History shows that most inventors of groundbreaking new technologies, for example, the light bulb or the telephone were not actually the first to invent this technology and that there were actually lots of teams in the world working on the same problem at the same time. For example Elisha Gray filed a patent application on the exact same day as Alexander Graham Bell for the telephone.

My question is: is there any historical precedent for someone inventing a new technology many years before anyone else?

I have searched for an example of this for quite a long time but can only find the opposite.

The example directly from my world is a mega corporation secretly inventing genetically modified super humans 50-100 years before anyone else (a plot device design to keep the number of genetically modified humans small).

Is this plausible with reference to any examples from our own history on Earth?

Many worldbuilders, myself included, wish to create worlds that are plausible to our human audience. This is made easier if there is evidence of some point in human history that is the same as our world's claim.

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    $\begingroup$ nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7119/full/444534a.html Here's a great article about the Antikythera Mechanism that basically appears to be a thousand years early $\endgroup$
    – skeletim
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ This question should be migrated to history.SE $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ 50-100 years before anyone else - probably not viable, just go usual trope - accidentally discovery, secret ingredient. As you noticed there are more independent discoveries in same time in recent time, and what you are looking for in ancient time. It is for the reason, knowledge gets more complex. AI as plot will work fine too)) $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, the native americans had quite a bit of high tech well before our time. Field-strip weapons, metallurgical techniques, weaving techniques, bio-manipulation techniques, and so on. Quite a fascinating area of study, actually. $\endgroup$
    – nijineko
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ That sounds similar to the novel Influx by Daniel Suarez about a secret government agency that keeps advanced technology hidden from the general public. $\endgroup$
    – JBCP
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 15:25

16 Answers 16


The first example that pops into my mind is Hero of Alexandria. He was close to two millenia early with a lot of his ideas, but it is worth noting that nothing he made became more than a toy. He had great ideas for steam-engines, but without the metallurgical knowledge to make them effective (i.e. having a high pressure), or windmills without the economic necessity to deploy them (i.e. windmills cost more than slaves).

Another example would be Leonardo's myriad sketches of gyrocopters, war machines, and hydraulics; again most of which never became more than toys.

A different sort of example is the many things that were 'invented' in China, but never reached industrial potential until the Europeans got their hands on them. Gunpowder, printing, and the blast furnace are three good examples of things that were invented in China, and existed there for centuries, but didn't change the world until they were utilized in Europe.

That is the primary problem with developing something 'ahead of its time;' it is ahead of its time precisely because materials technology is insufficient to produce it (in the case of gunpowder, the chinese didn't make bells like Europeans, so they didn't have the skills to cast effective cannon), or economics are insufficient to utilize it (for printing, there was no literate merchant class in China with a demand for new books...and new ideas).

Here is a scenario: lets say your 'mega-corporation' is constructing Iron Man style fighting suits instead of Captain Americas. They go through all the effort of software engineering a perfect control system that reacts immediately to the user's actions, provides a heads-up display just like in the movies...and then they deploy it and it runs out of battery in about 15 seconds because Arc-Reactors aren't a real thing. The thing is, if Arc-Reactors were a real thing, how many other inventions would already have been made using the power of the Arc-Reactor, and after all those inventions are made, will we still need an Iron Man suit?

That should summarize the problem of the ahead of time invention. If this corporation invented a super-soldier serum, one of the first steps might be a serum that helped heal wounds. Well, that by itself is a product worth billions. If they decided to monetize those billions to fund their super-soldier research, then the rest of the world is now one step closer to their own super-soldier serum.

