Follow TV Tropes


One-Man Industrial Revolution

Go To

The Gadgeteer Genius is good at what he does, but he doesn't have a particularly profound effect on The 'Verse, because Reed Richards Is Useless. This guy, however, is almost singlehandedly responsible for ending the Medieval Stasis: the one person responsible for all the high technology in a setting. Anyone Giving Radio to the Romans is likely to be this; and if instead of one person it takes a whole group of people who by random chance just happen to have the right skills and knowledge to start the industrial revolution, it's Stranded with Edison. See also Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In General, many Trapped in Another World mangas have the main character become this, and depending on the story it is either the main focus of the plot (i.e. Release That Witch) or being completely by accident (i.e. The Eminence in Shadow). This is usually due to them being sent to a fantasy-like setting that has technology no more advance than the middle age, and said main character just creating items or using techniques common from today's age.
  • Thor Canaan from The Creation Alchemist Enjoys Freedom is an alchemist (the closest thing to a scientist in the setting) that gets exiled from the Dolgaria Empire, his home country, because the latter scorn alchemists even though they are the only ones with the knowledge to repair the Empire's Holy Weapons. When Thor finds a mail order catalogue from the Heroes' original world in the Demon King Territory, he uses it as inspiration to develop Magitek that is centuries ahead of local technology.
  • Dr. STONE has its protagonists wake up several millenia after the entire human race was turned into stone − needless to say, all the machines and facilities have long crumbled by then. One of those protagonists, Senku, is a walking encyclopedia and a bonafide scientific genius. He ends up in a primitive human village and introduces certain modern mechanics, food, and systems to their civilization much earlier than they would have done it themselves, to the point the villagers first call it "sorcery". Senku and co. are opposed to Tsukasa, a super strong guy who intends to rebuild a society freed of the evils of technology and thus sees Senku as his main enemy.
  • The Whispered in Full Metal Panic! have the potential of becoming this due to their main purpose of creating Black Technology, which is far more advanced than present tech. According to Gauron, Amalgam always seeks out Whispered and tests them for their scientific prowess, which can be as low as making a new rocket or high as devices that can convert one's willpower into a physcial force.
  • In Maoyu, in her guise as the Crimson Scholar, Maou is proving to be this to the Southern Kingdoms. In her case its slightly more realistic as she is moving gradually first with a Green Revolution in agriculture before moving on to the Guttenburg Press. Other characters also contribute such as the seeds of Liberalism and Alternate Currency.
  • Dr. Vegapunk of One Piece is the primary reason the Ocean Punk setting has robots with Frickin' Laser Beams. The technology he's created, most of which is heavily controlled by The Government, is explicitly described as 500 years ahead of the rest of the world. However, when we meet Vegapunk himself (sorta), the doctor laments that his work is so advanced that virtually no one else is smart enough to replicate it, and crazy expensive to boot. That and having to do all the work by himself from scratch without being able to delegate anything is another hurdle, though he found a solution for ''that'', too. May also count as a subversion since he's really reverse-engineering advanced technology from centuries in the past.
    • One might be inclined to call this a Four-Man Industrial Revolution, considering that Caesar Clown, Vinsmoke Judge, and Queen all worked with him and made major contributions of their own... but those three are all so villainous that Vegapunk disowned them, and went off to invent cyborgs by himself. Judge did end up creating human cloning and genetic modification, though.
  • Dornkirk, from The Vision of Escaflowne; any number of Emperor Scientists may have this going on as well. Which isn't much of a surprise when you realize Dornkirk is actually Sir Isaac Newton.

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan's ability to make rare elements from scratch is the reason his world has cancer-free cigarettes, efficient zeppelins and cheap electric cars.
  • Superman:
    • Lex Luthor in Superman: Red Son is responsible for technology decades ahead of its time.
    • In main DC continuity, the city of Metropolis was "upgraded" by Brainiac around New Year's Day 2000 to be centuries ahead of its time.
  • In ElfQuest's "Shards" arc, the half-elf, half-troll Two-Edge becomes this for the human warlord Grohmul Djun.
  • In Universal War One, Kalish finds a way to travel through space and time, and literally starts a new civilization.
  • An Iron Man story had Tony Stark getting thrown back in time to the King Arthur era, much like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Unable to return to his own time, he sets up shop and becomes a blacksmith, while using his knowledge to create as much modern technologies as possible.

