This post was most recently updated on June 27th, 2018
For such a small nation, there have been lots of great British inventions.
Indeed, here are many things we wouldn’t have without British ingenuity and exploration of ideas. Some basic things that we take for granted wouldn’t be possible if weren’t for someone smart Brit many years ago.
So the next time you’re kicking back having a cup of tea, taking a photo, or indulging in a tasty chocolate, just remember that you have to thank someone from the British past for that! Here are just some of the amazing inventions that the British came up with. The list is endless, but we’ve narrowed it down to 10 top inventions.
The Top Inventions of The British (1-10)
1. Reflecting telescope: Isaac Newton, 1668
How did we come to learn so much about the stars? Well, Sir Isaac Newton had many answers for that back in 1668. This was when he invented the reflecting telescope, the first of its kind. This telescope allowed the human to see beyond the stars and radically transform our understanding of the universe.
2. Toothbrush: William Addis, c. 1770
We often take dental hygiene for granted, grabbing that toothbrush morning and night and giving the pearly whites a scrub up. But what would life look like if we didn’t have this invention? William Addis made sure we’d never have that dilemma. He was an English entrepreneur who was thought to have come up with the idea for the first mass produced toothbrush that gave way to what we know today.
3. Steam engine: Richard Trevithick, 1801
Richard Trevithick was one of the pioneers of the industrial revolution, a British inventor and mining engineer. He built a full scale steam locomotive in 1801 that used high pressured steam. It was first tested near Redruth in Cornwall on Christmas Eve in 1801 and proved to be a great success. The ‘puffing devil’ paved the way for modern day trains.
4. Photography: William Henry Fox Talbot, 1835
Capturing a moment in time is one of the greatest inventions that combines practicality and sentimentality. During a great summer of 1835, William Talbot took advantage of the incredible sunlight (rare for England, really!) and invented a process for using a calotype to create a photo. He was the inventor of the first negative imaging camera.
5. Chocolate bar: JS Fry & Sons, 1847
There is not much in the world that compares to the comfort of biting into a bar of chocolate. This is a universal guilty pleasure and it is hard to imagine life without this chocolatey goodness. Joseph Storrs Fry and his family owned business JS Fry & Sons produced the first modern day chocolate bar in 1847 after years of business name change and directional goals.
6. Telephone: Alexander Graham Bell, 1876
In a world of mobile phones that fit in the pocket, it is hard to imagine the revolutionary way that the old school phone changed the communication waves. Scottish born scientist Alexander Graham Bell explored and improved the electromagnetic potential of the telephone to invent the patent design for a modern telephone.
7. Stainless Steel: Harry Brearley, 1913
The steel industry does a whole lot more for society that many of notice. For instance, have a look around your bathroom or kitchen. Head to a local cafe or shopping centre. There is stainless steel all around you, blending into the background. Harry Brearley truly reaped the benefits of stainless steel back in the day. In 1913 he invented a steel that was 12.8% chromium and 0.24% carbon which was arguably the first ever stainless steel produced.
8. Television: John Logie Baird, 1925
Ah, the television. The coloured images that entertain and delight the senses both on the weekend lazy days or after a busy working day through the week. What would the modern family home look like without the television dominating the living room. Many homes have one, two, maybe even three TVs, some the size of movie theatres. Yet, this life changing invention only came around in 1925. Thanks for Scottish born innovator and hater of boredom, John Logie, we now have the mechanical television. Without him, the potential for colour on screens would never have come about.
9. Automatic kettle: Peter Hobbs, 1955
It is common knowledge around the world just how much the British love their cup of tea. Morning time, have a cuppa. What about the afternoon? Simply got to have another cuppa. How would one get through the day without twenty thousand cups of tea when the drizzling rain is going on outside in England. Of course, the stove top and a pot of water worked well enough for centuries. However, the time it takes to boil the water in this way means less time for another cuppa. So, Peter Hobbs took care of this in 1955 by inventing the automatic kettle. He was cofounder of the company many of us know, and rely on today, Russell Hobbs. Even though back in 1955 the automatic kettle was expensive and ugly, it didn’t take long for it be accepted into society and modified to a thing of beauty, elegance, and most importantly, convenience for that cuppa.
10. World Wide Web: Tim Berners-Lee, 1989
If there is one thing that modern day society couldn’t live without, it is surely the internet. Whether for informative purposes, for educational research, or for watching entertaining cat videos on Youtube, we really have come to rely on the World Wide Web. before 1989, this was just a futurist idea belonging to crazy sci-fi movies. Engineer and scientist, Tim Berners-Lee made the proposal for the internet in 1989. After graduating from Oxford, he went on to be a software manager at CERN. Although met with intrigue and scoffing at the idea of this notion, Berners-Lee pursued and the internet was born. And aren’t we glad it was! If anyone deserves a high 5 for their work, it is this guy!