It is certainly tough to select the countries that have invented the most things in all human history because “things” is a very vague word and “all human history” is a long time span to cover. These conditions englobe virtually anything that society has found a use for, ever, so it can go from something as material and scary as the guillotine (France) to something as intangible (and unpatentable) as a democracy (Greece). Some inventions have been rendered obsolete with time, but in most cases, they have set the basis for many other inventions to come, so it’s my duty to evaluate these factors, in order to compile this super-interesting ranking for you.
One thing that can’t be overlooked is the fact that being an “innovative country” in the present does not exactly imply that they’ve always been so, that is why many of the most advanced countries in science today are not featured on this list. The older and wealthier the nations are, the more advantage they’ve got to make the ranking.
Often, when we think “invention”, we think “technology”, which is sometimes –but not always- the case. It is true that many real world problems can be solved with technology, but let’s not limit our language to that, and try to think further: what is an invention?
Since most dictionaries go for “something that was invented” (no sh*t, Einstein), I went through several definitions until I found one that pleased me, and here it is: “An invention is an outcome of any idea, device, method or composition of a process. It may be a new development or further improvement of the existing design.”
I find this to be a good definition because it talks about the process; not all inventions are what they were meant to be, things change in the process. It also implies that the evolution of an invention also counts as one, which is why you will see that some items are featured in several countries’ lists. It’s so silly, they’re all fighting over who invented TV, when they actually did it together. This says a lot about how the world works. The one thing this definition is missing, in my view, is “findings”, which I consider to (sometimes) constitute inventions as well, because not all of those are intentional. What makes an invention out of a finding is awarding it a purpose. If you need an example, think of penicillin.
As for the list of countries that have invented the most things in all human history, there’s are many-a-country (especially the most innovative today), who claim to be in the top 10, so making the selection was hard. To arrive at our definitive list, first I had to research forums, such as CanadianContent and Quora, and got some support from Worldknowing and Eupedia, which was very useful. For the last, I searched for each country on my list individually (link are found on each item), and I think I got a pretty satisfying result, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
So, has your country brought any good (or evil) into this world? Find out next!