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    $\begingroup$ "the chinese didn't make bells like Europeans, so they didn't have the skills to cast effective cannon". Fascinating. $\endgroup$
    – isanae
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ so we need a megacorporation that has been advancing only slightly faster than the modern world for a long time, and probably profiting from some of the things it invents to sustain itself. Perhaps many of the greatest inventors were members of this corporation, and became great thanks to the companys resources, and in return limited the release of their inventions until the company was a few steps ahead of it. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Isanae In my personal opinion, that is the most under-appreciated factoid of history. Casting a large cannon so that it doesn't burst under repeated stress is very hard. No one ever figured it out except having previously made a similar sized object from the same metal subjected to similar repeated stresses. The Chinese and Muslims made hand cannon, but those primitive weapons were no better than a bow and a technological dead end. They needed to be scaled up to city wall-destroying size in Europe to be useful, then advances in boring and gunpowder allowed them to shrunk back down. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ It might work the other way around, though. If the company manages to succesfully build the Arc Reactor, they can suddenly develop a bunch of stuff that was thought up but never constructed, and they'll be seemingly decades ahead of everyone else when in reality, all they developed was the missing piece of the puzzle. You'd need ideas that have been worked out in theory, but can't be applied, and then fill in the last little gap and suddenly you will SEEM to be way ahead of everyone. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ Re: the Chinese and the printing press: It wasn't necessarily that there was no demand for books. It was that the removable-type press was not feasible for a language that is written with some thousands of distinct characters. The amount of little blocks they needed just to have a minimum number of the most used characters was huge. It was more practical to either copy by hand, or carve a whole page into the block. $\endgroup$
    – senschen
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 11:28

Yes, it is. There are some historical examples (that I just pulled out of the hat, no proof or sources):

  • Black powder was invented and weaponized in china a long time before it became known in Europe.
  • Mathematics and medicine were on a higher level in Arabic countries than in Europe before the age of the crusades.
  • Rocket and Jet engines were developed and used by the nazis a while before the rest of the world had them
  • Same with long-range missiles (the dreaded V1 and V2)
  • Tanks were deployed in WWI and were a complete surprise to the opposing forces

Also, there is a difference in KNOWING about and DEPLOYING technology. When WWII started, the Germans attacked Poland with tanks, planes, and machine guns, while their poorer neighbours could not fight back properly, sometimes being as desperate as to charge their enemies on horseback... Seems above sentence is disputed regarding its accuracy. While I do agree that a part of my text does not reflect historical facts properly (after doing some research, I was especially impressed with the cavalry usage actually being fairly effective), it's not completely wrong either (as in machine guns pretty much ended the era of horse warfare), so I would like to add some source so everyone can make up their own mind: Wikipedia Link

Basically, the further you go back in history, the more probably and the easier it is for a technology to be in the hands of only one party. Geographical distances, limited trade and a lot of other factors made it hard for technology to be "passed on". And if something was regarded secret, it was even easier to control these few humans. By locking them away.

In our digital age, it becomes much harder to keep something secret, because spies also have better options for finding it, and our reverse-engineering power is enormous.

But yes, I think it is actually possible to hide a new invention. The question is: for how long can you hide it? And in our current age, I'd always go with: not very long. Years at max, decades? I don't think so.

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    $\begingroup$ :"Rocket and Jet engines were developed and used by the nazis a while before the rest of the world had them" Not really. The Italians had a working jet engine before the Germans, they just didn't realise the potential. The British had one on the drawing board, they just lacked the funding to build it. The Americans were just months behind. All were also pretty close in rocketry (though going in different directions, the Germans going BIG as with everything, the allies going small for launching from ships and aircraft). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ "When WWII started, the Germans attacked Poland with (...), while their poorer neighbours could not fight back properly, sometimes being as desperate as to charge their enemies on horseback... " - cavalery division in Poland were used more like motorized or helicopter infantry units. They were elite units which had access to then-modern anti-tank weponery (see Wz. 35). Charging was mainly used in Nazi propaganda films though AFAIK they were used (once?) to break out of encirclement with horses. For added irony IIRC Nazi did have cavalery units as well... and later used Wz. 35. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Saw something about how long secrets are keep depending of amounts of knowing people involved - something based on wiki-leaks and such. As expected more people faster it gets known. As op's problem is complex oe and have to have good enough amount of people working on it, yhea chances are not so good, to have 50-100y advantages, even if there where historical examples. Things are too complex nowadays. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting isn't that rather the point though? almost every concept has been thrown around before it becomes practical, it is only when somebody has the practical capacity that it (historically) is considered invented, especially those concerning basic principles of motion. It's very popular to consider that alternative outcomes were 'inconceivable' even though all it would take in most cases for a thing to be developed further is for a concept to gain the attention of somebody wealthy enough to 'waste' social resources on it. A fundamental reason why large organisations will always trample.. $\endgroup$
    – Giu Piete
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ on the capacities of the small, and that governments exist in the first place are the same reasons why increased cooperation & resource sharing is producing a world in which we come up with more inventions in a day than the entire world did in generations previously. Of course, there are examples of modern secrets held by state and organization, un-filed patents & the like. Imagine the resources put into building the pyramids were redirected into supporting any given industry.. $\endgroup$
    – Giu Piete
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 9:32

