Brits at their Best.com: British History, Culture & Sports, History of Freedom, Heroes, Inventors

INGENIOUS INVENTORS

INNOVATIVE THINKERS

Boy working on laptop in garden with dog

Practical, determined, and imaginative, with a can-do spirit, Brits invent the technology for affordable clothes, cars, telephones, and trains, computers, the World Wide Web and the jet plane, antibiotics, MRIs, and quite a bit more.

Read about the mavericks in THE SCIENCE TIMELINE

 

BRITISH INVENTORS & INNOVATORS

include. . .

Eye and rainbow

LUMINOUS IDEAS

Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon establish a method crucial to science.

Man shaving

RAZOR-LIKE THINKING

William of Ockham establishes a principle basic to the development of science.

HAVING A BALL

The Mertonians are centuries ahead of their time in experimenting with motion.

THE QUARREL OF ISAAC NEWTON AND ROBERT HOOKE

Unable to attend school until he is a teenager, Robert Hooke learns algebra in a week. He goes on to describe the laws of modern construction, opens up the hidden world of biological structure, and invents the universal joint (essential to the drive shaft of a car). Isaac Newton is a colleague of Hooke's. He doesn't impress his school teachers, but he does illuminate the universe.

HOW TO MAKE MONEY  

In the 18th century John Law invents the idea of credit, and rescues and ruins the French Government. British philosopher and economist Adam Smith explains why individual freedom is necessary to the economic health of nations. Their ideas will have momentous consequences. Smith’s personal life reflects a little-remarked but significant aspect of capitalism.

THE LANGUAGE OF CLOUDS

Inspired by a volcanic eruption, Luke Howard establishes the science of weather prediction.

Penicillin mold in petrie dish prevents bacteria from growing

IT WAS A "MIRACLE"

The true story of one of the most important medical discoveries ever made is more intriguing than the legend.

A LIKING FOR TRAVEL

One would never guess from their colourful personal histories that John McAdam and John Ogilby would invent macadam roads and road maps.

MEDICAL METTLE

British doctors show unusual fortitude in pursuing medical advances despite the violent scepticism of their patients and colleagues: Harvey describes the circulation of blood through the body and the function of the heart; ‘Dr. Listerine’ » discovers and promotes antiseptic surgery; and Charnley figures out pain-free, long-lasting joint replacements.

MAKING CONNECTIONS  

Brilliant and freewheeling, Lord Kelvin helps to lay the first working telegraph cable on the bottom of the ocean floor. Indefatigable Alexander Graham Bell invents many other curious devices in addition to the telephone, and Tim Berners-Lee launches the World Wide Web. 

EVOLVING EVOLUTION

Undaunted by the shipwreck he suffered in the Atlantic, Alfred Russel Wallace traveled across the Pacific to the Malay Archipelago. Becoming ill with malaria in the jungle, he conceived the Theory of Natural Selection while lying racked by fever and chills in a hammock. What happens when he sends his idea to Charles Darwin may give us some ideas about survival of the fittest.

THE ELEPHANT AND THE FLEA

After John Dalton and Ernest Rutherford delve into atomic structure, Cockcroft and Walton are able to split the atom. Their breakthroughs, crucial for medical science and the creation of energy, owe something to the theory of the elephant and the flea.

FIGHTING BEAR  

Exploring unmapped wilderness halfway around the world, horticultural heroes risk their lives to get rare plant specimens back to London.  See The English Garden Part 2. One result is the development of major food and pharmaceutical industries.

VISION AT A DISTANCE

Inspired by unprecedented insights into the nature of the universe, British inventors make major contributions to the invention of television, radar, and radio astronomy.

VISION CLOSE UP

Dr. John Snow helps to end cholera, a scourge of mankind, because he looks so closely at the Broad Street pump and the patients dying around the well.  A century later, three men and one woman looking at the complex shadows cast by molecules unlock the code to DNA and open new opportunities for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.

THE BREAD OF LIFE

The inventions and innovations of Jethro Tull, Rowland Biffen and Albert Howard continue to mean the difference between life and death for millions.

LEAVING ON A JET PLANE

Frank Whittle’s heroic efforts to build a jet plane have to overcome bureaucratic resistance and physical forces that almost tear his engine apart.

 

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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008 David Abbott & Catherine Glass