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Inventors and their Inventions

This article was written by Małgorzata Zdybiewska who works for TTC in Radom and is a member of the web team.


We love gadgets and new devices that make our lives easier and more convenient. New inventions appear on the market every day. Some are only a passing craze or short-lived fashion e.g. “key tracers’” or “pagers” but some stay for much longer. The names of their inventors then become household words. They enter our language and after some time we tend to forget that indeed the invented machines or products bear the names of their inventors. Below there is a list of famous inventors who had some very well known and popular products named after them.


  1. Ladislao Biro, a Hungarian inventor who realized the advantage of quick drying inks. He invented a ballpoint pen, a biro, which became a great success. Nowadays students cannot possible imagine what it was like to use a traditional pen and ink.


  1. John Bowler, a London hatter who designed a man’s hard hat known as a bowler. Together with a black umbrella it has become a symbol of a City gent i.e. somebody who works in the City of London.


  1. Louis Braille (1809-52), a French teacher who was blinded as a child. He successfully invented a system, which the blind could both read and write. It consists of a sequence of cells, each of which contains a 3x2 matrix of embossed dots, whose patterns can be sensed through the fingers. Computer-assisted systems are now available which can turn text into Braille.


  1. Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, (1811-99), a Prussian chemist and physicist who invented the grease—spot photometer, a galvanic battery, and an ice calorimeter. He also came with an idea of a gas burner, used mainly in chemistry laboratories, which is named after him. Bunsen’s technical assistant, C.Desaga, first constructed Bunsen burner and a credit should go to him as well.


  1. James Cardigan, (1797-1868), a British general who led the charge of the Light Brigade against the Russians in the Crimean War. The woolen jacket known as a cardigan is named after him.


  1. Samuel Colt (1814-62), an American inventor who in 1826 patented a pistol with a revolving barrel that could fire six bullets one after the other. An US army, founding the fortunes of Colt’s company, Colt’s Patent Fire Arms, adopted the colt after the Mexican War.


  1. Rudolph Diesel (1858-1913), a German engineer who constructed a “rational heat motor’. In 1897 he demonstrated the first compression-ignition engine. Diesel engine, invented by Rudolph Diesel in 1897, is an internal combustion engine, working upon the diesel cycle, which ignites its fuel/air mixture by heating it to combustion point through compression.


  1. Hans Geiger (1882-1945), a German physicist who worked in Britain under Rutherford. He investigated beta-ray radioactivity and helped devise a counter to measure it. The counter now bears his name. Geiger counter is a device for counting atomic particles.


  1. Joseph Ignace (1738-1814) was a French physician and a revolutionary. He proposed to the Constituent Assembly, of which he was a deputy, the use of decapitating instrument as means of execution. The guillotine was adopted in 1791 and named after him.


  1. Charles Macintosh ((1766-1843), a British manufacturing chemist, who in 1823 patented in Glasgow, a method of waterproofing fabric, to which he gave his name. The technique involved the use of rubber dissolved in a naphtha solution to cement two pieces of clothes. Raincoats were often thereafter called Macintoshes.


  1. Samuel Morse ((1791-1872), an US artist and inventor who developed a the magnetic telegraph which together with the Morse code brought him honours and rewards after the opening of the first telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore in 1844. Morse code is a binary code for the transmission of verbal messages. Each letter of the alphabet is assigned a distinctive combination of short dots and long dashes. Thus a distress SOS call is rendered … – – – …


  1. Louis Pasteur (1822-95), a French chemist and microbiologist who established that

Microorganisms caused putrefaction and fermentation. In a famous experiment in 1881 he showed that sheep and cows ‘vaccinated’ with the attenuated bacilli of anthrax received protection against the disease. Pasteurization, a mild heat treatment used to kill microorganism in milk, is named after him.


  1. John Montague Sandwich (1718-92), a British politician is remembered as the inventor of sandwiches, which he devised in order to eat while playing around the clock at a gaming table.


There are, of course, many more famous inventions named after their inventors. There are many articles of clothing named after famous people e.g. bloomers (named after the American women’s rights campaigner, Mrs. Amelia Bloomer), leotards (named after the 19th century French trapeze artist, Jules Leotard), Wellingtons (named after General Wellington who won a victory under Waterloo) or ‘degolówka’ (a cap worn by General Charles de Gaulle which became a favourite piece of clothing for many thousands of Polish people after General’s visit to Poland in the 60s) etc.


Sources: The Cambridge Encyclopedia, ed. David Crystal, 1990. CUP and an article by Mark Shackleton published in 1979 in “Summer Special of Modern English”

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