    Fan Fiction 
  • A major theme in Dungeon Keeper Ami. Justified; Ami has access to all the knowledge of the modern world, in addition to several kinds of Functional Magic and a horde of minions to implement said Industrial Revolution, from wind-power turbines to generate electricity (so she can get lighting and heating without spending mana), to remote-controlled soldiers, to helium-filled zeppelins. A fair amount of innovation is her own, as well; she is highly intelligent, after all. This is what founds and feeds her reputation for cunning and genius.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones fanfics:
    • In A Connecticut Yankee in King Robert's Court (Story-only thread), an American engineer gets thrown into Edmure Tully, and an American nurse into Myranda Royce. While Edmure manages to introduce brandy, new roads, paper, gunpowder and new agricultural techniques, Myranda manages to create new jewelry, the bra, better health practices (including cardiopulmonar resuscitation) and the spinning wheel... and there is foreshadowing that there is going to be a lot more. It is a Two People Industrial Revolution.
    • In Greyjoy Alla Breve, Theon Greyjoy receives not only the memories of a modern man familiar with the books, but a mental connection to The Other Wiki and thus detailed knowledge of everything from gunpowder to photography, to medicine, Bessemer process and flight.
  • Flim and Flam in The Rise of Darth Vulcan tried. However when it became apparent to their frustration that no one regarded their revolutionary inventions as anything more than novelties, they decided to get their own back by becoming con ponies.
  • Ahsoka Tano in Harry Tano. She brings a lot of incredibly advanced technology with her, but in the end she still needs the help of her magical friends to make the first steps towards the new industrial revolution.
  • With the help of an entity that makes it technically a crossover, Saruman in Saruman of Many Devices overturns the sword and bow warfare of the Third Age with the application of rifle-armed Uruk Dragoons.
  • Downplayed in Visiontale. A small group of monsters is responsible for the scientific innovations, hard and soft, in the Underground. They have lived for centuries, so they have had the time to develop their ideas. Even so, they still need help from others to conduct research and turn their ideas into tangible results.
  • The How to Train Your Dragon fanfic A Thing of Vikings has Hiccup being basically this to the early Medieval Period. While canonically in the fic he doesn't invent steam power, he does create industrial tech that is literally centuries ahead of its time (sheet metal roller, drop press, etc). It is noted that part of the reason for this is that compared to other geniuses of the time or before him, Hiccup as the heir to a rapidly emerging power did not need to seek funding to build his inventions or spend time just trying to earn enough money to feed himself. This is lampshaded by one of the epigraphs, where it's stated that many modern students of history lament the fact that Hiccup "just missed" inventing the steam engine, seeing as how he had all the necessary components at hand. However, as the epigraph counters, he lacked the need for such inventions, since many of the things steam power could accomplish, dragon power could do just as well for the needs at the time.
  • Taylor Hebert in Distance Learning for Fun and Profit was a polymath capable of performing seventh dimension math in her head before her invention caused her to basically steal alien cable, specifically a distance learning program. From there, she worked out anti-gravity, a handheld MRI machine, a cheap room temperature superconductor, and a cloaking device small enough to fit in a phone. Not only is she not a parahuman of any sort, but only the last device is even inspired by parahumans (specifically a piece of Squealer's tinker tech). Taylor becomes so incredibly important to the United States of America that in less than a year, the president himself insists that her safety be given priority over his own should it ever come to that.

  • Meet the Robinsons has a fairly extreme example: Cornelius Robinson has invented all the cool new stuff we see the future has, and it's managed to become widely adopted by the time he's still middle-aged!

