, the project was abandoned. Even though Reich’s experiments produced a rainstorm, the technology has not yet been widely used, and the potential for catastrophic effects is still unknown.
Hemp has many benefits. It has a high oil content and is one of the most efficient biofuel crops. A single hectare of hemp can produce more than 800 liters of biodiesel per year, making it far more efficient than other biofuel crops. In addition, hemp plants contain 30% oil and are therefore perfect for conversion to ethanol. This means that hemp ethanol products are clean-burning and meet biodiesel standards.
Hemp biofuel was once called “the New Million Dollar Crop.” This article by Popular Mechanics magazine, published in February 1938, explained that the plant’s versatility made it a valuable industrial crop. It even featured a decorticator for separating hemp fiber from the woody stem. The magazine talked about hemp as a “green” alternative to gasoline and discussed its potential as an alternative fuel source.
Hemp is an ancient crop native to temperate regions of Asia. It was pre-adapted for cultivation in manure-rich soils around early settlements. The Chinese began harvesting hemp approximately 8500 BCE. In ancient times, hemp was valued primarily as a fiber source, and only had a small value as an oil-seed crop. In modern times, hemp growing is one of the most profitable industries in the 21st century.
The Rife Machine is an experimental device that works by delivering low energy waves to the body. Its creator, American scientist Royal Raymond Rife, believed that every disease has an electromagnetic frequency. Low-energy waves are applied to the hands and feet using electrical pads or plasma tubes. Cancer research UK warned that the device is not safe and that it should not be used as a substitute for conventional cancer treatment.
In 1934, Dr. Royal Rife created a machine that could impact away tumors. At the time, malignancy was thought of as an infection, so this invention helped the treatment of the disease. In addition to the use of laser light, this machine also induced a temperature change in the body. His treatment was successful for at least 14 patients with terminal malignancy. Unfortunately, the head of the AMA did not agree to accept Rife’s approach and used its resources to suppress his research.
Ogle’s Vapor Fuel System
In 1926, a young inventor named Tom Ogle developed a small device to replace the carburetor in vehicles. This device would give up to 10 times the MPG of a conventional car and increase its performance by as much as 1000%. In an effort to make his new invention more profitable, he sold it to a car company, but it never made it to the market. Today, hybrid cars are among the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road, but a new invention by Tom Ogle could change all of this.
Tom Ogle’s vapor fuel system was designed to replace the carburetor and the fuel pump. Then, vaporized gasoline would be injected directly into the combustion chambers. The concept was revolutionary in that it could theoretically go 100 miles on a gallon of fuel. While scientists were skeptical of the simple solution, it did achieve this feat.
Tesla’s Free Energy
Nikola Tesla is credited with introducing the idea of the “telegeodynamic oscillator,” a machine that could manipulate electromagnetic waves in order to produce manifestations of energy in free space. While Tesla never constructed an earthquake machine, his idea was still relevant today, as scientists and engineers are still using the same principles to create earthquake machines. In addition, Tesla proposed the creation of a “wall of light” that could travel through time and space.
Nikola Tesla was an American inventor best known for his contributions to the fields of electricity and magnetism. In fact, his inventions are the foundation for many modern alternating current electric power systems, such as polyphase power distribution systems, the AC motor, and other electrical devices. These inventions helped to usher in the Second Industrial Revolution. Nikola Tesla is regarded as one of the greatest inventors in history and is arguably the most influential innovator.
The first step in implementing his ideas was to develop a device that would transmit electrical power from one place to another without wires. This device, called a Tesla coil, would have produced a million volts of electricity. At the time, this device was so powerful that it burned the entire building of Tesla’s laboratory, and it could even plunge the entire town of Colorado Springs into complete darkness. Nikola Tesla’s idea was so far out of the mainstream that he had to seek funding for it from various institutions, including JP Morgan.
Water Fuel Cell
In 1838, a Welsh lawyer turned scientist named William Robert Grove created an improved wet-cell battery. The Grove cell employed a platinum electrode that was immersed in nitric acid and a zinc electrode that was immersed in zinc sulfate. By connecting the two electrodes in a series circuit, he was able to produce electricity and water. Grove’s device was known as a “gas battery” and his work was forgotten for years.
While it has been more than 150 years since Daniell’s work was first published, the technology is still not widely used today. Although they were considered a curiosity in the 1800s, they began to be the subject of intense research by the early 1900s. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of fuel cells, check out the specific pages on this site, including sections on the different types of fuel cells.
Historically, the arc of discovery has a tendency to lead to fresh insights, but the book points out that a major component of science is the “barking up the wrong tree.” Despite what we often see in popular science, cul-de-sacs and failures are essential parts of the scientific process, and they provide an opportunity to understand how we discover new things. The authors conclude with some great examples of these failures.