When we think of inventions of the 20th century, the objects that
come to mind are the airplane, the automobile, the television, and the
computer. Not all of those were invented in the United States!
While America can claim the dishwasher, the electric guitar, and the
floppy disk as its own, there are things we take for granted today that
weren’t dreamed up by American scientists and engineers.
China is one of the world’s most ancient societies and they have
managed to accomplish quite a bit. Here’s a look at what the Chinese
gave the rest of the world.
The idea behind creating paper money was quite simple. It eliminated
the need to carry heavy copper coins. Paper notes first appeared in China
during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) usually as private issued bills
of credit or exchange notes. What’s interesting is that due to inflation,
the Chinese got rid of paper currency in the 15th century and didn’t start
using it again for hundreds of years.
Chinese alchemists invented gunpowder by accident, and there’s no
question that it has had an unprecedented effect on human history. Upon
mixing saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, they discovered that it exploded
when exposed to an open flame. Military forces of the Song Dynasty
(A.D. 960-1279) used gunpowder against their biggest enemy, the
Mongols. The rest is history.
The device we use to find our way through unfamiliar territory was used
in China as far back as the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC). In ancient times,
a compass was made with lodestone, or magnetite, that was carved in the
shape of a spoon and placed upon a bronze plate. The plate had carvings
of constellations and each of the cardinal points. It wasn’t until the Song
Dynasty that the compass was used as a tool for navigation. A dry
compass as we know it today wasn’t used in ancient China; rather, they
just put a needle into a bowl of water.
There are other amazing inventions that came from China. They include
the abacus, silk, and kites.