  • Noriko Null from Beyond the Impossible. She develops an incredibly cheap fusion reactor that is scheduled to completely phase out nuclear power and fossil fuels within a couple of years.
  • A time traveler's 3rd-hand account in the Burton & Swinburne Series, leads Isambard Kingdom Brunel to create a steampunk industrial revolution while Charles Darwin has a counterpart genetic engineering revolution. All this in the 19th century.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Hank develops bicycles, gunpowder, and even electricity, enriching the lives of the medieval peasants. He's also able to spread these technologies because he happens to meet the king early on and scares him into compliance with a conveniently timed eclipse. This allows him to set up a system of schools and manufacturing complexes which make his introduction of technology almost plausible. Until the Church declares Hank a heretic and bans his inventions.
  • A deconstruction is Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, written in 1911. A mining engineer finds himself in the same position as Twain's hero, but finds he can change little.
  • Poul Anderson showed the problems with this in his short story The Man Who Came Early, in which an American soldier stationed in Iceland is sent back to the Viking Era after being hit by lightning. Luckily the Icelandic language has not changed much since then. All his attempts to change history fall flat on their face. When he tries to show the Vikings how to make compasses, he has no idea where to find or mine magnetic ores. When he tries to show them how to build more modern sailing vessels, the Vikings point out that such vessels are too cumbersome to dock anywhere where there is not a ready built harbor, an obvious rarity in that time period, and so on. The story's main point is that introducing future inventions, while possible, is immensely difficult, because most advances are useless without an equally advanced societal infrastructure to support them or outright impossible to make without them.
  • K. W. Jeter's Fiendish Schemes takes place about a decade after George Dower had sold all the inventions in his father's shop in Infernal Devices. The result is a steampunk revolution where lighthouse crab walkers are a thing, geo-thermal steam power is available in every British home and fetishized mechanical body modification shows up in "ferric sex" clubs.
  • Leo Frankowski's Conrad Stargard series. However the protagonist gets a good deal of covert assistance from a future time-traveling relative.
  • The Prince Roger series has Space Marines crash on a planet chock full of alien barbarians. In order to make it across the planet to the spaceport, they ally with certain tribes and give them Roman Empire-era technology and tactics.
  • Safehold: Nimue "Merlin" Alban brings modern technology back to the colonists, who are in a sort of involuntary Space Amish-ism.
    • Among the locals, Baron Seamount is so this that at least one character argues against telling him about the technology stolen from them in part because he's already single-handedly progressing Safehold technology without access to the knowledge, thus furthering exactly the sort of inquisitive scientific mindset the protagonists want to encourage in Safeholdians generally. If everybody bringing technology back to Safehold is just duplicating stuff that was developed on Old Earth that's not going to encourage the desired mindset.
  • Martin Padway in Lest Darkness Fall invents distilleries, the telegraph, the printing press, the telescope... He's a time traveller stuck in Italy just before Justinian's disastrous reconquest, so he tries to make the best of it.
  • In "The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass", a deconstruction of Lest Darkness Fall, a man goes back in time to the Roman Empire and brings them modern knowledge until a thousand years later the Earth is so overpopulated that the future sends someone else back in time to kill him just as he arrives in Roman times. The last line in the story is "And darkness blessedly fell".
  • Subverted in Mostly Harmless: Arthur thought he could do this since he comes from a technologically advanced place (compared to the place he ends up at), but then he realizes he didn't know how any of that stuff actually worked. The one invention he ends up bringing to them is... sandwiches.
  • J.F. Bone's novel The Meddlers: A man's starship runs out of fuel (wire made out of precious metals) and he lands on a primitive planet. He must teach the natives how to use technology so he can get enough fuel to get home.
  • Vernor Vinge:
    • Sherkaner Underhill takes technology from WWI-ish to present day singlehandedly in A Deepness in the Sky.
    • A Fire Upon the Deep reveals that every spaceship carries 'uplift' files, in case they get caught in the slow zones where higher end technology won't work, and they have to build lower-tech replacements to get back to the higher zones.
  • In Michael Swanwick's Jack Faust, German scholar Johannes Faust kickstarts a technological revolution that skyhooks Renaissance Europe into the early 20th century in the space of a century. Justifiable in this case, as the story is written more as a fable than a realist novel (at least, if the parts where Mephistopheles tells Faust how to create new technologies is anything to go on)
  • In Harry Harrison's Deathworld 2, set many years in the future, in spite of the main character being a professional gambler with no education in engineering or history, when stranded on a backwards planet he manages to reinvent everything up through the Industrial Revolution.
  • Subverted in the Discworld with Leonard of Quirm, who could create massive technological change had the Patrician not had him placed in a large, airy room for which he has the only key, where his failure to consider the consequences of his inventions can't do any harm. This is a man who created something for use in the mining industry "for when they want to move the mountains out of the way". Some of his designs do creep out, with the result Ankh-Morpork has a few Clock Punk devices like the Barbarian Invaders game, but not enough to revolutionise the Disc.
  • While not a one person Industrial Revolution, the core cast of Everworld manages to plant the seeds for technology, starting in Enter the Enchanted, where April shows Merlin how to perform a blood transfusion, but more significantly in Discover the Destroyer, where Jalil and David manage to get a lot of gold for showing the fairies how to construct a telegraph. It all comes to a head in the last two books where the technology has spread so drastically that there is now electricity and cable cars. It goes even further when, after battles, April instructs the elves in safety from germs and bacteria, as well as other things. Christopher was of the belief that April's contribution brought the study of medicine in Everworld forward by about five hundred years practically overnight. Not to mention trading the formula for gunpowder (out of a high school chemistry book) to some aliens in exchange for a little upgrade to their pocketknife.
  • A Hero's War is all about this, taking a largely agrarian and artisan society and turning it into an industrial powerhouse. Cato is actually trying to make it not all about him, encouraging others to experiment and measure and standardize and automate, and to a degree he's successful, with several of his allies adapting to this new mindset quite well. But in the end, it was Cato who kicked it all off, and he also has the head start of knowing (from Earth) a lot of what's possible and which paths of research to pursue.
  • The protagonist of R. A. Lafferty's Rainbird is this. So brilliant is he that at the end of his life he invents a time machine so he can give his younger self all his future inventions, allowing young!Rainbird to work on even more advanced technologies. After trying this once too often, old!Rainbird freaks out young!Rainbird and causes him to give up inventing altogether, thus erasing all Rainbird's inventions from history.
  • Ayla from the Earth's Children book series single-handedly invents and introduces to prehistoric Europe an absurd number of things, including making fire with pyrite and stone, sewing needles, wound suturing, animal domestication, bras and sanitary napkins for women. We are also supposed to believe that she is the first person ever to realize that children are conceived as a result of sex.
  • In David Duncan's The Seventh Sword series an Earth engineer Wally Smith is transported into the body of a swordsman on a primitive world. He finds himself unable to speak of anything advanced — the language lacks the appropriate words and the warrior's vocabulary is too limited and one-sided. When he does manage to explain something, the locals are wary of anything new. After meeting local "sorcerers", who already possess the secret knowledge of writing, firearms and spyglasses and are ready to learn new things, Wally muses that if he is captured, "He would be thrown into the nearest torture chamber and laid on the rack, producing a secret a day for the sorcerers like a battery hen, a one-man industrial revolution." While undesirable, it does fit his goal of developing this world. Later he finds less painful ways to collaborate with them.
  • In Ultima Thule, Tommy Paine deliberately and repeatedly invokes this trope among multiple worlds of the United Planets over a period of years. He's not just doing it for kicks, though.
  • In Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy, Charles Darwin discovered not only the theory of evolution, but Mendelian genetics and DNA. This advanced the understanding of biology so quickly that by the onset of World War One, Britain and her allies (the "Darwinist" powers) have replaced much of the machinery in their societies with genetically engineered animals instead, like a Bio Punk version of The Flintstones.
  • Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace in The Difference Engine, and most of the many "Victorians with computers" Steampunk stories that came after it.
  • Shef, in Harry Harrison's The Hammer and the Cross has shades of this; while many of the inventions aren't his, he is the driving force behind the wave of new mechanisms and devices that sweep the world.
  • This is very literally true about Emily in the Schooled in Magic books. She introduces the printing press, basic accounting methods, and steam power (just to name a few things) to the medieval world she finds herself in.
  • Attempted in Envoy from the Heavens, where all attempts by human agents to subvert Osieran Medieval Stasis end in failure. When Ivar tries to subtly reference early experiments with steam engines, people point out that they tend to explode, making them unsafe and, therefore, undesirable. The local horse equivalent is only used for pulling chariots. Ivar's suggestion of a saddle to ride the animal are met with horrified expressions. The locals would never put their weight on such noble animals. Political upheaval is out of the question, as The Empire is extremely stable and firm in its rule of the sole inhabited continent. The continent on the other side of the planet is uninhabited, but the local religious beliefs preclude attempts to explore oceans (they think the world is flat).
  • The Young Ancients gives us a Magitek example in Tor Green Baker. In a decade or so of story time, the Kingdom of Noram goes from Medieval Stasis with some magic items floating around to a damn-near post-scarcity society with cool spaceships and a moon colony. Tor and his family are eventually banished from Earth, in fact, because they're too disruptive to everything and the world needs time to adjust to things like instant healing. Aside from having a lot of imagination and workaholic tendencies, the major difference between Tor and every other Master Builder is that Tor always spends an extra hour or so on his designs, to make them easily duplicated and mass producible.
  • Release That Witch: Played very straight. Most of the scientific inventions come straight out of the main character Roland's head, including concrete, steam engines, hot air ballons, smokeless gunpowder, electric lighting, and more. And even concepts already discovered in the setting, like black powder or sulfiric acid creation, are only moved to industrial scale production thanks to Roland.
  • In The Spacehounds Of IPC, E. E. "Doc" Smith has his hero recreate much of the technology of human civilization on Ganymede. He does get a leg up by way of having parts of a destroyed spaceship available, but first he needs power; to get power he needs a hydroelectric dam; to make the dam he needs tools and parts; to get the tools and parts he needs other tools... and so on.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "A Town Called Mercy", crash-landed alien scientist Kahler-Jex brings the titular Wild West town decades ahead of where it should be in terms of technology and medicine.
  • On Stargate Atlantis, McKay does this to/for a civilization he mistakes for a Sim game, bringing them from Medieval Stasis to Steampunk over the course of two years. This doesn't sit well with his "game" opponent John Sheppard, whose country reflects his military mindset, and who constantly complains that McKay cheated by advancing them too fast.
    • Sheppard has also advanced them beyond what they would normally have, just not to the extent of McKay.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Final Appeal", the time traveler Dr. Theresa Givens discovered that advanced technology was banned in 2076 due to 80% of humanity being wiped out by nuclear weapons during the War of 2059. She then brought advanced technological devices from her own time, the 1990s, forward to 2076 in the hope of igniting a second Industrial Revolution. However, her efforts were unsuccessful as she was arrested, tried and convicted of breaking the anti-technology code.

