50 of the Oldest Things on Earth

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British Museum
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Automobile
> Oldest: The De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout, La Marquise
> Approximate Date: 1884 A.D.
> Location: France

Dubbed “La Marquise,” this steam-powered vehicle still functions today and is the world’s oldest operating automobile. The four-wheeled contraption, which was built during the Victorian era for a French aristocrat, is equipped with a tiller instead of a wheel and could reach a top speed of 38 miles per hour. La Marquise won the world’s first car race in 1887. It was sold at auction in 2011 to an unnamed buyer in Hershey, Pa., for $4.6 million.

Source: yosoyyoprobando / YouTube

2. Recording
> Oldest: Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, “Au Clair de la Lune”
> Approximate Date: 1860 A.D.
> Location: Paris, France

Many people believe Thomas Edison invented recorded sound, but it appears that a French inventor named Édouard-Léon Scott made the breakthrough several years earlier. Scott patented his phonautograph in 1857. It is believed that Scott himself sang a part of the French folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” into his machine in 1860, creating the first known musical recording. Scott’s phonautograph and recordings weren’t discovered by historians until 2007.

Source: Rebecca A. Moss, University of Minnesota / Wikimedia Commons

3. Photograph
> Oldest: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras”
> Approximate Date: 1826-1827 A.D.
> Location: Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France

Though it’s not as clear as the photographs we see today, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” was an astonishing development in technology. Likely taken in 1826 or 1827, the photo shows Niépce’s estate in Burgundy, France. Niépce actually captured another image in 1822, but his “heliograph” of an engraving of Pope Pius VII was destroyed when he tried to copy it years later.

Source: Donarreiskoffer / Wikimedia Commons

4. Thermometer
> Oldest: Fahrenheit’s Thermometer
> Approximate Date: 1714 A.D.
> Location: Germany

German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the mercury thermometer that we place under our tongue to this day to check if we have a fever. The thermometer used a standardized temperature scale — and later the Fahrenheit scale — for accuracy. Galileo Galilei and Santorio Santorio had created the forerunners of the thermometer. That instrument was called a thermoscope, and it was not accurate. Fahrenheit first invented the thermometer in 1714 and the oldest surviving one, believed to be from 1718, was sold at an auction for £67,000 in 2012.

Source: Adriaen van de Venne

5. Telescope
> Oldest: Dutch Golden Age Telescope
> Approximate Date: 1608 A.D.
> Location: The Netherlands

The world’s oldest working telescope, dating back to the early part of the 17th century, was found in the Netherlands in 2014. The small, cylindrical device was discovered while workers were digging a railway tunnel in Delft in South Holland. The invention of the telescope is credited to German-Dutch eyeglass maker Hans Lippershey.