The invention of the bicycle increased the average distance between the birthplaces of spouses in England from one mile to 30 miles.
Play Doh was originally marketed as a wallpaper cleaner.
• Ear muffs were invented by Chester Greenwood, 13, of Maine, to stop his ears freezing when he was ice skating. He made them from baling wire and beaver fur. All his friends wanted a set, so he patented them in 1877, when he was 17.
• The ice lolly (‘popsicle’ in the US) was invented by Frank Epperson, 11, of San Francisco, by accident after he left a drink with a stirring stick in it on the porch overnight in 1905.
• A nappy with pockets was invented by Chelsea Lanmon, 5, of Texas, for the benefit of her baby brother. She got the patent for it in 1994, when she was 8, and then turned her attention to inventing a battery-powered heated ice cream scoop.
Sir Kenelm Digby was one of the first 40 men invited to join the Royal Society. He was an early espouser of the idea of the circulation of the blood and the first to record the importance of 'the vital air' (oxygen) to vegetation. He influenced Isaac Newton, and he was a friend of René Descartes, Oliver Cromwell, Francis Bacon and Christopher Wren.
Digby married his childhood sweetheart, a courtesan named Venetia Stanley. She died in her sleep aged 32 because of the viper wine that her husband gave her as a skin tonic. Finding her dead in bed, Digby called Anthony van Dyck round to paint the portrait of her, apparently asleep, which is now on display in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Digby invented the method of glass-blowing used to make modern wine bottles. He also spoke six languages and was a noted raconteur (or liar, according to some). As a reward for his work as a public servant, he was granted the regional monopoly of sealing wax in Wales.
Kenelm’s father, Everard, was the first of the Gunpowder Plotters to be executed. Sir Francis Bacon relates that when he was being drawn and quartered the executioner pulled out his heart and announced, as was customary, 'Here is the heart of a traitor', to which Digby replied 'Thou liest'.
Perhaps Sir Kenelm Digby’s greatest invention appeared in his recipe book, The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened, in which he came up with the idea of having bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Champagne was invented in England.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Trade more than half the world’s great inventions are British.
The inventor of cotton buds called them ‘baby gays’.
Queen Victoria owned a novelty bustle fitted with a musical box that played ‘God Save the Queen’ whenever she sat down.
Name of the greatest of all inventors. Accident.
• The shopping trolley (Inventor: Sylvan Goldman, 1938) was designed to encourage people to buy more but initial testing showed that men thought them effeminate while women found them ‘unstylish’ and resented the implication that they couldn’t carry their own basket.
Goldman hired people to wheel them aimlessly around to get shoppers used to the idea. It worked and trolleys took off: by 1940 there was a seven-year waiting list to buy them. Goldman died in 1984, worth $400 million.
• The first bubble gum (Inventor: Frank Fleer, 1906) was called ‘Blibber-Blubber’, but never made it onto the market because the bubbles had to be removed from the face with turpentine.
• Windscreen wipers (Inventor: Mary Anderson, 1903, New York); were invented and patented after Anderson watched a streetcar (tram) driver repeatedly get out to wipe snow off the windscreen.
The invention stalled, as this was when there were hardly any cars on the road – so there was nobody to sell the wipers to, and the patent expired before the market came into existence. Anderson didn’t make a dime but a couple of years later, they were everywhere.
Inventing is a combination of brains and materials. The more brains you use, the less material you need.
The vending machine was invented in the first century ad by the Alexandrian engineer Hero: for four drachmas you got a shot of holy water.
Hero also created a machine for use at bottle parties. He had the same problem we have today - you go to a party with a really nice bottle of wine, put it down to go and mingle and return to find your wine gone. His solution was similar to a samovar, with separate compartments for each wine. When you poured your wine into one compartment you received a token which, when placed on the vending tray, dispensed only your wine. It operated by a simple lever principle - each token was a different weight, setting the opening valve to a different position.
The specifications for both machines are in his Treatise on Pneumatics: machines 21 and 32 respectively.
William Webb Ellis died in France, completely unaware he had been credited with the invention of rugby.
It was 33 years after loo paper was invented in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that it could finally be advertised as ‘splinter free’.
The Roman emperor Elagabalus invented a whoopee cushion which he used at dinner parties.
Nobody knows who invented the fire hydrant: the patent records were destroyed in a fire.
In 1916, Samuel Born was given the key to
the city of San Francisco for inventing the machine that inserts sticks into lollipops.
The time will come when people will travel in stages moved by steam engines, from one city to another, almost as fast as birds fly, fifteen or twenty miles an hour.