  • In The Adventure Zone: Balance, Lucas Miller and his mother are responsible for much of the setting's sci-fantasy elements, including robots, virtual reality, and elevators.
  • The Twilight Histories episode “The Winged Victory” has you introducing steam engines, flintlock riffles, gas lamps, flamethrowers, and even rudimentary airplanes to Ancient Greece. This is to prepare them for the coming Roman invasion.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS Time Travel supplement Alternate Earths has this. In the "Gernsback" parallel, Nikola Tesla's inventions revolutionized the modern world. Downplayed in that the biggest change is him marrying Anne Morgan, the daughter of J.P. Morgan, in 1893, giving him access to his vast wealth to finance development of his wireless communication and power transmission technologynote , giving access to earlier intercontinental wireless communication and viable wireless power transmission. This arguably makes it a more realistic take on this trope, as the main reason he is able to work on such a scale was because his wife was the daughter of one of the most powerful and influential financiers of their time.
  • In the Deadlands setting, Dr. Darius Hellstromme is responsible for the vast majority of technical advancements from about 1870 to the 2100s - the steam-powered wagon, the transcontinental railroad tunnel from Denver to the West Coast, the zombie-brain-powered robots (he uses a similar technique to put his brain into a robot body after his original body dies), the nuclear bomb (in both fantastic and regular forms), faster-than-light space travel, et cetera.

