This may be the most controversial item on this list, because many will simply insist that Ben Franklin invented the odometer. While he did create a slightly improved version – or perhaps re-invent it, he was far from the first person to wonder just how far he’d travelled.
While he was serving as Postmaster General of the British Colonies, he needed an instrument to determine the distance between post offices. This led to him creating his own version of an odometer that attached to the wheel of his carriage, determining the circumference of the wheel and the number of miles travelled. His device was a success, and led to increased profits and success of American post offices.
However, others did get there first. A man named Vitruvius created a naval odometer between 27 and 23 BC, a system of paddle wheels attached to a ship. Another story is that Heron (Hero of Alexandria) created an odometer in Ancient Greek times. We’re grateful for Franklin and his brilliant mind, but let’s give the other guys some credit!