A round up of the greatest british inventions
Most people have heard of the television’s inventor, John Logie Baird. A Scotsman, he studied at Glasgow University and in 1922 he applied himself to creating a television, a dream of many scientists for decades. His first crude apparatus sat on a washstand. The base of his motor was a tea chest, a biscuit tin housed the projection lamp, scanning discs were cut from cardboard, and he also utilised fourpenny cycle lenses. Wood scrap, darning needles, string and sealing wax held the apparatus together.
By 1924 he managed to transmit across a few feet the flickering image of a Maltese cross and on 26 January 1926 he gave the world’s first demonstration of true television in his attic workshop before 50 scientists. In 1927 his television was demonstrated over 438 miles of telephone line between London and Glasgow, and he formed the Baird Television Development Company, Ltd. (BTDC). In 1928 the BTDC achieved the first transatlantic television transmission between London and New York and the first transmission to a ship in mid-Atlantic. He also gave the first demonstration of both colour and stereoscopic television.
In 1929 the German Post Office gave him the facilities to develop an experimental television service based on his mechanical system, the only one operable at the time. To begin with, sound and vision had to be sent alternately, and only began to be transmitted simultaneously from 1930. However, Baird’s mechanical system was rapidly becoming obsolete as electronic systems were being developed, mainly by Marconi in America.
Although Baird is chiefly remembered for mechanical television, his developments were not limited to this alone. In 1930 he demonstrated big-screen television in the London Coliseum, as well as Berlin, Paris and Stockholm. He televised the first live transmission of the Epsom Derby in 1931 and the following year he was the first to demonstrate ultrashort- wave transmission.
Scottish-born Alexander Fleming discovered one of the most important medical advances in history by accident, which cemented his name in medical history. On the morning of 3 September 1928, Professor Alexander Fleming was having a clear up of his cluttered laboratory.
He was sorting through a number of glass plates that had previously been coated with staphyloccus bacteria as part of research he was doing. One of the plates had mould on it. The mould was in the shape of a ring and the area around the ring seemed to be free of the bacteria staphyloccus.
The mould was penicillium notatum. Fleming had a life-long interest in ways of killing off bacteria and he concluded that the bacteria on the plate around the ring had been killed off by some substance that had come from the mould. Further research on the mould found that it could kill other bacteria and that it could be given to small animals without any side effects.
However, within a year, Fleming had moved onto other medical issues and it was 10 years later that Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, working at Oxford University, isolated the bacteria-killing substance found in the mould – penicillin. Florey got an American drugs company to mass produce penicillin and by D-Day 6 June 1944, enough was available to treat all the infections that broke out among the troops. Penicillin got nicknamed “the wonder drug” and in 1945 Fleming, Chain and Florey were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine.
Added the 26 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1