    Video Games 
  • Zigzagged with Gilbert Bates from Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. Bates is universally credited invented the verse's first steam engine, sparking an industrial revolution that transformed Tarant from a backwater hole into a world superpower. As a matter of fact, Bates didn't invent the steam engine - he merely appropriated the old dwarven prototype, which is something the dwarves didn't forgive him at all - but rather, he introduced it to the rest of Arcanum, using its full potential to accomplish the world's technological transformation.
  • Mordred on Astro-Knights Island in Poptropica.
  • Many, many Alternate History stories cast Nikola Tesla as this. For instance, Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series did it.
  • In Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, Lexis is responsible for technology based on Energy Cores.
  • Lucca in Chrono Trigger, in fact; she lead to Porre becoming a military superpower based on her technology in Chrono Cross.
  • The Kappa were already technologically advanced in Touhou Project, but the goddess Kanako Yasaka feeds a dead sun god to a Hell Raven to give them access to nuclear power; and start their Industrial Revolution. When that fails, she successfully exploits Gensokyo's properties to harness cold fusion. Indeed, Kanako has a vested interest in advancing tech level: she's trying to shift her area of influence from "wind and rain" to "technology" due to Gods Need Prayer Badly.
  • Infel from Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica is a one-woman Magitek Revolution. Nearly everything about current-age Reyvateils can be traced to her including the I.P.D. outbreak. She's the Big Bad.
  • Jade Curtiss of Tales of the Abyss developed fomicry, a magical method of instant, nearly exact cloning that can work on objects as well as people. This invention changed the very landscape of the world of Auldrant, and Jade was just a kid!
  • Emperor Valkorion aka the ex-Sith Emperor, Vitiate, from Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire supposedly did this to/for the people of Zakuul (albeit raising them from something more like modern technology to an insanely automated droid-based industry that surpasses anything else in the galaxy). It remains to be seen precisely how he did this, whether it was from things he personally invented at some point in his centuries-plus life or used some form of Lost Technology that he discovered in Wild Space. Beyond a few examples which are definitely the latter, the actual technology isn't actually that much more advanced. He's just using galactic standard technology in ways the other factions refuse to (the Republic would never allow the economy to be centralized to the degree required, and the Sith use slaves rather than droids for purely idiological reasons).
  • In the Trails Series, orbment technology was invented by Professor Epstein and improved upon by Professor Russel. Made slightly more realistic in that it took two people to make the technology practical, and it wasn't until Russel invented a functioning orbment-powered airship (which improved commerce immensely) did the technology suddenly start getting adopted in large amounts by society.
  • In the world of Dishonored, much of the technological and industrial progress in the Empire can be attributed to the name "Edmund Roseburrow" — a brilliant, if troubled Renaissance Man who almost single-handedly invented the contemporary whale oil-based industry, among other things. He later committed suicide when he saw how his discoveries were used by the Empire's aristocracy to subjugate the common people, rather than make the world a better place.
  • Mega Man: No matter the timeline, Doctor Thomas Light/Tadashi Hikari is a technological genius who completely rewrites the global landscape with whatever he puts his mind to.

