Invention refers to the creation of something that has never before existed. We are all surrounded by inventions -- after all, all human-made objects unless they were by-products of the creation of some other object, were invented at some point in history.
Bound books, metal cans, fabric, candles, telephones, tape -- all got their start in the minds and designs of people interested in making their lives and the lives of others easier, more productive, more comfortable, or more entertaining. Especially in Western societies we surround ourselves with a massive collection of inventions, yet, compared to the total number of things ever invented, this is a tiny fraction. Most inventions have long since been forgotten.
Even inventors like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, who are generally recognized for permanently altering society with their creations, invented many forgettable objects. Edison, for example, held 53 mining and ore-milling design patents. If it weren't for one or two of his other 1,000 patents -- such as the light bulb, Edison might very well belong to the long list of forgotten inventors.
Famous inventors like Edison, Bell, and a handful of others are the exceptions. Often, these inventors, or people close to them, played an important role in creating their fame through the intensive promotion of one or another of their inventions. Without such promotion, even if an invention could be useful and valuable, inventors and their creations more often than not fade into obscurity.
Have any of the technologies described influenced your life for the better? If so, in what way? Which of these technologies do you think made the biggest contribution to making work easier or life more enjoyable for a homemaker, a teenager, a farmer, and a bus driver? Think about everyday items that you use. Which one would you like to find out more about in terms of who invented it, how, and why?