Change the Future

The Science Museum, London, is celebrating a century of science and as part of the festivities, it asked visitors to vote for the scientific discovery or invention that most “changed the future”.  The ten objects it put forward were:

1. Apollo 10 Capsule
2. DNA Double Helix
3. Electric Telegraph
4. Model T Ford
5. Penicillin
6. Pilot ACE Computer
7. Steam Engine
8. Stephenson’s Rocket
9. V2 Rocket Engine
10. X-ray Machine

And the winner was……the X-ray Machine, beating penicillin and the DNA double helix into 2nd and 3rd place respectively.  The discovery of X-rays in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen started a new era of medical diagnosis allowing medics to see inside living people without relying on surgery.  Today, the descendants of these first X-ray machines can almost measure what we think.

Amazingly, the particular X-ray machine shown was developed at home in under a year by Russell Reynolds while he was still at school.  He was assisted by his father, a general practitioner, and another inventor William Crookes.

Although some doctors were quick to pick up on the new invention it wasn’t until the 1920s that X-ray machines were widely used in medicine.

Making The Modern World is a complementary web site containing over a hundred scientific discoveries which helped shape civilisation.  Worth a browse.

What inventions today will have such an impact when we look back from 2109?