  • Kevyn from Schlock Mercenary might count. He invented the teraport and pretty much changed the whole interstellar ball game: it's amazing how much new tech used and taken for granted in the comic is based off the teraport.

    Western Animation 
  • The Mechanist of Avatar: The Last Airbender fame can produce tanks, jet skis, and a huge freakin' drill, but the concept of a hot-air balloon eluuuudes him.
    • Hiroshi Sato of The Legend of Korra invented the first mass production automobile, then moved on to shock-gloves, Humongous Mecha and fighter-bomber airplanes.
    • Varrick apparently invented moving pictures (including the video camera, audio recording, and the film projector) and the first battlecruiser of his setting; he invents and produces an elaborate maglev train system, in a sticky situation MacGyvers an EMP, co-invents the flying mecha suit, and discovers how to utilize spirit energy, the Avatar universe's rough equivalent to nuclear fusion. He suddenly grows a conscience when he realizes its potential to be weaponized. He's also named a unit of power after himself (and a unit of mass after his assistant). It is implied he has invented much more than these prior to the start of the series, although not all his ideas were winners. Due to his eccentricities, he only works one hour a day.
  • The Disney Fairies movies have Tinker Bell be this.
  • In Futurama, during his time at MomCorp, Professor Farnsworth conceived of the original design and operating system for all modern robots in the series, and was able to convert previously-useless dark matter into the fuel that all ships use (prior to the fifth season). Given how innovative his work for the 30/31st century was, he's surprisingly humble (and, in some cases, regretful) about his inventions. He makes up for it by being crotchety about everything else.

