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The Lesser-Known Inventions From Britain

Britain has been a major player in the world for centuries. It was here that the industrial revolution was kick-started before it spread around the world, bringing prosperity and new ways of living.

This was brought about by a series of key inventions, all devised by creative and entrepreneurial Brits who found commercial uses for them. This includes the steam turbine, bicycles, electricity, tractors, steel, and chemical fertiliser.

In more recent years, the UK played a key role in the development of Concorde, gave birth to the World Wide Web, and improved healthcare with the CAT scan.

But among these famous inventions, there are many others that have flown under the radar. Many are things that you use every day, while others were pivotal at the time but have faded into history.

Soda Water

All fizzy drinks that we enjoy are simply carbonated water mixed with some sort of flavouring. Whether it’s Coke, Fanta, or Aldi’s own-label lemonade, they are all essentially created in the same way.

None of this would be possible had it not been for Joseph Priestly, who created the first soda water in Leeds back in 1767.

Inspired by the natural volcanic water, Priestly set about trying to recreate this with the carbon dioxide produced in breweries. He simply filled a vessel of water over one of his local brewery’s fermentation vats and found that the CO2 made the water bubbly.

British Roulette

As its name suggests, roulette was originally invented in France by a French inventor named Blaise Pascal. It’s been adapted countless times over the centuries since, leading to many modern casinos offering a range of different variants for their players to choose from, including classic, American, and high roller.

However, you’re unlikely to find British roulette in most modern casinos. Yet, for a while, this was the only variant of the game you could play in the UK.

Due to a weird quirk in the law in the 1960s, casinos were unable to have a house edge on their games. This meant that they had to be quickly redesigned, resulting in the green zero pocket being removed from roulette wheels in Blighty.

It was incredibly popular among players at the time, but it’s sadly been mostly lost to time.

Digital Music Players

You could be excused for thinking that Apple invented the MP3 player. After all, it was the Californian company that helped to popularise the format with its iPod range.

However, commercial MP3 players had existed for many years prior to the iPod. The MPMan F10 was the first, going on sale in Asia in 1998, though it would be unable to store many tracks.

But almost 20 years prior, a British inventor named Kane Kramer first hypothesised the idea for a digital music player. It took a while for technology to catch up with his thinking, meaning his device couldn’t go on sale until 1986.

It didn’t play MP3 files, though, because the standard wasn’t created until four years later. This meant that Kramer’s invention was practically useless because it could only store one track at a time. It did, however, pave the way for what came later.

Carbon Fibre

Carbon fibre is an important material in many areas of manufacturing today. It is light, strong, doesn’t expand much when it’s heated, and can generally withstand exposure to chemicals.

It has many uses today, including in cars, bicycles, aeroplanes, electronics, and even in heating devices.

But none of this would have been possible had it not been for a series of British inventors over an entire century. It started in 1860, when Joseph Swan managed to produce fibres of carbon for the first time.

However, it wasn’t until 1969 that it could be used to create a fabric. Carr Reinforcements, a British company, did this by weaving strands of carbon fibre together in the same way you would with cotton.

It is this weaving process that gives carbon fibre its distinct chequered pattern that we have come to associate it with today.

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