Major inventions in the 1940s

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

The 1940s was the decade of World War II, and some very important inventions came from military research during this time. The decade also gave way to groundbreaking consumer items that transformed popular culture and improved the lives of everyday people.

Colour Television

Peter Goldmark and a team of CBS researchers invented the first mechanical colour television system in 1940. This was based on the design made by John Logie Beard in 1928. The colour television had to pass through extensive hearings by the Federal Communication Commission from 1949 to 1950. The first colour television sets did not actually hit the market until 1951.

Atomic Bomb

Robert Oppenhiemer invented the atomic bomb in 1945, along with a team of other scientists in The Manhatten Project. The U.S. government funded this project during the war effort against the Germans and Japanese in World War II, spending £1.3 billion from 1939 to 1945. Oppenhiemer and his team discovered how to produce large amounts of "enriched" uranium to sustain a chain reaction.


The Jeep was invented in 1940 as an important part of the American war effort during World War II. The U.S. Army put out a challenge to automobile companies in America to create a prototype of a fast, lightweight all-terrain vehicle in 49 days. Willy's Truck Company won the Army contest with its MB model, which became known by its nickname, "the Jeep."

Electronic Digital Computer

John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford Berry invented the electronic digital computer in 1942. They worked on the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) from 1937 to 1942 at Iowa State University. This model used many new computer innovations, including parallel processing, regenerative memory and binary arithmetic. Atanasoff was awarded the Medal of Technology by U.S. President Bush in 1990.

Microwave Oven

Dr. Percy Spencer invented the microwave oven in 1946 while he was testing a new vacuum tube. He noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted from the extreme heat of the vacuum tube. Spencer then put some popcorn kernels near the tube and watched sparks fly and popcorn fly into his lap. He built a metal box to contain the energy and create a higher density electromagnetic field. Dr. Spencer's microwave oven revolutionised cooking in the United States and around the world.

Most recent