20 Most Sensational Engineering Developments of the 20th Century
There is no denying that engineering gets much of its emphasis when things go wrong. Take calamitous incidents including the tragedy of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez, the failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and the shuttle crashes of the Challenger and Columbia. They also do so sadly when engineering businesses collapse.
Failure, however, can be the true mother of invention; dealing with malfunctions most often leads to discoveries and adjustments.
The National Academy of Engineering published a list of the twentieth century’s greatest engineering accomplishments in 2000. A joint initiative led by the National Academy of Engineering with the American Association of Engineering Societies, National Engineers Week, the National Society of Technical Engineers, and 29 professional engineering societies is the Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century. Many of the options in the list seem obvious, which clearly shows how these breakthroughs have become important to our lives.
1. Electric power
As they developed fuel sources, power generation methods, and transmission grids, thousands of engineers made this possible. Today, the large electric power networks of the developing world. Electric power makes our lives safer, healthier, and more convenient, from streetlights to supercomputers.
Revolutionary manufacturing practices have made automobiles more durable and affordable for the public, making the automobile the largest mode of transportation in the world and a symbol of personal freedom. Many years later, cars continue to be a powerful driver of economic development and prosperity. The car is a display of engineering ingenuity of the twentieth century, with numerous advances made in design, manufacturing, and safety.
Tech creativity and imagination have driven the airplane’s evolution from the Wright Flyer to autonomous military jets. This breakthrough has made the planet more available, both products and people transported and globalization stimulated.
A simple turn of the tap provides clean water for towns, farms, households, and factories, a precious and essential resource. Engineering developments in processes for water storage, supply, and distribution have avoided the spread of waterborne diseases and improved life expectancy in developed nations.
5. Solid-State Electronics
From vacuum tubes to transistors and integrated circuits, electronics continue to shrink in size and, thanks to engineers, expand in power and performance. From portable DVD players to your mobile phone, iPad, and other devices, they underlie countless inventions, making everyday life more comfortable and more connected.
6. Radio and TV
These developments have provided us with a window into other lives, various areas of the world, and dramatic events that have defined the course of history. Engineers have changed how the world receives information and entertainment, from the wireless telegraph to today’s sophisticated satellite systems.
7. Modern Farming
Agricultural machines, including tractors, farmers, and combines, have brought agricultural production and productivity to a new level, resulting in a much greater, cleaner, and more affordable supply of food.
The machine has changed industries and lives on a global scale as a defining emblem of twentieth-century technology, replacing many small tasks and allowing new functions. Ingenuity in engineering fuelled this revolution and continues to create computers every day that are faster, stronger, and more affordable.
The way the world interacts socially and in the company has been influenced by this pillar of modern life. Engineers continue to respond to the call for creativity, from switchboards and satellites to copper wire and fiber optics or near-instant Internet connections.
10. Cooling and Refrigeration
This advance is underpinned by hundreds of technological advances. It increases the shelf life of food and medication, preserves electronics, and plays an important role in the delivery of healthcare by offering much more than convenience.
11. Interstate Highway System
One of the most remarkable accomplishments of that period, facilitating the delivery of goods and personal mobility, was the development of 44,000 miles of US highway in the twentieth century. The roads, bridges, and tunnels which link our communities were built by thousands of engineers.
Thanks to our forays into outer space, the horizons of mankind have been immeasurably extended. Also, tens of thousands of new goods and services on Earth have been inspired by the space program, including medical equipment, advanced weather forecasts, and wireless communications. Human extension into space is probably the most impressive engineering achievement of the twentieth century, from early test rockets to advanced satellites.
13. World Wide Web
The Internet is now global networking and knowledge infrastructure of unprecedented access, redefining corporate practices, educational pursuits, and personal communication, built through a series of engineering developments. What started as a tool for linking computers in research centers is now a critical tool for social change.
14. Digital Photography
Imaging developments of the twentieth century have provided us with incredible new views of the ocean floors, our world, and distant galaxies within the human body, revolutionizing medical diagnostics and beyond.
15. Consumer Appliances
These devices, including electric ranges, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, and dryers, have made certain tasks simpler, more effective, and less time-consuming to relieve much of the work of daily tasks, contributing to a rise in people employed outside the home.
16. Healthcare System
Astounding health advances have led to the mass development of antibiotics and artificial implants. It can be credited with enhancing the quality of life of millions of such manufactured goods, from artificial organs, replacement joints, imaging technologies, and biomaterials.
17. Petrochemical Industry
Petroleum products have had an immense influence on everyday life, driven by engineering developments in oil discovery and refining. Of course, while petroleum provides fuel for vehicles, houses, and factories, in goods ranging from aspirin to zippers, petrochemicals are used.
18. Fiber Optics
Laser beams of light are applied to industrial instruments, non-invasive surgical equipment, satellites, and other items. The infrastructure is now provided by highly pure glass fibers to carry information through laser-produced light. And a single fiber-optic cable may allow for almost simultaneous communication and media around the world.
19. Nuclear Power
The harnessing of the atom brought us a new electric power source and new medical research and imaging capabilities. Although contentious, one of the most significant achievements of the preceding century remains the engineering work that went into the development of nuclear technologies.
20. Synthetic Materials
Engineers have customized and improved properties, from iron and steel building blocks to the latest developments in polymers, ceramics, and composites, producing higher-quality, lighter, tougher, and more adaptable materials for thousands of applications, including aircraft, medical devices, and computers.