Who's Responsible for These Historic Achievements?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: Smith, Henry Wright, b. 1828, engraver; after a photo by Mathew Brad

About This Quiz

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” With those words, President Abraham Lincoln set the bar for American political eloquence and added to his legend. Do you know other major achievements in world history?

Sure, we all attribute electric light bulbs to Thomas Edison, one of the most famous inventors ever. But did you know that multiple people had already created electric lights before Edison? No matter, Edison is still credited with many other major innovations. Can you name them?

In the past couple of centuries, medicine has come a long way, helping people live longer and healthier lives. Do you know the men and women who changed the concepts of disease control and vaccinations?

The end of World War II gave rise to the Cold War and the Space Race between American and the USSR. How did the Space Race end? And who were the iconic astronauts who landed on the moon?

Take our amazing human achievements quiz now! You’ll reconnect with famous names like Marie Curie, Pablo Picasso and John Lennon — the kind of people who have forever altered human history. Maybe you’ll join their ranks by acing our quiz!

Cotton gin

In 1793, American Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which made it much easier to separate cotton fiber from its seeds. His invention revolutionized the textiles industry.


Mona Lisa (painting)

The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci, is the most famous painting ever. Is that a smirk? A demure smile? Only the master painter will ever know.



In 1886, pharmacist John Pemberton invented what eventually became known as Coca-Cola. He originally created the drink hoping to find a way to alleviate the pains of old war wounds, one reason the first versions contained narcotics.


"Hamlet" (play)

In the late 1590s, William Shakespeare created "Hamlet," one of the world’s best-known writings. It is still the benchmark in terms of tragic storytelling.



In 1891, James Naismith developed the game of basketball as to keep young athletes engaged during cold winter months. Little did he know, his sport would later blossom into the NBA Finals and March Madness.


Assembly line

Henry Ford perfected the assembly line concept. But it was Eli Olds who first conceived of assembly line processes to speed the production of automobiles.


Air conditioning

In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the air conditioner. His invention completely changed the way people live in areas with high temperatures (read: any place other than Siberia).


“I Have a Dream" (speech)

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. His rousing speech became a rallying point for the Civil Rights Movement.


“Thriller" (music album)

In 1982, Michael Jackson’s album "Thriller" gripped the entire world. Decades later, it is still the bestselling album ever, with perhaps 66 million copies sold.



Samuel Colt was the first person to mass produce the revolver, a semi-automatic pistol. His first attempts at revolver designs emerged in the 1830s.


Emancipation Proclamation

In 1863, as the Civil War raged, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery. Sadly, it would be years before slaves in the South finally saw freedom.



In 1800, Italian scientist Alessandro Volta invented the first electrical battery. At first, he thought batteries would last forever, but sadly, they must be replenished or replaced.


Printing press

In 1439, Johannes Gutenberg became the first person to use movable type on a printing press. His invention transformed human communications in every corner of the planet.


Theory of relativity

Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity upended astronomy and physics in the 20th century. Scientists the world over are still trying to figure out how Einstein’s theory plays into the nature of our universe.


Ball point pen

In 1938, Ladislo Biro patented the first ball point pen. We take it for granted now, but these pens made writing a much easier task.


“Mein Kampf" (book)

In 1925, Adolf Hitler published "Mein Kamp," an autobiography that spelled out many of his maniacal thought processes — the ones he’d later use to captivate Germany and launch World War II and the Holocaust.


First manned, engined airplane

In late 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright sent aloft the world’s first manned engined plane. Their rickety craft overhauled the way humans view transportation.


“Ave Maria" (song)

Austrian composer Franz Shubert wrote "Ave Maria" in 1825. Since then, it’s become one of the most famous compositions ever, recorded by countless singers.


Barbie doll

In 1959, Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll, which went on to become the most famous doll ever. More than 1 billion Barbies have been sold in the past six decades.



In 1877, American inventor Thomas Edison devised the phonograph. The first simple phonographs revolutionized the way humans recorded and played back audio.


First ascent of Mt. Everest

In 1953, Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay became the first people to summit Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest peak. Their feat made them instant international celebrities.


Smallpox vaccine

In the 1790s, British doctor Edward Jenner invented the world’s first vaccine, designed to thwart smallpox. His techniques almost immediately changed the way doctors treated many types of diseases.


First manned moon landing

Neil Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission that landed two men on the moon. He was the first man to step onto the moon, followed by Buzz Aldrin.



In the early 1800s, American Robert Fulton devised the first commercially viable steamboats. His invention completely changed transportation in the young country.


Four-minute mile (running)

In the history of humanity, no one had ever run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Then, in 1954, Briton Roger Barrister did just that, running a mile in just 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.



In 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin. It is now one of the most important antibiotics in the world, credited with saving untold millions of lives.



In the 1840s, a French gardener named Joseph Monier was looking for better materials for his flowerpots when he began developing what eventually became concrete. His invention now makes up countless structures all over the world.


“The Jungle" (book)

In 1906, "The Jungle," by Upton Sinclair, exposed the horrors of the meatpacking industry. His work caused a major shift in food-handling techniques and hygiene.


Artificial heart

Willem Kolff was one of the men who was instrumental in the development of the artificial heart. His first patient, in 1982, survived four months with an artificial heart.



Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Muller first synthesized DDT in 1939. His chemical (now reviled by environmental groups) was incredibly important during WWII, as it was used to kill insects that spread diseases. He won the Nobel Prize for his work.


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