Posted on 5/9/2014

Medical science, computing innovation and the 1970s

We’re continuing our series looking at the most significant inventions from each decade over the last 150 years, as part our 150th birthday celebrations. In this article we’ll be looking at the most important and interesting inventions to come from the decade that brought us our first female Prime Minister and the rise of progressive rock, the nineteen seventies!

The sixties culture of social awareness and  the political and economic liberation of women continued to grow in the seventies but it was also a time of great economic upheaval and turbulence with the 1973 oil crisis. The 1970s brought us some major inventions in many fields including medical science, computing and mobile technology.

Medical Science

In 1973 gene splicing was invented when Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen inserted antibiotic resistance genes into the plasmid of an E. coli bacterium, creating the world’s first genetically modified organism, a creation that would lead to years of controversy.

In 1974 Italian gynaecologists Arpad Giorgio Fischer created the process of liposuction.

However, it would not be until 1978 when it would become used primarily for cosmetic reasons by French dermatologist Dr Yves-Gerard Illouz.

In 1974 Dr. Raymond Damadian was granted the first patent in the field of magnetic resonance imaging and in 1977 he had completed construction of the first whole-body MRI scanner. Today MRI scanners are still one of the most important imaging tools in the field of medical diagnosis.

Wilson Gunn has been working in the healthcare industry for many years, and members of our team have invaluable experience within this field. We act for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of surgical and wound care products, and have extensive experience with many of the UK’s leading over-the-counter pharmaceutical brands.  We have advised on patents for surgical instrumentation, assay strips and medical imaging amongst other medical technology.


The 1970s saw a number of advances in computing  starting with the invention  of the 8 inch floppy disk in 1970 by a team of  IBM engineers led by Alan Shugart and represented a major revolution in computing history allowing users to easily physically transfer data from one computer to another.

1971 gave use the first commercial microprocessor the Intel 4004 created by intel engineers Federico Faggin, Ted Hoff, and Stanley Mazor it once again revolutionised computing by placing all the parts that made a computer think, into a single chip and all of today’s modern CPUs are microprocessors.

1972 gave birth to a new form of computing that would forever change the way many people would use computers, especially in the home.  In 1972 Nolan Bushell created the arcade game Pong and started Atari computers re-releasing Pong for home usage in 1975.

Post-It notes, the walkman, and the mobile phone

Outside medicine and computing there were a number of other significant inventions that 1970s offices around the world were glad to glad to receive, such as the Post-It note, created by Dr Spencer Silver. The adhesive for these yellow sticky notes was made entirely accident by Silver when he was trying to make a super strong adhesive and ended up with a low tack reusable product instead. Eventually in 1974 a friend suggested he use the reusable adhesive to put notes in his hymn book and the rest is sticky history!

1978 saw significant development for the music industry and music listening habits worldwide when Sony engineer, Nobutoshi Kihara, created a portable audio cassette system, the Walkman. Made for Sony co-chairman Masaru Ibuka so he could listen to operas during his frequent flights, the first commercial Walkman’s went on sale in 1979 and began a process that would change the way the world would listen to music forever.Audio Cassette

Finally the 70s were the decade that brought us a device that has changed the world in so many ways that it boggles the mind – the mobile telephone. Prior to 1973 mobile telephony was limited to automobile installation. In 1973 Motorola researcher and executive Martin Cooper produced the first mobile telephone call on a handset that weighed over a kilogram and took ten hours to charge to gain 30 minutes of call time, a far cry from an iPhone.

As we can see the seventies was a decade that really kicked off portable technology with mobile phones the Walkman and floppy disk, allowing us to become much more mobile as a society.

Which invention was the most significant?

Which of these innovative inventions do you think was the most significant? Let us know your thoughts.

Wilson Gunn