Discoveries & Inventions in the 1940s

Updated April 17, 2017

In the 1940s, scientific research, discoveries and inventions were carried along on a wave started by the government's reaction to the needs and imperatives of World War II. Governmental subsidy and coordination of scientific projects fostered a climate of rapid technological advancement. Many of the era's innovations were quickly developed into civilian products.


Many of the most popular toys were conceived in the 1940s. For years, a favourite Christmas gift was a Slinky, invented by naval engineer Richard James and his wife, Betty, in 1943. A dropped tension spring that kept moving gave Richard James the idea for the toy. Silly Putty was invented in 1943 by engineer James Wright as he worked on making synthetic rubber. Plastic frisbees were created in 1949 by Walter Morrison and Warren Franscioni. The first frisbee was called the "Pluto Platter" in reference to the UFO craze of the late 1940s.

Household Products

The latest development in fasteners began with the invention of Velcro by George de Mestral in 1948. Its tiny cling-on hooks are based on burdock burrs. In 1946, Dr. Percy Spencer noticed that microwaves from a vacuum tube could pop popcorn and explode eggs. In 1947, Spencer's first microwave oven hit the market. It was 5.5-feet tall, weighed 340 Kilogram and cost £3,250.


The transistor was invented in 1947 by a team of Bell Telephone Laboratories scientists headed by physicists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley. The devices were first used in radios, stereos and later in computers. The transistor replaced the fragile, inefficient vacuum tubes as a signal switch and amplifier. It was the first step in the development of modern microprocessors using silicon chips containing up to several million tiny transistors.

LSD And Autism

Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann discovered the psychoactive effects of LSD on April 16, 1943. While synthesising a batch of LSD, Hofmann accidentally dripped some of the compound on his hand resulting in extreme mental disturbances. The hallucinogenic effects of only 0.03mcg of LSD led to the hypothesis that some mental illnesses had biochemical causes. Also in 1943, Leo Kanner discovered autistic spectrum disorder or autism. The condition's symptoms include impairment of social interaction, communication and repetitive mannerisms.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author