The 10 Best College Inventions of All Time


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No other place exudes as much intelligence or creativity than higher education institutions. Some of the greatest inventions and most novel ideas come from students, professors and researchers of four-year colleges and universities. Without these great minds, we wouldn't have social networking sites like Facebook, or everyday items like fluoride toothpaste and seat belts. Check out these 10 best college inventions of all time:

  1. Facebook

    Facebook is arguably the most popular social networking site out there, with more than 750 million active users worldwide. Considering the impact and growth Facebook has had over the last seven years, it's sometimes hard to believe that it was all started by a college student. Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched the site, then called "thefacebook.com," as a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard in 2004. Facebook was originally restricted to Harvard students, but later expanded to include Stanford, Columbia, Yale and other prestigious or Ivy League schools. It eventually became available to most universities in the United States and Canada and was an instant success with college students. Facebook is a social phenomenon that has forever changed the way we communicate and connect to each other, and we have Zuckerberg to thank for this addicting creation.
  2. Gatorade

    The iconic sports drink, Gatorade, was created by nephrologist Robert Cade and a team of researchers at the University of Florida in 1965. The beverage was designed to help the University of Florida football players rehydrate and replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweat. The drink was a concoction of water, sugars and salts, mixed with lemon juice for flavoring. This sweet addition, combined with the university's athletic team nickname "the Gators" led to the drink being called Gatorade. Today, Gatorade is a leader in the multi-billion dollar sports drink market and has become one of the most recognized sports brands in the world.
  3. Beer pong

    Beer pong is by far the most popular drinking game among college students today. The origins of beer pong have been linked back to Dartmouth College, but there still remains some doubt as to how it started and if it really originated here first. According to The Dartmouth Independent, beer pong came about in the 1960s, when students started putting cups of beer on beer pong tables during games. Throughout the '80s and '90s, beer pong evolved into the game it is today. Beer pong is a staple to the college party scene. Many students have specially designed beer pong tables and house or school-wide rules on penalties, re-racking, rollbacks and swatting. Without the invention of beer pong, college might be a little more sobering.
  4. Napster

    The online music store and peer-to-peer file sharing service, Napster, changed the way we obtained music and listened to it. Much like Facebook, Napster was created by the hands of a college student. Shawn Fanning was a 19-year-old student at Boston's Northeastern University when he and his uncle John Fanning founded Napster in 1999. The company was best known for offering free online music through peer-to-peer file sharing, which led to massive copyright violations of music, films and other property. Napster's original service was eventually shut down by court order and later restructured to become a legitimate online music store. Despite Napster's legal issues and unethical business practices, the company did start the trend of decentralized peer-to-peer file sharing services and completely revolutionize the music industry at the turn of the century.
  5. Oral contraceptives

    Oral contraceptives were one of the most groundbreaking and important inventions of the 20th century. In 1951, a young Mexican chemist named Luis E. Miramontes synthesized the progestin norethindrone, the active component of the birth control pill. At the time of the discovery, Miramontes was a college student working at a lab in Mexico City with chemist Carl Djerassi. Together, they created an orally effective form of synthetic progesterone and the pill was born.
  6. Tailgating

    Tailgating is a beloved college tradition that supposedly got its start during the early years of college football. Several universities claim to be the first ones to have started the tailgating trend, but only a few schools have a solid enough story to back up their claim. According to football folklore, the first tailgate took place at the very first Rutgers vs. Princeton football game in 1869. It was said that fans traveled to the game by horse-drawn carriages and grilled sausages at the "tail-end" of the horse. The University of Kentucky also claims to have started the football tradition in 1881, by organizing a pre-game supper and letting students and alumni eat the leftovers after the game. Another possible origin comes from Yale, in which a train carrying private railcars brought fans to one of Yale's first football games and dropped them off as close to the stadium as they could get. The fans grew hungry on the remainder of their walk and decided to pack a picnic for the next Yale game.
  7. The computer

    The first general-purpose electronic computer was invented at the University of Pennsylvania by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert in 1946. Both men were very involved with the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at UPenn when Mauchly proposed a plan to build an electronic digital computer that would use vacuum tubes to create a much better and faster machine than the current system being used. The idea caught the attention of the Moore School's Army liaison, Lieutenant Herman Goldstine, and the project was contracted by the school. Eckert was assigned to be the project's chief engineer and worked alongside Mauchly and a team of design engineers. The Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC) was in continuous operation until Oct. 2, 1955, but the world's first general-purpose electronic computer most definitely paved the way for modern-day computers.
  8. Fluoride toothpaste

    Joseph Muhler was a researcher at Indiana University when he invented fluoride toothpaste and came up with the original formula for Crest in 1956. The biochemist believed fluoride was the answer to preventing tooth decay, and he set out to test this theory. While other dentists were using the preferred sodium fluoride, Muhler experimented with about 150 other fluoride compounds to see which ones were the most effective at hardening tooth enamel and protecting it from acid wear. He discovered that the stannous, or tin, fluoride variety was the most effective at preventing cavities and decay. Procter & Gamble was impressed by the results of Muhler's fluoride formula and used it in their new decay-fighting toothpaste brand called Crest.
  9. Vitamin D fortification

    In 1925, Harry Steenbock, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, became the first person to fortify food with vitamin D to help eliminate Rickets, a debilitating bone disorder in children caused by vitamin D, calcium or phosphate deficiency. Steenbock discovered that irradiation by ultraviolet light increases the vitamin D content of foods and other materials and can cure people of rickets. Vitamin D deficiency is now a known cause of rickets. Steenbock patented his invention and used his irradiation technique on food, specifically milk, to virtually eliminate rickets from the population.
  10. Seat belt

    Seat belts may be the most important safety invention of all time because they save thousands of lives in car accidents. This life-saving invention was created by a University of Minnesota engineering professor named James "Crash" Ryan, who took his safety mechanism very seriously. Ryan was so committed to perfecting the effectiveness and safety of his seat belts that he even crash-tested them himself. Ryan's 1963 invention became the first retractable, locking seat belt for automobiles. Ryan was also known for inventing the black box, a flight data recorder that's used on airplanes, while he was working as a Westinghouse engineer.
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