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Five Modern Inventions That Finally Solved Centuries-Old Problems



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The mark of any good invention is the speed with which it becomes indispensable in everyday life – and how difficult it becomes for us to imagine how we got by without them. Read about some inventions that kept people waiting for centuries, below.

  • The Bread Slicing Machine

While we may never be able to find out what, exactly, was the best thing before sliced bread, you may well be surprised to learn that sliced bread remains relatively new to the bakery scene. In fact, in an official sense, sliced bread remains less than a century old, having been released to grocery store shelves back in 1928.

The machine responsible for those revolutionary cuts was, however, first invented in 1917, but an unfortunate fire meant that people had to go without sliced bread for an additional nine years.

  • Antibiotics

We all remember the infamous story of Alexander Fleming’s seminal discovery of penicillin, but it can still be shocking to remember that bacteria-fighting antibiotics were totally unavailable to patients suffering from infections that, nowadays, seem relatively unthreatening to us.

Of course, less than a hundred years on, we are already grappling with a new demon: antibiotic resistance, and a new wave of superbugs our medications struggle to fight. Still, plenty of research is being invested into this area, and antibiotics remain invaluable to patients across the globe each year.

  • The Self-Retaining Retractor

The surgeon’s table has always been filled with all manner of tools and implements that, by virtue of their apparent simplicity, mask the centuries of thought, development, creativity and trial-and-error that have poured into their design.

The self-retaining retractor is one of those implements. While it may look deceptively simple, June Medical have recently made considerable improvements on the original design of the Lone Star Retractor. Its design – which enables the surgeon to make incredibly precise, single-handed adjustments in order to ensure their field of vision and ability to operate is uninterrupted – is the product of incredible innovation. It also addresses an issue that has plagued surgeons since the advent of surgery itself – ensuring good visibility during procedures, while being as minimally invasive as possible.

  • Toilet Paper

True to the tradition set by items on which we can come to rely on a daily basis, it is difficult for us to conceive of a world in which rolls of our favourite 4 ply paper are not readily available as and when we need them.

Unfortunately for those living prior to 1857, however, the option of using a soft and flushable toilet paper as we know and love it today was simply off the cards. This invention boasts all manner of predecessors, from sponges on sticks to literal newspaper, giving you yet another reason to be glad you exist in the twenty-first century.

  • Sunscreen

Our understanding of our own health has changed dramatically over the last hundred or so years. For one thing, some of us are old enough to remember a time when smoking was not yet considered to be that big of a deal of our health, or the health of others around us.

In a similar vein, the notion that the sun has a negative impact on our health – and that it can cause irreparable and, at times, life-threatening damage to our skin – remains relatively (and shockingly) new. Until that time, tanning was far more popular than it is today, with some people opting to smear cooking oils on their skin in order to maximise their chances of getting a golden tan.

A relatively primitive formula for sunscreen was first invented back in 1938. Unfortunately, uptake was far slower than it should have been, and some continue to eschew this vital product even now.


I'm Nikos Alepidis, blogger at motivirus. I'm passioned for all things related to motivation & personal development. My goal is to help and inspire people to become better.

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