12 Everyday Items That Were Strangely Invented During Wartime

It’s undeniable that war is terrible.

Moving political agendas forward by using war (even to protect the citizens of a country) always results in tragic deaths. On the flip side, though, it can also create economic growth and some surprising inventions.

Necessity is the mother of all inventions, and that is doubly true during wartime. These items (some of which you use daily) were created during times of war. Did you have any idea?

1. Tabasco hot sauce

In the 1850s, a soldier gave his banker friend in New Orleans named Edmund Mcilhenny some delicious Capsicum hot peppers from Mexico. He was serving in the United States-Mexican war when he found them. The man loved the peppers so much, he planted them on his wife’s family’s plantation on Avery Island, just off the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Eventually, the Mcilhenny family used the peppers to create Tabasco Sauce. The sauce was eventually so popular, it was included in C-Rations for soldiers fighting overseas during World War I.

2. Individual tea bags

For soldiers on the front, it can be difficult to gain access to common food staples. Supposedly, in 1908, a U.S. tea importer named Thomas Sullivan accidentally invented the modern teabag by sending samples of his loose leaf to customers in small silk pouches. For the troops in World War I, this was a happy discovery, as they could then brew individual cups of tea.

3. Sanitary napkins

Kotex sanitary napkins were created as a result of the invention of cellucotton, which is a pulp by-product of processed sugar cane. The absorbent, but disposable, substance was used to dress soldiers’ wounds during World War I. Then, nurses used it for sanitary pads while stationed overseas. As a result, Kimberly-Clark began marketing Kotex disposable sanitary pads in 1920.

4. Hostess Twinkies

Originally, in the 1930s, Twinkies were made with a banana filling. During World War II, however, there was a sudden banana shortage and Hostess had to pivot. Instead, they created Twinkies with vanilla cream filling…which were a hit and led to the modern Twinkie.

5. Canned goods

The Emperor Napoleon and a chef named Nicolas Appert created a modern household staple: canned goods. In 1795, Napoleon was worried about getting food to troops that were off fighting his war. So, he offered a prize of 12,000 francs to any man who could find a way to safely preserve food. After 15 years of attempts, Nicolas Appert perfected the canning process.

6. Wrist watch

Although wrist watches were created before World War I, their regular use by soldiers made them extremely popular. Watches allowed officers to efficiently time their actions with others (without using visual cues and giving themselves away). Soon after the war, everyone in London was wearing a wrist watch.

7. Portable x-ray machine

At the beginning of World War I, the portable x-ray machine was invented and perfected by scientists. In particular, the famed scientist Marie Curie worked with countless teams to outfit Red Cross trucks with mobile field units. This technology eliminated many hours of travel time for patients with severe injuries, potentially saving their lives.

8. Blood banks

Before World War I, if a dying patient desperately needed a blood transfusion, doctors would need to find a willing and healthy patient to donate the blood. Thankfully, physicians soon discovered that, by adding sodium citrate to the blood, donated blood could last outside of a patient’s body without coagulating. Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson then created the first blood bank on the battlefield of France in 1917.

9. Duct tape

A woman named Vesta Stoudt was working at a plant during World War II when she noticed something alarming. The packaging of the cartridges she was inspecting was faulty. The paper tape sealing off the ammunition was hard to remove because it would rip, making it difficult for soldiers to quickly access the package’s contents in the field. As a result, she invented duct tape. Not only would it seal the boxes, but it could be removed without tearing.

10. Embalming

Although even early Egyptians were embalming their dead, it wasn’t until the Civil War that U.S. surgeons discovered how to preserve a body so that it could be sent home for a proper burial. It’s believe that a Dr. Thomas Holmes perfected the process and embalmed over 4,000 bodies of deceased Union soldiers.

11. Antibiotics (such a penicillin)

Penicillin’s creation may be one of the most important discoveries of all time. It was originally discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Sir Alexander Fleming, but it was in 1941 that doctors realized that Penicillin could be used to treat wounds for soldiers. After that, the limits and benefits of the drug were explored and it’s still used all over the world.

12. Instant coffee

The “essence of coffee” was created for Civil War soldiers in the 1860s. Small instant coffee cakes were given to Union troops as part of their rations. After that, the popularity of instant coffee exploded.

(via All Day)

The inventions that were a result of war don’t justify the violence, but it is fascinating what positive things can coalesce as a result.

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Did You Realize That These Super-Simple Inventions Actually Changed The World?

You might hear “invention” and think of that iconic light-bulb “a-ha” moment (a term that this author feels should go the way of the dodo). After sleepless nights of failure, the tormented genius leaps into activity and has an earth-shattering piece of technology ready for presentation by dawn (and mass production not too far into the future).

As usual, reality is less dramatic. Inventions are not singular events that spring up fully formed on their own. Rather, inventions build upon existing technology, and come about via tweaks, tests, re-tweaks, and re-tests. Technology evolves much like how a species evolves based on its past and present forms. Also, inventions are rarely created by just one person–there’s often a team behind them, and by working together, they’re able to create something new out existing materials.

Here’s a look at ten inventions that seem simple by our standards. We’ve all taken advantage of them at least once, and never thought about how different our lives would be if they were never made.

1.) Plow

We’re starting at the beginning here. The plow, developed in various places around the world about 10,000 years ago, is why humans have settlements. Before this, in the Paleolithic Age, humans traveled around as hunter-gatherers, finding what food they could. The plow made growing, and thus controlling, food supplies easier. Humans began to settle in places that became the cities, civilizations and cultures that we still have today. Everything you know about your history and culture more or less got its start here. We of course have no idea who, or more likely, which culture, developed the plow first due to its age. We do know that the adaptation from hunter-gatherer to farmer was pretty much a worldwide one, so we could attribute this to humanity at large.

