Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Discovery and Invention

Difference Between Discovery and Invention

Discovery vs. Invention

In a casual everyday conversation, one would most likely interchange the words ‘discovery’ and ‘invention’, nonchalantly so. Many would settle with the presumption that these are one and the same. On the other hand, others would argue that the two are entirely different – and they would be right. The determining factor is the object they point to. The rule of thumb is that discoveries apply to things that have long existed, while inventions – to things that have never existed in the past.

To invent is akin to creating something completely distinct and non-existent prior to the act. In natural sciences, a thing or an instance is considered an invention when it is categorized as an artifact, a tool, machinery, etc. Examples of inventions would be the wheel, the automobile, scissors, the umbrella, the ballpoint pen, the telephone, and so on. Inventions are derived from materials that have been previously discovered and even from a collection and integration of earlier inventions.  For instance, the wheel is an invention derived from wood, rubber, or metal – materials that were in existence prior to the invention of the wheel. Another example: the ballpoint pen is an invention that integrated prior discoveries and inventions such as ink, metal, and plastic tubes. In other words, it is an integration of materials that together make up an entirely distinct tool. To invent is to plan and produce something to meet a specific purpose. For instance, the invention of scissors was driven by the need for a tool that can cut through objects efficiently and meticulously; they were designed for a specific purpose.

A discovery is an entirely different thing. To discover is to detect something new. This verb does not necessarily mean to create or produce the object of discovery, but rather – to make it known. Most importantly, discoveries apply to any natural occurrence. Isaac Newton discovered gravity; he did not invent it. Scientifically speaking, gravity is something that already existed even before the Earth was formed. Newton did not create it; he detected it, and gave a name to it. Discoveries let people know and recognize factual occurrences that have existed long before. For instance, before Newton gave a distinction to what we now call gravity, the public was not aware of it. The discovery of it led to public awareness. It made people understand the concept behind the force, and it led to further groundbreaking discoveries that unraveled the way the universe works. Discoveries can be purposely planned through explorations – like inventions – or they can be unexpected. For example, scientists at NASA send teams to conduct space exploration partly in order to make new discoveries. They may or may not have a clue of what they are about to find.

By and large, invention and discovery work hand in hand. As mentioned earlier, inventions are a result of materials and occurrences discovered even prior to the inventor coming up with the invention. A good example would be the automobile, an original creation derived from metals, gas, rubber, and other raw materials that had already been discovered way before the conception of this invention. In the same manner, discoveries are sometimes made known through the help of inventions. For instance, the invention of the space shuttle has led to discoveries about the moon and planets neighboring the Earth.


  1. A discovery pertains to detecting something new. An object of discovery was already existent prior to the actual discovery.
  2. An invention is an original concept or thing that did not exist prior to actual invention.
  3. A discovery pertains to natural occurrences, while an invention – to man-made artifacts, tools, processes, etc.
  4. Discovery and invention work hand in hand. Inventions are an integration of things that have already been discovered, and new discoveries can be made through the help of inventions.

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