How Breakthroughs Happen - The Atlantic

Vote for the Top Five Breakthroughs Since the Wheel

Please select five innovations for your list.

In the cover story of our November issue, The Atlantic asked a dozen scientists, historians, and technologists to rank the most-important technological innovations since the wheel. Their top 50 picks are below. See also James Fallows's analysis of their list. Now, it’s your turn:

Vote Here

Cast your vote for our reader-generated list by dragging your top five breakthroughs from the options below and dropping them into the template to the right.

Thank you for voting. See the full results below and share your results.
  1. The printing press
  2. Electricity
  3. Penicillin
  4. Semiconductor electronics
  5. Optical lenses
  6. Paper
  7. The internal combustion engine
  8. Vaccination
  9. The internet
  10. The steam engine
  11. Nitrogen fixation
  12. Sanitation systems
  13. Refrigeration
  14. Gunpowder
  15. The airplane
  16. The personal computer
  17. The compass
  18. The automobile
  19. Industrial steelmaking
  20. The pill
  21. Nuclear fission
  22. The green revolution
  23. The sextant
  24. The telephone
  25. Alphabetization
  26. The telegraph
  27. The mechanized clock
  28. Radio
  29. Photography
  30. The moldboard plow
  31. Archimedes screw
  32. The cotton gin
  33. Pasteurization
  34. The Gregorian calendar
  35. Oil refining
  36. The steam turbine
  37. Cement
  38. Scientific plant breeding
  39. Oil drilling
  40. The sailboat
  41. Rocketry
  42. Paper money
  43. The abacus
  44. Air-conditioning
  45. Television
  46. Anesthesia
  47. The nail
  48. The lever
  49. The assembly line
  50. The combine harvester

All Readers' Picks:

  1. The combine harvester
  2. Alphabetization
  3. The telegraph
  4. Paper money
  5. Air-conditioning

Atlantic Experts' Picks:

  1. The printing press
  2. Electricity
  3. Penicillin
  4. Semiconductor electronics
  5. Optical lenses


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