Apparently, most things are being invented when it is time for them.

Mind you, i am not talking about destiny of any kind. I am talking about standing on the shoulders of giants. We had many questions around here about taking inventions to the past (via a time-traveller), and those questions always show beautifully how things are built on other things. There are very obvious things like the wheel, which needs to be invented prior to any wheeled veicle, but there are many other cases. For example, before you can build a 3d-printer you need computers. And those computers have to be cheap and mass-produced before the printers can become consumer goods.

But then there are other things, like for example the babbage machine (which was way ahead of its time), or, more recently, the Wendelstein reactor, an machine with a geometry so complex that the idea sat for some 50 years before there was enough computational power to actually create the shape.

So, yes, in theory someone could invent something way ahead of its time, but for your story to be plausible, you may have the inventor to invent the giant first, before he can stand on his shoulders.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you're right, except in one thing; You could make a 3D printer before digital computers by doing something like a Jacquard loom, which used punch cards in 1801 to automate very complex patterns in cloth making. It could be argued that this is a type of mechanical computer, and was definitely a big step in computer history. A punch card could tell the machine "move left one unit, deposit material". $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 fair enough! In this case you would still need the idea of punch cards prior to the printer. So while you are right, the principle should be sound. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ As I said, I think you're right. Almost everything builds on something else, which is why most often there are several people/groups working on the same problem at the same time, like the telephone in OPs example. My point is that sometimes you can skip a step if you have the idea. Punched tape was used back in 1725. If someone in that time had come up with the idea of additive manufacturing you could create a machine that put down molten iron or something pretty early. You still have to have a lot of technology "giants" in place to get there though. You can't get to the moon in one step. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 it is not only about using, but seeing potential of that invention, practical usage of it. Today not all agree in benefits of 3dprinting, pointing problem they have. We might imagine how we wish to improve humans, no problem we are WB, but how to do so. Recently there was introduced technique to splice DNA in preprogrammed places, which allows to insert DNA sequences precise, in places we like to have them, drastically reduces virtual Hecatomb of unborn humans. What have we to insert trough, to reduce it farther? To keep it as secret. It is too complex to have 50y gap in op's Q. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 22:23

Short answer: yes, there is.

Long answer: depends on what it is. Some things require very specialized parts and other advancements before they can be created. For example, it's beyond reason that you would invent a cell phone before electricity, or landlines, or cell towers. Plus, a host of other things. A lot of other things necessarily have to come first for many inventions.

The examples already on the answers here are useful--the Baghdad battery, inventions that were brilliant but considered just a nifty magic trick or a toy with no practical application.

But, with your specific story example, you're looking at something that was developed and then kept secret. That it is genetic in nature makes it easier, because anything that's been invented that's been useful gets seen, and if it's seen, people tend to copy it. (Hey, here's a fun Cracked article for your viewing pleasure).

Unless your GMHs (Genetically Modified Humans) look completely different from other people, it's certainly possible for them to exist without anyone knowing. There will be failures first, and they will need to be kept locked down in the lab. Here's what they need:

An area not governed by any government or isolated enough to be kept secret and be legal. It must be stable though. This is important. There can't be revolutions happening every few years.

A way to get and or manufacture supplies without calling attention to what they are doing. Maybe have a mundane reason, and some advancements coming out of the lab ready to feed to curious reporters. If there are any investigative journalists left in the world.

