It’s no secret that the United States government has played a huge role in the creation of major technological and medical breakthroughs over the past few hundred years, but did you know that it’s responsible for many of the devices and products that many people use every day?
If you’ve ever used a GPS system, you have the Defense Department’s research to thank. What about your smartphone? Although the government didn’t directly fund the exact phone you own, NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the CIA were integral in creating crucial elements of today’s smartphones—such as microchips and touch screens. Even the internet, which makes reading this story possible, began as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), a computer network first made by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Perhaps one of the most consequential fields that has benefited most crucially from government support is that of medicine. Many vaccines that prevent millions of Americans from contracting preventable diseases—from the common flu to Haemophilus influenzae type B—were funded and developed with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). More recently, the federal initiative Operation Warp Speed was established to facilitate the manufacture and distribution of the coronavirus vaccines.
However, government research and funding have been integral to so many inventions, big and small, that it can be hard to find a starting point when learning about which ones can be credited to various supporting agencies. Stacker compiled information about government-funded creations using a combination of news, scientific, and government reports. The inventions on this list encompass a wide variety of areas, including technology, agriculture, medicine, aviation, and others.
From the beginnings of the civilian aviation industry in 1925 to a recent COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough in 2020, read on to learn about 50 inventions you might not know were funded by the U.S. government.
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