    Real Life 
  • Archimedes may well have done this - for a certain, probably low value of mechanization given the reasons listed below - for the Roman empire, but then a soldier went and killed him because he was too busy working on a math problem to respond to the Roman army sacking the city. It could have been something to do with all of the giant death machines Archimedes had built for the Carthaginians, such as a crane for crushing Roman ships. The Greeks at the time had invented a rudimentary mechanical calculator. It probably wouldn't have made a great deal of difference due to the economics of the situation, but one cannot help but wondering What Could Have Been...
  • Hero of Alexandria: bringing us the steam engine 1600 years before it was patented. He had also invented all the other components necessary to build a proper steam turbine (with the very important exception of the improvement metallurgy that would be needed to make one large enough to be useful), but never realized what could happen if he put his inventions together.
  • Thomas Edison came close in real life. His inventions (or inventions from his lab, anyway) gave birth to electric lighting, the recording industry, the cinema industry, and lots of incremental improvements in telegraphy, power generation, and other fields. He's often a villain in fiction nowadays because of his feud with Tesla, but how can you hate a real-life inventor who actually had a pipe organ in his laboratory?
    • He also inadvertently gave birth to major film studios based in Hollywood by monopolizing film-making technology, forcing independent film-makers to run as far away they could. Namely, to California.
    • Edison could be an indirect example. Though many inventions attributed to him may actually have been from the various inventors he employed, it was his business methods that enabled those inventions to crystallize in the first place. Quite a few also spread because of his efforts to promote them — his celebrity status earned the public's trust for new technologies with his name stamped on them.
  • Well, Nikola Tesla is widely credited as the inventor of most of the electrical systems in use today. The guy pioneered AC (alternating currents) and perfected its use in the USA, then went on to develop things like radio, remote control, fluorescent lightbulbs and the wireless transmission of electrical power (which we're only now implementing into consumer products). Also, VTOL aircraft and a Death Ray... maybe.
  • One example that appears in real life is Samuel Slater, known as the "Father of the American Industrial Revolution". In the late 1700s, America was still very much pre-industrial, with very little manufacturing. At this time, England still maintained a strong monopoly on the textile industry, because of its mechanization of that industry. Slater was able to sneak plans for these machines out of England by memorizing the details of the plans. He came to the United States, and helped build these machines, and revolutionized the textile industry in the United States, kicking off the American industrial revolution, as his moniker indicates.
    • It's worth noting that Slater had the benefit of luxurious loans from British banks keen on investing funds overseas, as well as horrifically high US import-taxes (tariffs) of 50% on all non-edible goods, and that tax was on top of shipping costs.
  • Michael Faraday is another quite literal example. His invention of a working electric motor kickstarted the Industrial Revolution, as well as his work on the induction engine, magnetism, polarization, and various other works.
  • Richard Trevithick was perhaps the individual who in our reality is the greatest contender for this. By single-handedly pioneering high-pressure steam engines, at a time when respected existing steam inventors said that high-pressure steam was either impossible to harness or too dangerous to be worth doing so (early high-pressure engine boilers regularly blew up, with deaths not uncommon), Trevithick invented, built, tested and proved the worth of a new type of engine that got much more energy out of coal than ever before, and thence created the first vehicle to ever move under its own power generation, and the invention was then taken on to create trains, cross-ocean liners, and large-scale electrical power generation. Along with Faraday's electricity, it can be seen as the core invention that created the industrial world and then modern world we see today—but without Trevithick's high-pressure steam energy generation, electricity would never have been generated efficiently enough to change the world itself. High pressure steam is now seen as perhaps the most significant invention of all time.
  • Henry Ford wasn't the first person to utilize assembly-line mass productionnote , but he popularized the production process, changing the way many industrial goods are produced.

Alternative Title(s): One Woman Industrial Revolution