The symphonium and the concertina

Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802-75) from Gloucestershire is best known for the ‘Wheatstone bridge’, a device for measuring electrical resistance, though he can only lay claim to its practical development and not the idea itself, which […]

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Capt. Henry J. Round, ‘the tame wizard’

Staffordshire-born Henry Joseph Round (1881-1966) lived and breathed engineering and was affectionately nicknamed ‘the tame wizard’ by his colleagues at the Marconi company where he spent many years experimenting, trouble-shooting and pioneering wireless telephony. He […]

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The adjustable spanner

For Yorkshireman Richard Clyburn (1796/7-1852) to become a consulting engineer in his early 30s, he must have shown impressive manual, technical and design skills early in life. He had moved down to Gloucestershire and went […]

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The fire extinguisher

After the Great Fire of London in 1666 there was a gradual move towards organised firefighting (initially by insurance companies, who instructed their firemen to drench clients’ buildings only!). It took another 150 years for […]

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Hawk-Eye

Referees and umpires, we all should agree, have a very difficult job. The assistance of digital camera technology entered into the fray, initially in cricket, in 2001. The pioneer was ‘Hawk-Eye‘, the vision of Dr. […]

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Venn diagrams

Yorkshire-born Dr. John Venn (1834-1923) had two obsessions ~ logic and Cambridge University. His deep interest and skill in mathematics, probability and logic led to his development of what later became known as Venn diagrams. […]

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Belisha beacons

The flash rate of Belisha beacons (0.75 seconds on, 0.75 seconds off) might have been chosen by a psychologist, as it is both reassuring for pedestrians and a calm alert for drivers simultaneously. For their […]

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The diving bell

Dr. Edmund Halley (1656-1742), of comet fame, lived in the era of seafaring buccaneers who sometimes sank to a watery grave with their treasure. If this happened near the coast, adventurers might dive for salvage […]

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Polythene and Perspex

Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) was once the UK’s largest manufacturing company and from the 1930s to the 1960s its Plastics Division was a hub of innovation, some by design, some by accident (e.g. polythene). Other […]

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Netlon and Tensar

Dr. Brian Mercer (1927-98) was born in Blackburn towards the end of the British textile industry’s golden age. Fortunately, he was inspired to convert the resources of the cotton mill he inherited to the manufacture […]

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Parkesine, the first plastic

The motivation behind the first plastic was to conserve natural resources, such as rubber and timber, and reduce the exploitation of animal parts, such as ivory and tortoiseshell. So it was that in 1862 Alexander […]

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Rawlplugs

When the British Museum asked their local building contractor, Rawlings Brothers, to attach electrical fittings to the walls with minimal damage to the masonry, they cannot have imagined the revolutionary invention this would produce. The […]

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