Whether it was a drawing or photograph, these images changed the course of human understanding, and science itself, forever.
The didn't just capture a scenic view of Saint-Loup-de-Varennes in eastern France. Using a fixed image camera and a piece of paper coated with silver chloride that darkened where light hit it, Nicephore Niepce captured the future of how mankind would share images. It made possible all of our photographs of our kids, parents, and lovers—not to mention our selfies.
Today the photo lives at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
Date: September 1665
This is the most important individual flea of all time. Coming from Robert Hooke's Micrographia, a collection of illustrations he drew in 1665 that currently resides in the National Museum of Health and Medicine, this drawing is a work of art. But more importantly, it demonstrated the power of the microscope that allowed Hooke to depict the pest in minute detail.
Date: September 25, 2012
You are looking at the beginning of the universe. The Hubble telescope captured this image of distant galaxies 13.2 billion light years away—the latest in a series of Deep Field images that —after an exposure time of 23 days. Hundreds of galaxies, billions of stars, all collected into one photograph.
Date: April 25, 1953
It looks like something scribbled on a bar napkin, but this simple drawing changed…well, everything. James Watson and Francis Crick showcased the nature of genetics and drew the makeup of the information-carrying molecule for all life.
Date: December 24, 1968
Considered to be the most important environmental photograph ever taken, "Earthrise" was taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders on Christmas Eve, 1968. Above the barren horizon of the moon, the photo captured the entirety of the beautiful, living Earth, changing the way we looked at our own world.
Scrawled in one of his ("red transmutation notebook B"), this is the first branching diagram of the lineage of organisms. The best part is the "I think" scribbled up top. "I think…this may become one of the most important discoveries in human history."
Discovered by accident in 1963, the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is essentially noise left over from the creation of the universe. Dating back to just 380,000 years after the big bang, the CMB is a baby picture of our universe, and finding it was a triumph of cosmology.
In case you haven't noticed, space is empty, vast, and desolate. And no photograph demonstrates our tininess relative to the universe better than "Pale Blue Dot." Taken by the Voyager 1 space probe when it was 3.7 billion miles from Earth, at the request of Carl Sagan this photo captures our whole planet as a speck.
If all it took to change the world was seven circles, I could have done it in pre-school. Copernicus beat me to the punch by a few hundred years, though, by removing Earth from its position as the center of the universe in his famous book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (Latin sounds so cool).
Operation Ivy was a nuclear test in response to the Soviet nuclear weapons program. The photograph shows Mike, the first successful full-scale multi-megaton thermonuclear weapon, or a hydrogen bomb. Depicting a blast 500 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, this photograph demonstrates a future we hope will never come true.