Vote here for America's greatest innovation The miracle fiber known as Kevlar is now used in bulletproof vests and is credited with saving thousands of lives. Here are 10 American-made innovations that helped change our world. The most common mechanical stitch today is stitching, thanks to three 19th century inventors named Walter Hunt, Elias Howe and Isaac Singer. Walter Hunt invented the first closed-knit sewing machine in 1833, but was unable to patent the design.
He feared that his invention would create mass unemployment among seamstresses. Some 13 years later, Elias Howe reinvented the machine and applied for a patent, but failed to bring the sewing machine to the market. Although there were 22 inventors of incandescent bulbs before Thomas Edison, including British physicist Sir Joseph Swan, Edison's invention was by far the most effective for commercial use on a large scale. After the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago became a hub of daring architectural experiments that gave rise to the skyscraper.
Thanks to this construction method, skyscrapers can reach immense heights, such as those of the Burj Khalifa (2,722 feet) in Dubai, currently the tallest in the world. While the 1920s were good for business after World War I, the company suffered during the Fall of Wall St of 1929 and the Great Depression. It wasn't until the booming 1950s that air conditioning began its enormous growth in popularity. The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright, of Dayton, Ohio, made the first propelled and sustained flights under pilot control on Wright Flyer I on December 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
American businessman Clarence Saunders opened the first true self-service grocery store in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee, and called it the Piggly Wiggly Store. The world's first electric guitar was designed in the early 1930s by musician George Beauchamp. Decades later, this instrument has radically changed music and sound forever. Listen to Vernon Reid, guitarist of the band Living Colour, explain why the electric guitar is America's greatest innovation.
The sewing machine was invented in 1846 by Elias Howe in Massachusetts. Nowadays, sewing machines are used by countless artists, designers and hobbyists. Listen to Deborah Nadoolman Landis, a Hollywood costume designer, explain why the sewing machine is America's greatest innovation. In the 1960s, chemist Stephanie Kwolek set out to develop a material for tires, but inadvertently created something five times stronger than steel.
The miracle fiber known as Kevlar is now used in bulletproof vests and is credited with saving thousands of lives. Hear Ray Kelly, former commissioner of the New York Police Department, explain why Kevlar is America's greatest innovation. In 1898, American engineer Miller Reese Hutchinson patented the world's first battery-powered hearing aid. Today's models are small, discrete and extremely sophisticated, and are suitable for millions of people around the world who suffer from hearing loss.
Listen to Richard Einhorn, an American composer, explain why the hearing aid is America's greatest innovation. Ferris wheels are a quintessential feature of American amusement parks. Dental floss was introduced in 1815 by Parmly, a New Orleans dentist. It was originally made of silk, unlike today's dental floss, which is made of nylon or plastic.
Closable cabinets, and then zippers, play an important role in maintaining the practicality of modern fashion. Headphones help amplify the sounds of people with hearing problems, giving them the opportunity to live a safer and stronger lifestyle. Apple, IBM, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are well-known names in the world of technology these days, but a relatively unknown man named John Blankenbaker is credited with inventing the world's first personal computer. Blankenbaker pioneered the frontier of computing when he built the Kenback-1 digital computer in his California garage.
In 1971, the athletics coach and co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, was looking for a lightweight, cleat-free sneaker that would have a good grip on various surfaces. One morning, he poured rubberized liquid into his wife's waffle maker and the waffle sole was born. The shoe was so successful that Nike still sells Waffle Trainers to this day. As a young student at the University of Illinois in 1971, Michael Hart changed the world forever with the invention of the e-book.
Hart came up with the innovative idea after finding a physical copy of the Declaration of Independence, which he decided to write and send to other users of the university's network. The Gutenberg Project, one of the largest collections of free e-books online, was another of Hart's many achievements. From the earliest colonial times, new ideas and new ways of thinking have been an engine of growth for the United States, transforming it into an industrial and technological power and into the largest economy in the world. To see more American inventions and innovators looking to make a difference in the world, check out 26 companies that are doing good deeds with their money.
Probably the most controversial claim to be the true inventor of the telephone was Elisha Gray, an American electrical engineer from Ohio. However, numerous reincarnations of the wheel have been created, which remain a staple of American theme parks and fairs to this day. Traffic lights were invented in the United States, but they give credit to the first one, which was Garrett Morgan, not Lester Wire. Listen to Chris Catrambone, an American businessman who rescues migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean, explain why GPS is America's greatest innovation.
Hear Melinda Gates, philanthropist and wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates explain why the mobile phone is America's greatest innovation. There are many other impressive inventions (both non-American and American, of course) that haven't been mentioned here, but these 20 stand out. Developed by PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, the site's user-friendly and shareable format has been a key factor not only in American culture, but also in global events, from the Arab Spring uprisings to the rise of Justin Bieber. .