2.) Wheel

Like the plow, the wheel is another invention that seems to have sprung up around the world. Some civilizations used them earlier than others, and even civilizations without wheels were capable of achieving pretty awesome things, including the Pyramids, Stonehenge and Machu Picchu. The earliest wheel and axel found dates to around 3100 BCE (about the date of Stonehenge’s construction), and is from near Ljubljana, Slovenia. The wheel allowed people to transport and manipulate large items for construction. It also allowed them to create vehicles which expanded travel and trade, leading to interaction between cultures. New interactions led to the creation of larger nations, which would come a bit later, when people figured out roads. Outside of travel, the wheel is also used in a lot of other technologies, such as water wheels, gears, cranks and pulleys and more.

3.) Printing Press

Most people think of Johann Gutenberg creating the printing press in 1430s Germany, but he only improved on preexisting technology. Block printing existed in China since about the 11th century, and the idea came back to Europe via Marco Polo. Gutenberg decided to incorporate a screw press, usually used for olive oil and wine production, and created more durable metal printing blocks than the wooden ones people were using. He also made advances in ink and paper. The result was that books, and the information within, became more accessible to people. Before, handwritten books were rare and were generally the property of the clergy and the upper class. Now that faster and cheaper production existed, the books could make it to more people. That meant that literacy rates increased and the population in general became more educated.

4.) Refrigeration

Refrigerating food to increase its shelf life is less modern than you thought. In the old days, people used the naturally cooler temperatures of subterranean spaces to store food (think root cellars). When they could, they used ice boxes, (literally boxes with ice in them) to keep things cold. The fridge started off simple, gradually improving for about 200 years. There existed a vapor-compression unit designed but never produced in 1805. The 1876 design by Carl von Linde became the ancestor of the modern fridge. As cooling chemicals became safer by the 1920s, they became a standard fixture in homes. They allowed food items to last longer, which allowed people to eat a more varied and healthier diet of fresh foods. The development of refrigerated trucks also allowed for food to keep fresh during shipping.

5.) Communications

Okay, so “communications” is a pretty broad term, and nowadays encompasses the telephone, radio, internet, and television. But each of these items stem from one device–think of them like related species on a genetic branch. The telegraph, developed by Samuel Morse in 1836 (yes, of Morse code fame), allowed information to travel in relatively short time, but over great distances. Morse’s invention served to connect people and cities to allow the sharing of information, while also required intricate wiring systems. Later, Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi developed electromagnetic waves used to send information wirelessly. This led to the way information transmits today–in real time, allowing people all over the world to watch events as they unfold.

6.) Steam Engine

Steam power was how the Industrial Revolution, the greatest change in the shortest period of time in the history of human civilization, kicked into full swing. People used steam to power things for thousands of years, but it was fully harnessed first in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen’s creation, a device used to pump water out of mines. James Watt modified Newcomen’s design in 1769 to make it more powerful and practical. Eventually, the bulky engines were small enough to put on trains, and the steam locomotive was born. This allowed the transportation of people and goods across far greater distances, and served to expand industry. The railroads were integral in the expansion of the continental US, shaping it into what it is today. Unfortunately, it contributed to the drastic reduction of Native American culture.

7.) Automobile

Car historians consider Karl Benz’s 1885 Motorwagen to be the first automobile. But it wasn’t until 1904 when Henry Ford made adjustments and came up with serious marketing hooks that the car took off, first in America and soon after in Europe. Cars became popular in an instant, allowing people to instantly travel to places otherwise too far. Towns and cities planned around automobile roads and access. Cars also gave rise to suburbs, more spacious than cities and thus requiring a vehicle. The auto industry created many, many jobs and a lot of money, but has also caused massive amounts of pollution.

8.) Light Bulb

Everyone thinks of Thomas Edison as the sole inventor of the light bulb. Like with everything else on this list, Edison was working with, and improving upon, existing technology. There were already plenty of cheap and efficient gas lights in use during the 1870s, when the electric bulb came into play. Letting people see in the dark without open flames was not the light bulb’s legacy. Rather, it gave way to the electric infrastructure that allowed more homes and businesses to connect to the grid.

9.) Computer

So, what is a computer? It’s a machine that can intake information, manipulate it in some way, and output new information. The computer went through many iterations over the years, and concepts for these machines date back to the 19th century with mathematicians and engineers like Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. Babbage designed a general-use, mechanical computer, and Lovelace wrote what would have been its first program, as well as the first computer program ever, if Babbage’s machine were ever built. In the early 20th century, Alan Turing developed many ideas that have been influential in computer development. Computers allow users to process vast amounts of information at extreme speed, making large-and small-scale research more accessible than ever. Computers in turn created space travel, medical testing and the mapping of the human genome, and are also used to create art and music.

10.) Internet

The Internet is the logical sum of computers and communications. It is now a staple of everyday life, even though it was only developed in the late 1960s, not widely used until the late 1980s, and not a fixture in every home the way it is now until the 1990s. It’s used for military purposes, medical applications, businesses, and academic research; for news (hello from ViralNova!) and for personal communication. It allows information to spread almost immediately from one corner of the world to another, including communication across oceans. While it’s become a major part of everyone’s life, it’s still a relatively new development for civilization at large, with computer scientists and developers still discovering its far-reaching impacts.

 

Can you imagine your life as it is today without any of these incredible inventions? What do you think will be the next big, civilization-changing breakthrough? It kind of makes you want to tinker with existing tools to find the next big invention…

Via Geniusstuff; images via Thinkstock

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