10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Words of wisdom have been used by the philosopher Plato for centuries to indicate that when something becomes indispensable to survival, we all find a way to achieve it. So here are 10 of these amazing stories you may not have heard before that back up the proverb and are examples that pop up when necessity comes, great ideas and discoveries follow soon after.

1 Painter Samuel Morse invented Morse code to speed up communications after feeling frustrated at not being able to be with his wife when she died.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
Morse code invention

In 1825, Morse’s wife died in childbirth, and Morse could not be with her or attend her funeral because of the delay in receiving letters bearing the news. Years later, this despair was still on his mind when he had the idea of ​​an electromagnetic telegraph that could speed up communication. Morse’s invention, with its dots and dashes code, changed the speed of communication from days to seconds.

“What did God do?” These famous words were the first Morse code message sent in the United States on May 24 and officially opened the Baltimore and Washington telegraph line in 1844.

2 Candido Jacuzzi invented the Jacuzzi after his 15-month-old son developed rheumatoid arthritis and a doctor recommended hydrotherapy.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
The motivation behind the Jacuzzi invention. Image credit: jacuzzi.com

Candido Jacuzzi used his knowledge of hydraulics to create the J-300 portable water pump for the shower in their home to treat his son’s arthritis pain. When doctors recommended hydrotherapy for his young son, the only facilities available were large public water tubs at hospitals or spas. The jacuzzi bathtub became instantly popular. He marketed this whirlpool tub a few years later and installed it in homes, clubs, and recreational centers, both indoors and outdoors. The jacuzzi pump was portable and could turn any ordinary bathtub into an invigorating rejuvenating spa.

This invention eventually launched the wellness industry, where the Jacuzzi or spa was not only used for health purposes but also for self-care.

3 Almon B. Strowger invented the first automated telephone exchange when his competitor’s wife at the telephone office started redirecting Strowger’s calls to her husband’s business.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
Automated telephone exchange. Image credit: Wikimedia

Strugger’s story is a classic example of necessity as the mother of invention. He was one of only two undertakers in the city. But he began losing his business because his competitor’s wife, who worked at the telephone exchange, began robbing all of his clients by forwarding Strowger’s client’s calls to her husband’s business. Isn’t that unfair? Frustrated, Strowger invented the first mechanical telephone exchange, eliminating the need for operators. Strowger also developed a rotating dial, which makes it easier to call someone directly by rotating the dial a certain distance. Despite this, he called his invention “less girls, less damn, less tidy, less wait.” It revolutionized telephone technology for years to come.

4 The French military invented Braille for nighttime communication as soldiers were killed for using flashlights after dark. This inspired 11-year-old Louis Braille to create the simplified version used today.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
Louis Braille. Media credit: britannica.com

Louis Braille was inspired by Charles Barbier of the French Army, who invented this system of writing and reading, using dots, without the need for sound and light. This was used to communicate on the battlefield and save the lives of soldiers who kept getting killed due to the use of lights after dark for combat messages. Barbier wrote to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris about the possibility of this invention to help blind people learn and communicate. Braille, a student there, was inspired by this method and simplified it with a six-dot “cell” system in 1824. Braille has now been adapted as the official language of communication for the blind all over the world.

5 Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented the first efficient snowmobile when his two-year-old son died of peritonitis, unable to get to the hospital in time because of the snow.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
The motivation behind the first snowmobile. Image credit: Edgar Lee Espe/shutterstock.com

Canadian inventor Joseph. A.Bombardier was a genius who started developing his version of the snowmobile from a very young age. But it was not until his son’s death in 1934 that he redoubled his efforts, invented the cogwheel system, and developed the world’s first snowmobile. Snowmobiles were called “B7”, with “B” standing for “Bombardier” and “7” for the number of passengers they could carry. By 1940, Bombardier had improved the model to near perfection through innovation and mechanics. His company, L’Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitee, soon became very successful producing not only snowmobiles but also all kinds of winter and all-terrain vehicles.

6 In 1991, many trips to the coffee pot led computer scientists Dr. Quentin Stafford-Fraser and Paul Gardetzky to invent the world’s first webcam that let everyone know when the pot was full.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
First webcam. Image source: cl.cam.ac.uk

The invention of the webcam is a story born out of laziness and necessity. In a computer lab at the University of Cambridge, a team of researchers has had to make several disappointing trips to a coffee pot, only to find it actually empty. To make life easier, Dr. Fraser and Paul Gardetsky set up a camera that takes pictures of the coffee pot about three times a minute. Then they set up the software for all of the researchers to allow them to access those images on their local network. This saved time, increased focus on studies and, of course, saved them from many fruitless trips through the floors.

7 Tim-Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web to make sharing information easier, as he had to constantly go to other computers to get information and add it to his own.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web. Image Source: Uldis Bojārs/CC-BY-SA-2.5, Chris Dlugosz/CC BY 2.0

Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN when he came up with the idea for the World Wide Web. At CERN, scientists from different universities brought their computers. Thus, the exchange of scientific knowledge proved very difficult. Every time Tim wanted to access information, he had to go to his colleagues and add their information to his computer. This caused him to desperately search for a way in which there could be a single information system accessible to all. In 1989 Tim brought three different ideas together. In his own words, “I just had to take the idea of ​​hypertext and connect it with the ideas of TCP and DNS and…, Ta-da! — the World Wide Web.” Tim also owns three core technologies that are still the foundation of today’s Internet – HTML, URL, and HTTP.

8 John Boyd Dunlop invented the first pneumatic tires in 1888 to ease riding after his son complained of headaches while riding his tricycle on uneven ground.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
First pneumatic tires. Image credit: Engstfeld-film.de

John Boyd Dunlop, a veterinary surgeon, bought a tricycle for his son. In those days, because of the gravel roads, the hard tires of the tricycle were uncomfortable for the riders and caused his son to get headaches. This gave Dunlop the idea of ​​using an inflatable rubber tube to ease the ride. He took his son’s tricycle, wrapped the wheels with rubber sheets, and glued them together. Then he pumped up the tires with a soccer ball pump. Thus was born the “pneumatic tire” rubber tube, coined by Dunlop himself. Subsequently, Dunlop tires became a global phenomenon and a very successful business venture. So, his success story started on three small wheels instead of four.

9 James Harrison invented and patented the world’s first mechanical ice machine in 1854 because importing ice from the US and Norway became too expensive.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
First mechanical ice-making machine. Image credit: museumsvictoria.com

Did you know that before James Harrison, an Australian born in Scotland, invented the first mechanical ice machine in 1854, everyone was still using ice boxes and harvesting snow? His ice machine soon evolved into a vapor compression refrigeration system which he patented as a refrigeration machine in 1855. Harrison’s machine could produce 3,000 kg of ice per day. The first commercial use of this invention was in the refrigeration of beer.

10 Theophilus Van Kennel invented the revolving door as an airlock to prevent cold air from entering buildings, but also because he didn’t like doors for women.

10 classic examples that prove necessity is the mother of invention
Revolving door. Image credit: National Inventors Hall of Fame

There is a rumor that Theophilus van Canel did not like to hold women’s doors. This is what inspired him to invent the turnstile in 1888 that allowed women to pass through on their own. He invented the three-way storm door with a weather vane that kept cold and cold winds from entering warm buildings. The doors also closed the street fumes and noise. Van Kannel’s revolving door business was later purchased by International Steel, and that company still exists today as the International Turnstile Company.

All because he didn’t want to open a door for a woman!


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