James Randerson

More than 100 contributors were asked to nominate the most important innovation in their field.

ROCKETS, THE world wide web, a method for copying DNA, and even the humble wireless have been hailed as some of humanity's greatest innovations in a list drawn up by scientists and opinion formers. More than 100 contributors, including six Nobel laureates, were asked to nominate the most important innovation in their field. The list was put together by the online publication Spiked.

Developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert, at University College London, nominated the microscope. "When I became a biologist, changing from engineering, I was fascinated looking down the microscope at amoebae moving and sea urchins developing," he said. "Pioneers like Robert Hooke in 1665 used it to identify the cellular structure of living things for the first time. Without it cells would not have been discovered."

Science writer Matt Ridley chose "random search," the ability to find information on the Internet using search engines such as Google.

"Random search has revolutionised the checking of facts, the discovering of new information, the gleaning of leads," he said. "If my profession is writing truthfully but interestingly about the world then this must be the best innovation one could wish for."

Sir Tim Hunt, principal scientist at Cancer Research U.K. and Nobel laureate, plumped for the set of techniques used by molecular biologists to manipulate DNA. "Recombinant DNA technology has made the biggest difference to the way my kind of biologist works today," he said. "We couldn't have got anywhere without it." He shared the 2001 Nobel prize for work on molecular factors that regulate cell division.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006