Since the dawn of the nineteenth century, Britain has held a reputation for unparalleled technical excellence in innovation. The United Kingdom was the first country in the world to industrialise, and Britain’s keen focus on new technology has endured into the twenty-first century. Here are some of the very best inventions that have been produced by citizens of the United Kingdom.
A self-taught former bookbinder’s apprentice who worked his way up from scholarship under Humphrey Davy to membership of the royal society, Michael Faraday was perhaps the most innovative British scientist to emerge in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1831, Faraday proved a fundamental principle that we rely on every day; that an induced field formed by rotation between two magnets would produce an electric current. This discovery is employed (along with Faraday’s other basic observations) in everything from Wind Turbines to Car Accumulators, in order to keep our modern world flowing. It’s no exaggeration to say that the world owes a great deal to Faraday.
The Jet Engine
Cheap air travel and package holidays would be impossible without the Jet Engine, another innovation produced here in Britain. During the Second World War, Cambridge graduate and engineer Frank Whittle researched and built a working prototype version of an engine that produced unheard amounts of lift, through dragging air through a rotating intake. Post-war, continued development by the RAF and USAF helped to transform Whittle’s idea into a viable means of propulsion. First seen in use by post-war military jets, development by Boeing helped to bring Jet Travel first to the glittering elite, and then later to the masses from the late 1960s. All of this would have been impossible without the contributions of Whittle.
Penicillin and antibiotic treatment
Pioneering research conducted by Alexander Flemming from 1928 at St. Mary’s Hospital, London allowed British scientists at Oxford University (and elsewhere) to develop Penicillin bacterial culture into a refined, anti-disease super weapon by 1942. Penicillin targets infection and putrefied flesh in order to sustain itself; it is this property that made it superb, when refined, for treating everything from burns to septic cuts. Countless lives have been saved world wide thanks to antibiotics, all of which have been developed in some way from initial British medical tests.
The Clockwork Radio
The brainchild of inventor Trevor Baylis, the Clockwork Radio came to be ubiquitous across Western and South Africa in the late nineties. Developed from an initial prototype that incorporated children’s toys to address the chronic lack of information in isolated rural areas. The radio took centre stage from 1994 onwards in the fight against the spread of AIDS, and has also proved popular with Western and Middle Eastern consumers. Baylis has been awarded an OBE (alongside countless honorary doctorates and awards) for his outstanding achievement in taking a simple, useful idea and turning it into reality through technical expertise.
Tim Berners-Lee went from a humble researcher at CERN to creator of one of the most powerful tools for communication ever devised in 1991. Linking his idea of hypertext to existing innovations such as network nodes, Berners-Lee created HTTP, a system that allowed computers to dial pre-set information from another “server” and navigate through to other pages with ease. By 1994, the internet had exploded worldwide, with the creation of the first visual browser (Mosaic) and the production of modems allowing rich communities to develop. Today, online access is increasingly becoming a basic expectation of human provision globally, with further developments such as fibre optic internet building upon and enhancing Berners-Lee’s legacy.