A Brief History of Thinking Outside the Box

Social Inventions Through the Ages

| March-April 2002

2350 b.c.e.
Urukagina’s Code, the earliest known code of law, consolidates a series of even earlier Mesopotamian statutes. It accords the accused some rights: notification of why they are being punished, for instance.

286 c.e.
On the run from Egyptian persecutors, St. Anthony of Egypt renounces his family fortune and heads into the desert, where he begins to gather followers and to define the monastic way of life.

Social Welfare Legislation
The British Statute of Cambridge requires municipalities to care for citizens who are incapable of work.

Public Transportation
Blaise Pascal introduces a horse-drawn, public omnibus to ease congestion on Paris streets.

After an unsuccessful weavers strike, 28 blacklisted textile workers organize the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England—the first widely known cooperative. The unemployed weavers scrape together enough capital to open a small dry goods store.

Public Libraries
The first lending library was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin and his Pennsylvania associates, but Boston is home to the first municipal lending library: the Boston Public Library.