Call us on +44 1327 877774 or email

The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of the Last 100 Years

The last 100 years have seen science transform the world we live in. Almost everything in our day to day lives has been reshaped by new discoveries and the invention of precise scientific equipment to harness them, from breakfast cereals fortified with iron to smart phones running on microscopic processors.

We’re proud at Laboratory Precision to provide equipment that helps with scientific breakthroughs in surgeries, laboratories and and hospitals. From Precision Scales to Glass Vials and Specialist Air Compressors, we know how important reliable and safe equipment is to today’s scientists and lab workers.

Some of the discoveries that have shaped the modern world are the result of dedicated scientists refining their experiments over decades in their laboratories, others are one in a million chance encounters. However they were discovered, here’s a look at five of the scientific breakthroughs that have changed the way we live.


1. Organ Transplantation

Organ transplant

Organ transplantations are now commonplace

The earliest known record of anything that could be considered an organ transplant is a description of a skin graft in a two and half thousand year old Hindu text. However, the first successful full organ transplant wasn’t until 1950.

Carried out by Dr. Richard H. Lawler in Chicago, the first successfully transplanted organ was a kidney and the recipient was a 44 year old woman. The operation extended the patients life by 5 years and made it possible for similar operations to save millions of lives since.

In the 64 years since the first organ transplant, medical science has made it possible to transplant hearts, lungs and even entire faces. Today more than 4,500 people every year live longer and healthier lives as the result of an organ transplant in the UK alone.


2. Microchips

Apple Microchip

A Microchip from an Apple Computer

Microchips (or Integrated Circuits) have made modern computers possible. If you’ve used a laptop, a mobile phone or even a programmable microwave then you’ve seen the world that microchips have shaped.

Several scientists were talking about the idea of microchips as far back as the late 1940s, but it wasn’t until a man called Jack Kilby got the support of the US Army that the project looked likely to amount to anything.

Kilby, who later won a Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery, realised that integrating all the parts of an electronic circuit would mean you could build them much smaller than circuits made of separate components could ever be. On the 12th September 1958, he put his ideas into practice and the building block of the modern computer was born.

The first microchips contained only a few transistors, limiting what they could do. However, advances in precision equipment and microscope technology meant that, by 2009, the number of transistors in a typical microchip was several billion.

Without microchips, a device with the computing power of a smart phone would have to be bigger than the Empire State Building. We wouldn’t have mobile communication, satellites or even the internet.


. Wireless Energy

Nikola Tesla image

Nikola Tesla: A Genius that Revolutionised Modern Energy

Nikola Tesla has been dubbed ‘The Man Who Invented The 20th Century’. His inventions include the radio before Marconi, the X-Ray before Röntgen and even wireless electrical communication, now known as WiFi, but perhaps the thing he should be known best for is the wireless transmission of electricity.

Displayed several times during his life, Tesla was one of the first people to demonstrate wireless communication. After his death, a wirelessly controlled boat was found amongst his possessions. He also believed that electricity could be transmitted wirelessly too, and even lit the lamps of his New York apartment that way to prove it.

Sadly, Tesla died before his large scale wireless energy transmitter, known as the Wardenclyffe Tower, was finished. With it, the world could have had electricity without the need for wires, cables or a national grid.


4. DNA

DNA Double Helix

DNA: Double-Stranded Helix discovered by Watson and Crick in 195

Discovered by Jim Watson and Francis Crick at Cambridge University in 1953, DNA has completely reshaped our understanding of our own bodies and made possible huge advances in medicine.

Previously thought to be an unused part of our cells, Watson and Crick showed the world that the double-stranded helix contained the mechanism our bodies use to pass on characteristics.

As we unravel more of the genetic code hidden in DNA, and the equipment we have to do so becomes more advanced, we are discovering genetic causes for illnesses and enabling genetic testing. What’s more, scientists are convinced that this is just the beginning of our understanding of DNA.



5. Antibiotics

Alexander Fleming Invents Antibiotics

Alexander Fleming – Revolutionised Modern Medicine.

Discovered in 1929 by Alexander Fleming, antibiotics have made more of a contribution to medicine worldwide than any other single discovery.

Discovered in a petri dish in St Mary’s Medical School, penicillin lead the way for all modern antibiotics. First tested in World War Two, it protected wounded soldiers from infection and helped avoid thousands of unnecessary deaths. Later it allowed surgeons to pioneer new and more complicated operations because patients were protected from infection.

In the 1960s a new family of antibiotics was developed, bringing the reign of what some have called the ‘wonder drug’ into the 21st Century.