Britain has contributed literally thousands of inventions to the advancement of mankind. However, it’s very rare for an invention, no matter how simple or complex, to be named after its inventor. Here are ten everyday products that did take the name of their British creators.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
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Today, these waterproof boots are usually made of rubber or plastic and are worn by everyone from gardeners to school kids. However, the first Wellington boot was conceived by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington as a more comfortable and practical alternative to the 18th-century Hessian cavalry boot. He instructed his shoemaker to lower the heel and make it out of soft calfskin leather that could be treated with dubbin and polish until generally waterproof. The boot quickly became popular as did the shape. During the 1850’s, when rubberised boots were made in the same shape they were quickly called Wellington boots too and it’s these that we tend to refer to today. Today they’re also known as rubber boots, wellies, gumboots and rain-boots.
John Loudon McAdam
Photo Credit: WMC
Tarmac derives its name from a Scottish inventor and engineer, John Loudon McAdam and was originally known as tar-macadam. As the general surveyor for the Bristol Corporation, he realised that if roads were to last they needed to be built using raised layers of material and angled so that water flowed off the surface. In 1901 the county surveyor of Derbyshire, Edgar Purnell Hooley, noticed a tar barrel had spilt its contents and so he had the mess covered with stone and foundry slag. He observed that this new surface lasted extremely well and he developed and patented a system that used aggregate and tar with the McAdam road construction technique. In 1903 he then formed the TarMacadam Syndicate and the World became a smoother place to own a car.
7th Earl of Cardigan
A cardigan is essentially a jersey that can be opened and closed at the front thus avoiding having to pull it over the head. Cardigans usually have buttons or pegs to close the two sides. The cardigan was named after Lieutenant General James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who led the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at the Battle of Balaclava. The story goes that after the war the newspapers focused on Brudenell and his apparent heroism. As he was often seen wearing this knitted garment and as people wished to present themselves in the same way, it soon became known as a cardigan. It is still commonly worn today although its popularity does swing in and out of fashion.
Photo: (C) WMC: Antoine Taveneaux
A Faraday cage is an enclosed space formed by electrically conductive mesh or sheets. This enclosure blocks external static and non-static electric fields by flowing electricity through the mesh and providing constant voltage on all sides. Faraday cages are named after the British inventor, Michael Faraday, who created them in 1836. Microwave ovens use the same principle as a Faraday cage but for restraining energy within the cage rather than keeping it outside. They are often used to protect sensitive electronics from static electricity and the effects of lightning.
MACKINTOSH / MACINTOSH
Photo Credit: Shutterstock – (C) Ysbrand Cosijn
The ‘Mac’ was introduced to the world by Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh who saw the need for a general-purpose waterproof coat. The rubberised fabric was first created by James Syme, a surgeon from Edinburgh, but it was Macintosh who patented the invention. From 1823-24 the first Mackintosh coats were made at the family’s textile factory in Glasgow. The product had its teething troubles including a tendency to melt in very hot weather but as the process for making the fabric was improved the popularity of the Mackintosh raincoat spread far and wide. Before long the terms raincoat and Mackintosh were fully interchangeable even if the coat hadn’t been made by Charles Macintosh & Co.
James Tee Pimm
Photo Credit:: WMC / Ewan Munroe
James Tee Pimm was born and raised in Newnham, Kent and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland where he studied Theology. During his 20’s, Pimm moved to London where he set himself up as a purveyor of shellfish. In 1823 he opened his first oyster bar close to Buckingham Palace. The palace itself would become the official royal residence of Queen Victoria in 1837. By 1833 Pimm had opened another four restaurants which became highly popular with the British gentry. Pimms No 1, the drink, was created specifically to compliment the delicate flavours of shellfish and was based on gin, quinine and various other herbs. The actual recipe is said to be a closely guarded secret.
Photo Credit: WMC / UK Government
A Bailey bridge is a pre-fabricated and portable truss bridge invented by Englishman Donald Bailey for military use during World War Two. The design for the Bailey bridge actually started as a hobby for the inventor who showed the design to his superiors in the military. It was adopted, proven successful and widely used by both British and the American army engineering units. It was light enough to be transported on standard military trucks and required only everyday tools to assemble. Manpower alone could usually manoeuvre it into place but it was still strong enough to support battle tanks. As Field Marshal Montgomery stated: The Bailey Bridging made an immense contribution towards ending World War II.
WINDSOR TIE KNOT
King George V
Photo Credit: WMC
This style of tie knot is often believed to have been named after the Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII before his abdication). In fact, it is far more likely that it was created by George V. The Windsor knot is often referred to as the Full Windsor to separate it from the half-Windsor. It’s certainly true that the wide tie knot was made popular by the Duke of Windsor and it’s also possible that the knot was developed independently to emulate this fashion. Whatever the actual origin of the design, the name of Britain’s royal family is permanently linked to this style of tie.
John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich
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The Sandwich was created for John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). The story goes that he was an avid gambler and asked for his beef steak to be placed between two slices of bread (some say toast) so as not to get grease on the cards. According to the Daily Express, roughly 12 billion sandwiches are eaten every year in the United Kingdom. The 4th Earl of Sandwich was also First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for the Northern Department. He sponsored some of the voyages of Britain’s greatest explorer Captain James Cook who named the Sandwich Islands after him.
John Joseph Rawlings
Photo: WMC / Philip Bosman
Also known as wall plugs, these useful fixing accessories were invented by John Joseph Rawlings between 1910 and 1911. They were patented and trademarked by 1913 and by 1919 He had established the company, Rawlings Brothers, to manufacture them. The company was soon renamed Rawlplug Ltd. Rawlings wall plugs were much in demand just after the First World War when many buildings were being fitted for electricity. The shortage of manpower meant any labour saving device was instantly popular. The first wall plugs were made of fibre tubes comprised of parallel strings fused with glue but today almost all commercially available wall plugs are made of plastic.