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11 Inventions you didn't realise the British created

The British are an inventive lot. Problem is, they are not as good as the Americans when it comes to marketing the product or making money out of it. Here are 11 inventions you may have not realised the British have invented.


Usually the British are known for their stiff upper lip, but this time three Brits had something else in mind.
If you suffer from erectile disfunction you have the British to thank. Andrew Bell, David Brown and Nicholas Terrett filed a patent in 1991 after investigating drugs for heart conditions.
Elastic fabric

Snapping back knicker elastic may not have happened if Thomas Hancock had not been into mastication. That's mastication, as in the shredding of rubber scraps to allow it to be made into sheets. Hancock invented elastic fabric for the use in fastenings such as suspenders, stockings etc. Inventing the rubber masticator along the way.

Hancock didn't bother to patent his masticator, but disguised its use by calling it a "pickle". Hancock went on to supply Charles Mackintosh with rubber for his raincoats.
Greeting card

Henry Cole invented the Christmas card and thereby the greeting card in 1846. He was bored with the idea of writing letters to people so he hired an artist to create a pleasant scene, cranked up the lithographic printer he had in the back room and manually coloured in the picture. Instant time saver. He quickly figured the financial potential of the item and put a thousand on sale. The invention of ink cartridges which lets anyone to print their own cards was to come much later on in time.

It is not known who put the first kitten on a greeting card.

John Walker in 1827, placed chemicals on the end of a stick which when rubbed against a rough surface would burst into flames. He had invented the first match. He called them "congreves" and didn't bother to patent them. The matches contained antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch. But sales never really caught fire and he died with little money.
Electric toaster

The Electric toaster was invented by the British Company,  Crompton and Co in  1893, the main problem with the electric toaster was getting a metal that was suitable. An alloy of nickel and chromium was patented which allowed current to be passed and a disipation of heat to occur without the element melting. A refinement was introduced in 1918 which allowed doors to turn the toast over to allow for toasting on both sides.

In 1926 the Americans thought they would get in on the act and invented the Toastmaster, which allowed the toast to be popped up when done. An American Otto Frederick Rohwedder, then invented sliced bread in 1928.

Flush toilet

Sir John Harrington, 1567, godson of Elizabeth I invented the flush toilet. Not Thomas Crapper as popular myth promotes. Crapper was a 19th century plumber who promoted bathroom fitting and even patented a few of his own, but not the flush toilet. Indeed the S bend, an important part of the modern flush toilet was invented  by Alexander Cummings in 1775. Cummings also patented the modern flush toilet although it was improved on by a locksmith called Joseph Bramah, in fact a Bramah is still in use today at the British House of Lords

Vacuum cleaner

The first vacuum cleaner was so large it had to be drawn by horses. Hubert Cecil Booth invented the first vacuum cleaner in 1901. It was powered by petrol and long hoses would be fed into the house. Hoover came along in later years and made it into a convenient upright.


James Ayscough invented the hinged spectacles along with tinted glasses in 1752. These were tinted blue or green. He also made microscopes.

It seems the 18th century was as cool and hip as today.

Stereophonic recording

Alan Blumlein Invented a single-groove system for stereophonic recording and patented the basics of stereophonic recording and reproduction in 1931.

The ipod just wouldn't be as exciting without it.

Carbonated soft drinks

In 1767, the first drinkable man-made glass of carbonated water was created by Englishmen, Dr. Joseph Priestley.
These carbonated soft drinks were frequently flavoured with lemon making them the forerunner of Lemonade.

He also discovered Oxygen, hydrochloric acid, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide, and identified
plant respiration and photosynthesis.

Rubber band

The first rubber band was made in 1845 by Stephen Perry of the rubber manufacturing company Messers Perry and Co., in London, England. This rubber band was made of vulcanized rubber. Perry invented the rubber band to hold papers or envelopes together.

Without him the, flicking rubber bands at each other at the office would not be as fun.