Some time ago, the editors at Sp!ked-Online asked me to suggest what I thought was the greatest innovation of all time. I tried to be a bit esoteric and opted for the inorganic chemistry of ammonia and sulfuric acid, certainly not the most exciting sounding of entries in the sp!ked innovation survey, but I hope the chemists among their readership would appreciate it among all the more electrical technological suggestions and the tools of molecular biology.
It seems I was among some eminent participants, “key thinkers in science, technology and medicine” allegedly with some half a dozen Nobel laureates in their number. The survey aimed to identify the greatest innovations and a live discussion is scheduled to take place in London on June 6.
Surveying the responses, Mick Hume, sp!ked’s editor-at-large, says the survey “Provides some illuminating insight both into the important developments of the recent and more distant past, and into the way those involved at the cutting edge see the issue of innovation today.” My colleague Philip Ball, a fellow freelance science writer with a chemical bent, also stuck up for chemistry in his submission opting for innovations in analytical chemistry, including NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography.
Among the other innovations suggested were The Internet, the alphabet, the discovery of nuclear fusion, X-rays, the brick, rockets, the eraser. I surely must posit that without sulfuric acid and ammonia not one of those innovations would ever have reached its full potential. Maybe I should also add an upside down exclamation mark, just to emphasize my point!
Among the other contributors to the event are Anjana Ahuja, science columnist, The Times, Ken Arnold Head of Public Programmes, Wellcome Trust, Peter Cochrane co-founder of ConceptLabs, and former chief technologist at BT, Marcus Du Sautoy professor of mathematics, Wadham College, Oxford, Sir Tim Hunt (FRS) principal scientist, Cancer Research UK, and David Roblin VP, Clinical R&D, Pfizer Global Research & Development.