A Look at the 13 Most Influential and Interesting Inventions from the 1930s

A decade that planted the seeds of war, the 1930s churned out a lot of military inspired inventions.
Donovan Alexander

Next stop, the 1930s. Across our journey examining inventions throughout the decades, we touched on everything from the creation of the assembly line to penicillin, even looking at inventions that were directly influenced by military innovations; devices and objects that would go on to make their way into our homes. However, our journey is just getting started.  


Both the historical events and technological innovations from the ’30s would eventually ripple across history and can still be felt today. Even within pop culture, things were changing dramatically. The 30s saw the birth of the Superman and Batman comics, while culture became both scared of the characters Dracula, and Frankenstein’s monster. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was even published during this time period. 

The 30s gave us ideas that would change the landscape of physics, and both the aviation automotive world as well as plant the seeds of war. Here are some of the most influential inventions from the 30s. 


A Look at the 13 Most Influential and Interesting Inventions from the 1930s
Source: Wikipedia

The invention of this material had far-reaching applications, affecting countless industries. Where would we be without the is unique made-made material? Nylon is used now just about everywhere and can be found in clothing, seatbelts, parachutes, machine screws, washers, and is even used to reinforce other composite materials.  Patented by the DuPont company, this material would help generate the family’s fortune. 

The Differential Analyzer

A Look at the 13 Most Influential and Interesting Inventions from the 1930s
Source: Wikipedia

Created by MIT’s Vannevar Bush at MIT in Boston, the differential analyzer was a computer designed to solve differential equations by integration using wheel-and-disc mechanisms to perform the integration. This computer was one of the first advanced computing devices to be used operationally. Evolving over time, it remained in use until the 1990s. 

Scotch Tape

A Look at the 13 Most Influential and Interesting Inventions from the 1930s
Source: Wikipedia

How many of your childhood projects were pieced together by the magical wonders of Scotch Tape? Better yet, how many times have you used Scotch Tape in the office as an adult? Invented in 1930 by 3M engineer Richard G. Drew, it was the world's first transparent adhesive tape. It was created so bakers, grocers, and meatpackers had a way to seal food wrap. 

Eventually, it was realized that the tape could be used for a host of things, including torn pages of books and documents, broken toys, ripped window shades, even dilapidated currency.

The Jet Engine 

Jet engines would both change warfare and transportation for the decades to come. For the uninitiated,  Hans von Ohain of Germany was the first operational designer of the jet engine, yet the credit of the invention was given to Frank Whittle, registering a patent for the turbojet engine. Yet, he did not perform a flight test until 1941. 

The Electron Microscope

Another major discovery from the time period, the electron microscope would go on to usher in a new era of discoveries. Invented by Max Knott and Ernst Ruska, ideas that were purely just theoretical came to light under the microscope. Knowledge of things like cell structures in plant and animal life dramatically increased.  

The Z1 by Zuse 

A Look at the 13 Most Influential and Interesting Inventions from the 1930s
Source: Wikipedia

The Z1 computer was brought into existence by the German civil engineer named Konrad Zuse. Considered as one of the world’s first programmable computer, Zuse built the Z1 in his parents living room. The computer itself dealt in binary numbers and was programmed by feeding the machine old 35mm film with holes punched in it. Each of the holes represented instructions. 

High-Speed Photography

Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton also known as Papa Flash is the electrical engineer that invented stop-action, high-speed photography. His innovation pushed the stroboscope from a laboratory instrument into a household item. His first photo captured a boy riding a horse. 

Radio Telescope 

The radio telescope has helped us better understand our universe; becoming a powerful tool in the world of astronomy. The very first radio antenna used to identify an astronomical radio source was built by the engineer Karl Guthe Jansky from Bell Telephone Laboratories. 


A product of the coming war, radar was invented as part of a competition put on by the British Air Ministry. The government offered up a thousand pounds to the first man who could kill a sheep from 100 yards away using nothing but electromagnetic energy, in response to fears of Hitler’s rumored “death ray”.

No one claimed the prize, however, physicist Robert Watson-Watt had another idea. He believed that you could use radio waves to detect airplanes by picking up the radio energy bouncing back from the aircraft’s body.


Eventually becoming the poster child of the psychedelic movement in the 60s and now, the drug was synthesized by Swiss Chemist Albert Hofmann of Sandoz Laboratories. The drug has even made its way to the tech world. Yet, the hallucinogenic properties were not discovered until the next decade. 

Schrödinger’s Cat 

You probably know a few good Schrödinger’s Cat Jokes. This experiment not only changed the landscape of physics but has become a part of pop culture. The experiment would go on to become a common means to express quantum physics principles.

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