World War II without any doubt was the most devastating war in the history of mankind. For the first time ever in a war, more civilians than soldiers lost their lives. In total, more than 50 million people were killed, including 20 million Russians, 6 million Poles (Polish people), and 6 million Jews. The war, which lasted from 1939-1945, involved every continent, and very few countries remained untouched by its massacre. However, in the hour of this fatal warfare, there were brilliant inventions made, some of which ignited the war and some ended it.
So, here is a list of top 10 greatest inventions discovered during World War II, which somehow changed or shaped the world in the aftermath.
As U.S. based Naval Engineer Richard James worked hard to use the extensive flexibility and agility of springs to store war based equipments at sea, he dropped one by accident and saw the spring bouncing on its rings in a fascinating manner. And the world renowned and popular play toy Slinky was born. During the World War II in 1943, and much after, the slinky was then modified upon to make it affordable, interesting and accessible to every kid in USA, resulting in sales of over 250 million. Now we know why the funny playful spring lasts for so long and endures being thrown the stairs a million times!
09. Jerry can
This simple sounding word, which we use for that effectively handled plastic container of motor fuel and cooking oil, is actually called Wehrmachtskanister in German. And that is not the only fascinating thing about this. Hitler himself had requested to initiate this invention to make transportation of fuel by hand more convenient. So, the best of German minds got together to make this simple, yet cleverly designed container which holds its day to day importance even now. The cross shaped area, built to enlarge the fuel capacity, combined with the multiple handles, make it transportable by more than one person.
08. Synthetic fiber/ oil
The Nylon clothes we now wear during winters? Those too were a WW II invention where the Du Pont Company finally found an alternative to the expensive bourgeois silk undergarments, which also were more resistant to tearing. It was then called the miracle fiber and later used in the war for making tents, ropes and other necessary utilities. In the upsurge of finding synthetic substitutes to natural materials, oil too was not spared and to reduce deposition of soot in oil radiators, scientists started blending adipic acid ester with poly(ethylene) oil.
07. Aerosol can
Isn’t it hard to believe that most of the companies earning a living by selling bug sprays and enchanting deodorants nowadays actually owe it to World War II? Americans, Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan took up this initiative in 1935 to fight the growing epidemic of malaria in USA and Phillipines. The modern style spray can was popularly called the bug bomb (just look at it) and was used extensively by the armies to save themselves from rodents at night. Next time someone asks you if they smell nice, tell them to thank Hitler!
06. Pressurized cabin
Anybody who has ever flown in an aeroplane would realize the importance of a complete temperature, oxygen and pressure controlled atmosphere inside (in spite of the inevitable aeroplane germs). And for that we must thank the year of 1944 when the United States sent the B-29 Superfortress airborne with the first ever mass produced system for regulating air pressure, and it was a boon to the pilots as they could now fly high altitudes without their passengers getting altitude sickness. Of course, there weren’t any air hostesses then to point out the oxygen masks to them!
RAdio Detection And Ranging or simply RADAR is the technology used to detect objects, their ranges and velocity using radio waves. Both the parties in the war had to have an advantage by locating the enemy aircrafts, ships and submarines and attacking them before the other party would. Although the idea of radio emission by objects was introduced long before the war, American and British scientists developed the first ever working model of the RADAR navigation system during WW II. This further helped to introduce the radio navigation system out of which the British GEE– a hyperbolic system was used in the WW II to produce the radio signals at fixed delays from the stations which were used in blind bombings. Now radio navigation system was further developed into satellite navigation system that gave birth to the modern day GPS system.
04. Spread Spectrum Technology
Hedy lamarr, nicknamed the most beautiful woman in films, was just more than a pretty face in the time of WW II. She is considered to be the inventor of the wireless technology based on which, today the whole world is getting connected. Hedy, in association with her music composer friend and co-inventor George Anthiel first created the secret communications system which manipulated radio signals at irregular intervals between their transmission and reception to prevent the classified messages from being decoded by the Nazis. This acted as the base for the spread spectrum in which the frequency of the transmitting signal is deliberately varied which results in a greater bandwidth of the system. This technology is responsible for the modern age computing networking systems such as Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth.
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics which is extracted from a fungi called pennicillium and one of the most frequently used antibiotics today. The discovery of penicillin was made in 1869 by Ernest Duchesne. However, it was not until 1939, during World War II, when the research led by Dr. Howard Florey along with Andrew J. Moyer proved the effectiveness of the drug. The soldiers of the allies used to get injured very badly and could not resist the wound. The discovery of the penicillin led to the elimination of infection causing bacteria which helped to heal the soldiers ahead of time, saved about 12-15 % of lives so that they could fight more battles in those busy days and for some to return home safely.
02. Enigma Machine
Enigma was Germany’s encrypted communications system which they thought was unbreakable. If you have seen the movie the imitation game you know about it already. The machine was made up of rotors which produced ever changing alphabetic representations. Britain’s Bletchley Park was the center for a long time where this invention of the Enigma code breaker happened. The Enigma actually had to be broken everyday as the Germans changed the codes around the clock. In 1939, Alan Turing along with a group of excellent code breakers invented the British Bombe and its different versions which successfully broke the daily changing Enigma code of the Germans and remained a secret for around 30 years. This breakthrough invention of the WW II led to many aspects of the computing technology those we use today including the development of Artificial Intelligence system which uses the Turing test .
01. Atomic Bomb (Nuclear Energy)
The atomic bomb changed the fate of every soul involved in the WW II. It was developed by a brilliant group of scientists which included names like Niels Bohr, Emilio Serge, Robert Oppenheimer, David Bohm etc. Albert Einstein wrote a letter to then US President Frank Roosevelt about a research going on in Nazi Germany about developing an atomic bomb. Despite this warning, it was only after the pearl harbor attack by the Japanese army in 1941, the US was aided by Canada, UK and scientists all over the world to work on a project under the name of Manhattan project. The Gadget, the first nuclear bomb was experimented on July 16, 1945 in Mexico. It was 2000 times more powerful than any other bomb used in the war so far. Following the tests, finally, in August 6 1945, a Uranium bomb called Little boy was dropped on Hiroshima city of Japan and 3 days later a plutonium bomb called fatman was dropped on Nagashaki in which around a quarter of a million people lost their lives. This finally led Japan to surrender and end the WW II. Today 10% of world’s electricity comes from nuclear energy. Its use in space propulsion has been responsible in the successful expeditions for astronauts into the outer space.