Humanity conquered the natural world. We built roads and civilizations and then reached for the stars.
Here are 16 of the greatest human achievements throughout history.
We saw lightning and said, “I want some of that!” the greatest minds of the 20th century harnessed one of the most incredible powers on Earth to give us the luxuries we enjoy today.
The Written Word
Humanity’s ability to record our thoughts and ideas helped us achieve greatness. Scientists no longer had to start from scratch; they could build on the ideas of their forebearers.
The advances of the last few decades are all due to our ability to make natural materials think. Silicon, sand, and metals were all placed together to store and process information.
Humanity’s first massive achievement led to all the rest. When we learned to grow and harvest plants, we could build communities around our fields. No longer beholden to yearly rains and migration, we could put down roots and solve even more problems.
Before we harnessed electricity, we harnessed fire. Learning to make fire allowed us to cook food, light the way at night, heat our hairless bodies in the cold, and protect ourselves from predators.
Vaccines and Antibiotics
Once we mastered the macro world, we set our sights on the micro. Discovering that tiny organisms are responsible for most illnesses and finding ways to defeat them helped us all live longer, healthier lives.
Reaching the Moon
We’re the only known species to purposefully leave our planet in an attempt to explore the unknown. We conquered gravity by sending a man to the moon and returning him safely.
Where would humans be without mathematical reasoning? Our ability to create complex equations using observations of the natural world and simple numbers allowed us to achieve the most remarkable feats.
The Scientific Method
After we invented math, we created a process for developing and testing hypotheses using logic. The scientific method helps us build and test new theories every day.
We can talk to someone on the other side of the planet instantly. We’ve built a gigantic web of information where anyone can access any information anytime.
The Printing Press
Before the internet, we had the printing press, which allowed us to mass-produce books. Prior to the invention, very few could read and write because it was so time-consuming to reproduce books.
Splitting the Atom
Not only did we discover the basic building block of matter, but we split it open to learn how it works and harness the power inside.
We don’t consider how impressive literature is in our daily lives. But humans are the only creatures who make up stories. Our imaginations allow us to dream up new worlds, create characters, and use allegory to describe the world we live in.
From a non-fiction standpoint, our ability to consider the past’s connection to the present, explore abstract ideas, and think about how two very different ideas might be connected to create philosophical writings about our ultimate place in the universe is awe-inspiring.
Though we haven’t fully unlocked all the secrets of the universe, the theory of relativity was a giant step forward. We know now that many measurements depend on perspective.
We’re one of the only species that looks at the suffering of another and truly feels for it. Empathy allowed us to build communities and work together. We’d never have achieved anything without it.
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Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.