Weird History
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12 Nearly Forgotten People We Never Realized Dramatically Changed Our World

January 27, 2021 3.4k votes 672 voters 101.3k views12 items

List RulesVote up the people that had the biggest impact on our world.

History is filled with overlooked figures. After all, everything had to be invented by someone. So it's sad to think that all these brilliant minds can't be remembered by everyone. There were many women who didn't get credit for their brilliant work and even some politicians who changed history without us realizing it. Oftentimes, we take the inventions that these accomplished people made for granted. But maybe it's time to change that.

There are countless unknown people who changed the world. It's time that we start recognizing some of them. These people dedicated their lives to making the future better for us. So, let's show a little appreciation by hearing their stories. 

Photo:
  • Photo: Apeda Studio New York / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Alice Guy-Blaché was greatly overlooked during her time in the film industry, but now she's finally recognized as not only the world's first female filmmaker, but also the first director to film a narrative story. She got started when she was only 22, so she wasn't highly regarded due to her age, inexperience, and sex. Yet, she was determined to show the world her true talent.

    She directed her first film in 1896, titled La fée aux choux (“The Cabbage Fairy”). Soon after, she became Gaumont film company's head of production, meaning she directed nearly all their films for the next few years. In total, she directed over 1,000 films. Many of them were shorter stories, which was the norm back then. 

    Guy's early films only ran for a minute or two, but as the film industry progressed, she worked on more notable projects. Her works included La vie du Christ in 1906. Despite her huge success, she was disappointed for not always getting the credit she deserved. “It is a failure; is it a success? I don’t know," wrote Guy.

    • Age: Dec. at 94 (1873-1968)
    • Birthplace: Saint-Mandé, France
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  • Photo: B. J. Donne / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Mary Anning had a life full of firsts when it came to finding fossils, but with an unfortunate childhood and many skeptics, life was not easy. She grew up very poor, and she and her brother were the only ones out of 10 children in the family who survived until adulthood. Anning's father was the one who first got her interested in fossil collecting. He taught her everything she needed to know about finding and cleaning fossils, but when he passed suddenly of tuberculosis, Anning's family struggled even more.

    When Anning was 12 years old, her older brother Joseph found a peculiar fossilized skull. After that, Anning searched long and hard and eventually found the entire outline of an Ichthyosaur. The theory of extinction was still fairly recent, so many people were skeptical of Anning's discovery, thinking it was just a large crocodile. 

    But in 1823, Anning was the first person to discover a Plesiosaurus skeleton, which means "near to reptile." Because people were unfamiliar with discoveries like this, they quickly spread rumors saying the fossils were fake. And even those who did believe in her did not give her the recognition she deserved. Some scientists would buy fossils from her, but not credit her for her work. The Geological Society of London wouldn't even admit her until 1904 because women could not be admitted before then. She discovered many new creatures during her time on Earth.

    • Age: Dec. at 47 (1799-1847)
    • Birthplace: Lyme Regis, England
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  • Photo: Photograph / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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    John Landis Mason Invented Mason Jars

    John Landis Mason's invention might not have saved lives, but it helped save a lot of food. As you may have guessed from his name, he created Mason jars. Before his invention, the popular way to can food was to use wax to make an airtight seal. Needless to say, it was far too messy and tedious. Canning was a vital part of home life in rural areas or when trips to a grocery store were few and far between. Canning and preserving food may extend its shelf life for several years.

    In 1858, Mason created jars that were made of transparent glass with a screw-on top. Inside the flat metal lids, he placed a rubber ring, which was crucial to making the container airtight. Sadly, he forgot to patent that part of his invention until Mason jars had already become widely popular. He slowly lost control over his invention and perished without being rich from success. It's amazing how such a simple product for us today could've been so revolutionary in its day. 

    "Mason jars are still popular because they're both useful and beautiful," said Marisa McClellan, a food canning expert. "Whether you use them for canning, dry good storage, drinking glasses, or just to hold pens on your desk, they are functional and pleasing."

    • Age: Dec. at 70 (1832-1902)
    • Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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  • Photo: Courtesy of The Tucker Automobile Club of America, Inc. collection at The Tucker Historical Collection and Library / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5
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    Preston Tucker Made The 'Car Of The Future' In The Past

    Preston Tucker was a visionary in the car world, inventing many advanced, practical features used today. Tucker started out as just a mail messenger at General Motors, but he quickly worked his way up and went on to do incredible things. During the start of WWII, he invented and created a gun turret for Navy ships. But after the war, he returned to his love for cars.

    Soon, Tucker went on to create new cars that were unlike any before. He introduced concepts like disc brakes, pop-out windshields, and padded dashboards with his new vehicles. The cars he created even drove better too since they had rear-mounted engines that were made from modified helicopter engines. The features of these cars were ahead of their time, and they quickly went on to shape the cars of the future.

    Inventing these cars wasn't smooth sailing for Tucker, though. The government was skeptical of Tucker's business, claiming that he never planned to build any cars, which was certainly not the case. However, those allegations caused him to lose investors and workers, so his goals of building futuristic cars never fully succeeded. While many of these features helped boost future vehicles, Tucker never received proper credit for his work. 

    • Age: Dec. at 53 (1903-1956)
    • Birthplace: Capac, Michigan
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