Very good security.

Utterly loyal and amoral employees Treat all employees with respect and pay them so very much money. Let them know how much you like them. Get personal--know their names, and their kid's names, what grades they are in, that kind of thing. Anyone who becomes disloyal will be punished in some terrible way. Perhaps killed. The idea is that those who are good to you will always be taken care of and rewarded, but those that are not...well...that would not be a good idea.

A Reason for the Secrecy Hide, not quite in plain sight, make sure there's an alt cover story, like something slightly illegal or amoral, but not enough to get you hauled to international courts, which you can then "confess" when someone gets too close. Then, close the place and use one of your OTHER super-secret labs.

Maybe don't let your experiments roam free Just a tip.

This is fiction, so it's certainly possible. Just keep in mind that the first generation of anything is buggy as heck and that these other inventions simply aren't the same as genetic modification. Also keep in mind that if it's on the edge of possible and it's useful, someone is pouring money into it--so they won't be the only ones.

Now, one way to go with this is ONE DISCOVERY THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING. Like something upon which all the advancements are based that nobody else has. Here's a fictional video game example: Bioshock. The genetic modifications everyone in Rapture can experience through gene splicing are all the result of discovering a deep sea slug, with properties that change gene stability. In order for your guys to have some advancement beyond everyone else, I believe that they would have to have a game changer in their corner.

But it does mean that anything they make public MUST absolutely be free of evidence of the game changer. They can call it proprietary. If it touches on impossible, people will try to reverse engineer it.


A precise example along the lines of what you are thinking of is Greek fire.

This was a flamethrower-like substance invented by the Byzantine empire around 672 A.D., and sprayed from brass siphons from ships and fortresses. It was invented immediately before the first Arab siege, and enabled the Byzantines to inflict the first serious defeat on the rising Arab empire.

Used properly, it enabled small Byzantine forces to wipe out very large fleets and attacking armies. In 941 A.D., just 15 Byzantine ships destroyed a viking-Khazar fleet of over 1,000.

It saved Constantinople in several sieges, and made the empire the dominant naval force in the eastern Mediterranean for over 500 years. However, it was too chemically unstable for land transportation, and tended to spontaneously explode. The recipe was a state secret: it was never written down, and almost nobody was told the full recipe, apparently.

The exact recipe was lost, and still today nobody knows exactly how it was made. However, after the fall of the empire, similar weapons were used along with gunpowder until the 16th century. As far as I know, the last time a weapon like that was used, before the 20th century, is at the Siege of Malta in 1565.


Typically, when something useful is invented, others see how useful it is and reverse engineer it... but not always!

Take, for instance, the Baghdad Battery - most likely (we don't actually have proof) a battery created ~250 BC to 224 AD. Obviously batteries didn't make a world-wide showing right away.

I seem to recall hearing, but can't locate the source, about an early Medieval "wizard" who was described as having odd lights in his house at night and a door that would 'bite you' - that many believe might have been playing with electricity. If I recall correctly, it was mostly speculation based on eye-witness reports, though, so your mileage may definitely vary.

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    $\begingroup$ The Baghdad Battery is a total hypefest around a modern interpretation of fragments that can be explained in more relevant ways. The killer is that a reproduction of what people suppose it to be doesn’t work as well as a plain natural lemon. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 5:48

Well, it really depends on what you mean by this. Look at nuclear warheads - they've been around for some time (primarily "invented" by the U.S. and U.S.S.R.), and many countries still today cannot make one. So yes, things can be invented far earlier by one (or some) groups and not be attainable to others. Space travel is a similar topic.

If you mean can something of this magnitude be invented and nobody else knows about it... that's a bit different. It's certainly plausible, but inevitably human nature finds a way and the cat is let out of the bag.

Remember, too, the old phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" - typically things are invented/discovered because there is a need for them. If there's a need, it's likely that many people are looking to solve the issue. If there's no need, it's less likely anyone has considered trying to create something.

