The greatest innovation in ‘my field’ is not too easy - these days I am not even sure what my field is. But if you want to know my view of the greatest innovations of all time, they include two; one intellectual, the other physical:
1. The realisation that the Earth is a sphere. For perhaps the first time in history, people accepted on the basis of evidence the reality of something clearly counter-intuitive. That might have been one of the triggers for thinking widely in a less fettered manner than before and which contributed to the subsequent enlightenment.
2. The invention of optical instruments:
· the telescope, which enabled people to see that the heavenly bodies were not the magical objects as had earlier been believed;
· the microscope, which revealed an aspect of the world (and the universe) of which people previously simply had no concept and were totally unaware;
· spectacles, which extended intellectual thought by allowing elderly people and those with poor eyesight to read and write, and thus contribute the benefit of their experience and their thoughts for the good of everyone.
There is nothing more convincing than seeing for yourself!
Vivian Moses is emeritus professor of microbiology at Queen Mary College, visiting professor (biotechnology) King’s College London visiting professor (biology) University College London, chair of CropGen