Engineering and science has given the world an infinite, limitless range of possibilities and solutions to problems – many of which we take for granted.
Here are five of the great engineering inventions and creations that you probably use every day, and take for granted.
1) Door handle
How many times have you walked up to a door to push it, and then slammed into it as you realised that you should have pulled? We hate ‘those’ doors with no discernable rhyme or reason, and therefore are forever grateful to the noble knob or door handle.
The handle was surprisingly patented as recently as 1878, by the wonderfully-named Osbourn Dorsey. Its predecessor known as the Suffolk Pattern Thumb Latch can still be seen on church gates, and is quaint and cute in medieval places of worship, but definitely bettered by Mr Dorsey’s creation.
Thomas Crapper did not invent the flushing toilet – let’s wash that rumour away right now. John Harrington is said to have created a flushing lavatory in 1596, but it took almost 200 years for a patent and another 100 years for them to become more common, albeit a luxury item.
Solving the world’s sanitary issues still remains a major challenge. In India, for example, half of the country’s 1.2 billion people do not have access to an indoor toilet, and this BBC article suggests that many of them actually seem to enjoy defecating in the open. For those nations that do have indoor toilets, however, incidences of cholera and infectious diseases have dropped to negligible levels.
The humble pen, in its most simplistic form, is approaching its 130th
John J Loud patented the invention of the ballpoint in 1888 but could not get it to the commercial stage – Hungarian Laszlo Biro took it a stage further in 1945, and even named it after himself. Since then the Laszlo, sorry biro, has revolutionised communication at a ludicrously cheap price.
And will continue to do so. We still use pencils dating back hundreds of years, and engineers still mark the pavement for upcoming utility work with chalk. The world is not totally digitised yet – and the humble pen and paper still endures.
Chocolate – which of course is the end product of a carefully engineered and manufactured process – is truly a food that spans the world. It has many, many uses: shutting up children, placating girlfriends, and embellishing numerous recipe designs, to name just three. It is also one of the few foodstuffs that was founded on socialist principles, of course – the Cadbury family built hundreds of cottages for its workers in Birmingham at the end of the 19th
Century, who enjoyed fantastic perks and privileges.
Like beer and coffee, chocolate is going through a revolution. Take a look at this Evening Standard story – Venezuelan cocoa cut with sourdough crumbs and sea salt, anyone?
5) Castor wheel
Think about it: how many items a day use castor wheels? Chairs, trolleys, industrial tables…the list goes on forever, before being abruptly halted by a foot-applied brake, no doubt. The great invention can be seen on tente.com in all its forms.
Perhaps the castor’s most important use is in hospital trolleys, beds and wheelchairs , whisking patients into intensive care and quickly moving medical implements to the bedside. And then, once the patient starts to recover, they can be moved to recovery rooms. Even if the castor wheel trims just a few seconds from the process it has been a success.