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    $\begingroup$ Nuclear weapons are a bad example. North Korea is one of the poorest and least developed countries on the planet, and yet has managed to make nuclear weapons. Other countries don't make them because it would be illegal, dangerous and pointless, not because they can't. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ Iran has tried and failed. Saudi Arabia has, ostensibly, tried and failed. North Korea makes claims but hasn't proven it beyond MAYBE a 1 kiloton. They claimed to have detonated a hydrogen bomb this year, but no seismic activity consistent with an H-bomb was detected anywhere in the region. Also, N. Korea is poor, but is also totalitarian. They can work their labor literally to death (and do) to mine materials and produce items. Even so, including NK, there are only seven countries that have made nuclear weapons, and there are many countries that don't give a wink about NATO/UN. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ Ten countries, not seven. US, Russia, UK, France, China, South Africa, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ "Other countries don't make them because it would be illegal, dangerous and pointless, not because they can't" is a blatantly untrue statement. It's not like you can just grab a blueprint for a nuclear warhead and whip one up. Iran has ostensibly been trying for decades. Other Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries have as well. And many, many countries pay no heed to "global laws" and treaties like the NPT. Not only is it difficult to acquire the appropriate raw material, it's not simple to create a warhead and delivery system that functions as expected within tolerance. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Jesse Williams: Actually you can find blueprints for nuclear warheads. The basic principles are quite simple, and are taught in college physics (though there's a lot of engineering involved in making a good one). The real difficulty is in obtaining enough fissionable material - U-235 or plutonium - to make one go bang. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 18:11

The specific examples are a useful guide an an over-arching set of conditions,which mostly comes down to 'societies in isolation'. So there are many ancient example of separate but parallel 'inventions', but this is obviously becoming less and less likely as the tightness of our connections grows.

The Chinese invented many things long before similar advances were made in Europe or the America's. The Mayan's mathematics and calendar were far in advance in many areas later 'discovered' in other societies. Invention of written language is another example, contrasting Sumeria and Egypt, and the oracle 'cracked tortoise' shells of the Chinese..

An informative and useful book on this topic is titled "Ancient Engineers", I think by de Camp. Another excellent book is "The Discovers" by Dan Boorstein (sp?).

  • $\begingroup$ "The Chinese invented many things long before similar advances were made in Europe" -- but "the Chinese" is not one monolithic inventor. The question is whether a particular Chinese person or team invented those things 50-100 years before any other person, Chinese or otherwise, could have invented them. Of course in many cases we don't know because there aren't good enough records. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 11:41

Post-it Notes.

The original 'low-tack pressure adhesive' that makes Post-it notes possible was invented in 1968, and I don't know of any contemporaneous inventors. The application of the adhesive to Post-it notes was thopught of in 1974, but not marketed until 1977. Again I know of no parallel inventions during the nine years.

It is of course conceivable that other people invented the adhesive, but were unable to come up with an application and therefore did not publish it. The notes themselves were probably protected by patent when they were first sold, so there would be no opportunity for other developers.


Forceps in childbirth were used for childbirths but kept secret for 150 years. This example is one of the rationales for patents; to encourage inventors to reveal their inventions, rather than just profit from the inventions while keeping them secret.

Something that has always interested me is 'late' rather than early inventions. That is, speculating about when society had all the materials and incentive to create an invention, but just lacked the creative spark to actually invent it.


For a bizarre example, read up on the Antikythera mechanism, a multi-functional astronomical calculator believed to date from around the time Julius Caesar was born. Nothing else like it would be built for 1500 years.

I'm not saying it was aliens...


Just an interesting anecdotal supplement to the already excellent answers: a French man by the name of Cyrano de Bergerac invented the ramjet engine nearly 400 years ago. Rather than jet fuel, his engine was powered by parabolic mirrors.


There is a somewhat mistaken idea of "leaps" in technology that is commonly used in sci-fi to justify things like this. Historically, this isn't an accurate picture - technology builds on earlier technology, and by the time you develop something, it's easy for someone else (with the same technoogical base) to develop on their own. AFAIK all of the cases of technology "ahead of its time" are simply the result of business considerations - e.g. being too expensive/clunky/dangerous to be useful, or lacking another critical bit of technology to make them truly useful.

