Today is St George’s Day, England’s national day, so to mark the occasion, we’re highlighting British inventions that have helped to create today’s modern thriving businesses.
What would our working lives be like without inventions like the light bulb, computer or the world wide web?
1. The hydraulic press, 1795
Joseph Bramah was a locksmith by trade but also a prolific inventor, with 18 patents for his designs. His most famous innovation was the hydraulic press which to this day is still hugely important in the manufacturing sector. It is used in the production of car parts and appliances including fridges, in food compaction and other processes involving multipress equipment.
2. Tin cans, 1810
While it was a Frenchman who first managed to successfully preserve food (in a glass container), it was British merchant Peter Durand who patented the product, using tin rather than glass. Now more of a convenience food, the first commercial canned products were important in preventing malnutrition during long sea voyages and for soldiers during the world wars. Canned food has been listed as one of the most significant food inventions, allowing producers to lengthen the shelf life almost all types of food, meat to vegetables and fruit.
3. Electric motor, 1821
Michael Faraday created the world’s first electric motor when creating experiments to demonstrate electromagnetic rotation. Electric motors are found in a huge array of manufactured goods, from household appliances to electric watches. They are therefore important in the manufacturing industry – both as parts in manufacturing equipment and in the actual products made.
4. Cement, 1824
Cement has been used since Roman times and it surrounds us everywhere in the modern world. It’s extremely important in the construction industry, as the main ingredient of concrete. The type of cement that is used today was created and patented by Joseph Aspdin, who discovered a method of making cement much stronger than previously.
5. Computers, 1823
Charles Babbage is widely recognised as the inventor of the first mechanical computer, designing two machines to calculate complex equations. The first programmable computer, known as Colossus, was also developed by Briton Tommy Flowers in 1943. Computers have become more and more sophisticated and are now vital for both business and personal use.
6. Photography, 1835
This invention not only created a new industry in itself, but is now used by customers and businesses alike on a daily basis. Thomas Wedgewood created
William Henry Fox Talbot was also the first person to produce a negative that could be used to create multiple photographs. While this has been superseded by digital photography, this innovation was extremely important. Photography allows businesses to market products, shape their brand and evoke emotions. What company today would display their products online or in a brochure without using any images?
7. Chocolate bar, 1847
The chocolate and confectionary industry is massive. Chocolate is used in a wide range of products and as one of the nation’s favourite snacks, it’s also a go-to product for many workers throughout the day. The chocolate bar was invented by JS Fry & Sons, sparking a complete change in the way chocolate was used; until then it had previously only been consumed as a drink. Fry’s company merged with Cadbury in 1919.
8. The light bulb, 1878
Various inventors created versions of the incandescent light bulb, but Joseph Swan demonstrated a working device in 1860 and then patented and started selling his bulbs in 1880. His light bulbs were the first in the world to light a house (his own) and the first to light a public building. While light bulbs have evolved since then, they have become a vital part of the developed world, allowing businesses to run at all times of the day or night, unrestricted by a lack of natural daylight.
9. Stainless steel, 1913
Steelworker Harry Brearley is widely (although not exclusively) lauded as the person who discovered stainless steel and realised the potential to use this steel within the cutlery industry because of its rust and acid resistance. Today, stainless steel is used to create transport vehicles, surgical instruments, hot water tanks, pipes and street furniture as well as cooking implements and cutlery.
10. The World Wide Web, 1989
One of the most important inventions in modern history, the world wide web is a system of hypertext documents that are interlinked and accessed via the internet (which is a system of networked computers invented in America). Tim Berners-Lee proposed the concept while working at CERN as a way for scientists to easily exchange data and results around the world. This concept has completely changed the way businesses work. The web makes communication easier and stops businesses from being limited by their physical location.