26 Innovations that changed the world

Welcome to a selection of innovations developed wholly or in part at the University of Washington. We invite you to explore these fundamental and groundbreaking innovations and share in the rich history of the University of Washington.

About this project

The University of Washington has an extraordinary 150-year-plus track record of scholarly endeavor, yielding inventions, discoveries and other innovations that have had a profound impact on lives all over the globe. These innovations have ranged from medical devices to symphonies, computer programs to aquaculture, deep-sea mapping to literary text-mapping, as well as an extraordinary range of scholarship that has provided new insights into the human and natural world. Some of these were the result of one person’s creative spark or inventive mind. Others were the result of broad-based collaborations among many different people and with a large number of different institutions around the globe. None of them would have been possible without the rich and dynamic environment of a university--an environment of continual learning where it is possible to experiment, fail, collaborate, and push the boundaries of the possible.

This exhibition celebrates some of these accomplishments. It is sponsored by the University of Washington Office of Planning and Budgeting with the support of the Offices of the President and Provost, and grew out of the recommendations of a university-wide committee convened in 2013. Schools and departments from across the university contributed their nominations to this site. The 26 cases showcased here are only a small sampling from the much larger database compiled by the committee and its researchers.

The faculty advisor for this project was Margaret O’Mara of the Department of History. Lorraine McConaghy, historian emerita of the Museum of History and Industry, directed its research and content development. Kevin McKenna, PhD student in History, was a research collaborator and writer. Lisa Oberg, history of science and medicine curator at UW Libraries Special Collections, helped develop archival and oral history content. Paul Constantine, John Bolcer, and Ann Lally of Special Collections provided further support and guidance in the development of site content. Transom designed and built this website.


The research team thanks the many faculty, alumni, and staff of the UW for their help in telling these stories:

Don Baker, Joel Berg, Michael Brown, Robert Charlson, Leonard Cobb, Mickey Eisenberg, Brian Ferris, Angela Ginorio, Subhadeep Gupta, King Holmes, Geri Bunker Ingraham, Jim Jiambalvo, George Keilman, Brian Koepnick, Patricia Kuhl, Richard Ladner, Steven Malone, Christy McKinney, Andrew Metzoff, Hannah Palin, Irene Paden, Eve Riskin, William Sharpe, Robin Stacey, Bill Steele, John Vidale, Kari Watkins, Shirley Yee, and Greg Zick.

We also thank the following schools, departments, and divisions of the UW:

Foster School of Business, School of Dentistry, Department of Electrical Engineering, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Department of Physics, Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, Department of Geography, and University of Washington Libraries.

We also thank the following organizations:

Medic One Foundation, Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Municipal Archives, and Seattle Public Library.