There are plenty of examples of this - even down to things that would barely be called technology nowadays:

  • The basic principles of hydraulics and steam engines were known in Ancient Greece (Heron, Eupalinos...). They were mostly used for show (temples, toys), since it was almost impossible to scale them up, and they were more expensive than other power sources anyway - not to mention a waste of hard-to-get fuel.
  • Windmills and watermills were known in Ancient Greece. They were rarely used, since there was plenty of other, cheaper, sources of power. They were awesome in medieval times.
  • The three-field system revolutionised agriculture in colder parts of Europe and enabled large-scale animal husbandry. It wasn't useful in the earlier Roman-centered civilisation, because they had plenty of much better places for agriculture, including the pretty much "colonised" North Africa.
  • The wheel was known by some south american mountain-dweller natives. It was pretty much only used for toys, since it was mostly useless for transportation in the hilly environment, and for some reason they didn't seem to use it for pottery either.
  • People built computers from as far as we can tell - Stonehenge, abacus, the Antikythera mechanism... Most never spread and were used for religious purposes. The abacus is probably the most interesting, since it was very widely used. Even in modern times, there have been plenty of dead ends - mechanical computers are pretty much non-existent nowadays, for example, even though some of their operating principles go hundreds (Jacquard mill) and thousands of years in the past.

To get ahead in technology far enough to be considered advanced, you need isolation. Europe had plenty of technology China didn't and vice versa, mostly because of their different economical, political and religious environments, and in some cases, likely pure luck (if there's a million wrong things to do something and one right, even sustained scientific effort can easily miss the right approach). This quickly disappeared as contact across the world became easier and more common.

That's why we like alien technology in sci-fi so much. It gives a plausible explanation for huge leaps in technology from the human viewpoint, because we're building on developments made in thousands of years of isolation (relative to us). Mind you, a lot of sci-fi also seems to have the idea that we'd quickly reverse-engineer any alien technology, fully understand it and build upon it - that's also quite a bit optimistic. The smartest guy in Ancient Rome wouldn't make head or tails of an integrated circuit with all the missing pieces of the puzzle, and it might very well be that today's specialists would have no chance of understanding something we'll build in a thousand years.

Of course, in the literary world, the trope is quite common. There was pretty much a whole genre of gadget science fiction which centered around a genius inventor who can do pretty much anything he can imagine - fly before the principles flight is discovered, make materials stronger than thought possible, fly to the moon on a cannonball, that kind of thing. Needless to say, these are usually on the softer end of the Mohs scale of sci-fi hardness :)

  • $\begingroup$ "technology builds on earlier technology and by the time you develop something, it's easy for someone else (with the same technological base) to develop on their own" - this is a really good point @Luaan gradual steps not giant leaps $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 4:27

Two possible examples spring to mind.

  1. Invention of private/public key encryption system. "Publicly" invented by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman at MIT in 1977. But actually invented by James H. Ellis, a British cryptographer working at GCHQ in 1970. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-key_cryptography).

  2. (bacterio)Phage therapy. Early work started in 1920s. However, with the advent of antibiotics, Western scientists lost interest in trying to develop effective therapies using bacteriophages. However, Russian scientists continued to develop effective phage therapy. It wasn't until the end of the Cold War that interest in phage therapy was rekindled in the West.


Henry Cavendish and Nikola Tesla both invented many things that would not be re-invented and widely used for many decades.

In Cavendish's case, it was because he didn't consider them significant enough to bother writing and publishing papers about them, though today the scientists who re-discovered them are household names because of their "discoveries".

In Tesla's case, it may have been because his inventions were too far ahead of existing technology to make ready use of them.




