10 substances that changed the world

  • 9000 BCE


    Copper is the first material mined from ores.
  • 6000 BCE


    Salt was discovered early, and humans had many uses for it. It could preserve food, allowing humans to survive the harsh winter. It would also be used as money for trades, enabling the economy to thrive.
  • 3300 BCE


    When tin was discovered, mixing it with copper created a much stronger alloy, bronze
  • 3000 BCE

    Iron and Steel

    After iron was discovered, the people found that if you mix it with small amounts of carbon, steel would be created and it was much stronger and more useful.
  • 800


    It is unknown when saltpetre was discovered, but the main uses of saltpetre are that when mixed with carbon and sulphur, it creates gunpowder. The first recorded discovery of gunpowder was in 800 CE though it is unknown if the discovery was earlier. Nowadays, it is used in food additives and fertiliser.
  • Oxygen

    Being an invisible gas, the discovery of oxygen was much later than other materials. Oxygen would be used in the creating of many alloys
  • Silica

    Silica is used for creating optical fibres which enable faster internet access and other technological advances.
  • Polymers

    Polymer is an extremely important material, as it is used in the manufacturing of plastic, which we use on a daily basis.
  • Silicon

    Silicon was discovered in 1824, however, like uranium, it was a long time before its use was discovered. A century later transistors were invented, and this was the beginning of the technological era.
  • Uranium

    Uranium was discovered only a few years after oxygen, yet it was 1 and a half centuries before humanity discovered its use. Nuclear weaponry.