  1. then you would be the inventor,...:

      1. ...which means: the other person is asking the question: (
        1. necessarily precluding your askingability [sic.]--
      2. thus making them--this Other-person-(who-is-not-you), potentially, the inventor--
        1. which means an-other-other-person 'is' in fact asking the question...
          1. ...which makes them--( ...infinitely looping... ) ...
      1. which necessarily precludes the other person who is not you from asking,...
      2. ...but because of the first part declaring your inability to ask and given that You additionally 'were' -not-the-inventor:

        1. You no longer exist in this universe; (which is problematic primarily (and for many reasons I'm sure you can think of immediately) because

          1. ( other person who is not you only exists insofar as being not-you:
          2. and because (as concluded in You can't exist, simply giving the Other Person identity by negating Other-Person's not-You state is also invalidated because--inelegant wording aside (that ship sailed after the opening 'no')--not-Not-you is either:

            1. Unknown/undiscovered, entity ( which can satisfy both the existential requirements to be considered "an entity" while also meeting the minimum modal conditions (the, dare I suggest, not-Requirements lol) to be considered nonexistent...etc. etc. ...which for all intents and purposes we can consider irrelevant, or alternatively we can call 'god'-..which makes the rest of any consequent argument irrelevant,--
              1. since god is by definition (and by all accounts from those close to his administration) all-powerful, all-knowing...which invalidates the argument...
                1. ...since, then, the very question itself is rendered meaningless;
                2. ...and; the implicit proposition that one can, in fact, invent something before--as in prior to--any an-Other by inclusion of the omniscience of the potential other's entelechy as a godhead is impossible, unless godhead is not godhead, but then if that's fair then so is not-you-is-not-not-you-is-not-you-is-you-is-not-you, which breaks down language (or re-invents it ;) )... ) ...err;
            2. or, otherwise, avoiding that line of reasoning and other triggers that lead to arguments involving entities with such names like 'godhead', then we deal with the simple math problem that declares that not-not-you is, still in fact, You ... aw, shit, uh-oh:

              1. but, per conditions elucidated earlier, You is still a nonentity (a moment ago we were deciding not whether not-not-You existed as in existed-in-all-cases-of-You-as-you, but whether a) not-not-You existed as a nonexistent nonentity or b) or as an invalid entity altogether (e.g. try to draw something that can not be represented in two-dimensions, as in can't be drawn): meaning You doesn't exist, and can not (for reasons that do exist, unlike Non-Entity-You (which would make a great name for a Ney-playing Middle Eastern boy band)
              2. ...and since we've chosen to momentarily for the sake of this question ignore godhead-named super-powerful entities, and since you already can not be the inventor (this was established very, very early on) and now given this, You and non-entity-You both not existing.., which really is to say that:

                • if You and Not-You 'are' nonexistent,
                • then: (even if, and regardless either way or whether) the First-Other--the Other-Who-Is-the-inventor--exists, who cares? this First Other Who Does Invent is ultimately the other-who-does-not-Matter.

But, yes...

...to the sentiment of being first in inventing something...

  1. insofar as making manifest a thing that prior to your realization thereof only Existed as a vision the totality of which, or resolution or clarity thereof, at a certain point or in a certain way only you could 'see' or explain or inspire others to do in like... (and this 'Existed' is the other, potentially only other, specie of entity wherein 'godhead' was classified).

Be passionate about something and believe others have passions, too. If you can align your passions such that sufficient discipline, discipline as in rigor in your process, rigor in 'making' (and not necessarily 'conformity', which is often how rigor is misinterpreted) and motivat

But, if the goal is simply to be first or to invent the unknown thing-to-invented-that-another-person-'will'-invent-in-due-course-and-I-would-like-to-invent-it-first

The answer to your question is yes.

Wait.., what? ..why?

  1. I had, (at some time sufficiently far in the past to allow me to laugh about the circumstances that were only slightly perhaps less ticklish then), thought someone, a friend, would bring up the very topic of how-can-one-seek-to-invent-something-first, (at the time this seemed reasonable and (perhaps more alarming) it seemed reasonable, at the time, to preempt the prompt by writing it);

  2. While that reasoning turned out flawed, I did, unknowingly then, "invent" the answer to the question you are asking now...the substantive content of what I've written notwithstanding, even though none of this would work if the topic were different.

/ lol..?


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