Inventors that inspire us and how they changed the world

August in the UK signals the end of the summer. Most people are squeezing in a last-minute dash for some summer sun and getting ready to relegate the barbecue to a dark corner for another nine months. In 1998 however, our friends in the US decided to designate the month as inventors’ month, a fantastic opportunity to recognise and celebrate the brilliance of these men and women throughout history, who with their ingenuity and tenacity have made our lives today so much easier and more comfortable.

In the UK we don’t officially celebrate Inventors’ month, however as a leading digital platform with our roots steeped in research and innovation, we thought this would be a great chance to find out which inspirational people motivate our team and why! Below is a selection of some of the answers that we collected. Interestingly we were given a real mix of names, and whilst some of the usual suspects came up, there were certainly a couple of unexpected entrants….

Leonardo da Vinci – 1452-1519 (of course…)

“A phenomenal inventor underestimated by his contemporaries; he was probably born in the wrong time. An idealist who lived his dream to the end. Always searching for answers and trying to improve his work, he sadly was rarely able to finish his daring projects. He was fascinated by the phenomenon of flight and his journals include notes on a vast number of inventions, including a flying machine, mortar shells, a steam cannon, a parachute and a giant crossbow! He gives me hope that there are still some people who are not afraid of following their dreams and crazy ideas even if sometimes they seem to fail miserably!”.

Edward Jenner – 1749-1823

“An English physician and scientist who was the pioneer of the world’s first vaccine, for smallpox. This was based on the observation that milkmaids were immune to smallpox due to their constant exposure to cowpox. Whilst Edward Jenner did experiment first on a young boy to prove this theory, obviously slightly improper(!), we now use vaccines to protect us from serious illness every year, including flu, MMR, HPV and Polio. This advancement also meant that I could travel to Vietnam without fear of catching Hepatitis A, B or Japanese Encephalitis!”.

William Henry Fox Talbot – 1800-1877

“An English scientist, inventor and photography pioneer who invented the salted paper and calotype processes, precursors to the photographic processes of the later 19th and 20th centuries. He was also a noted photographer who contributed to the development of photography as an artistic medium. It fascinates me that modern art, culture and society has been so impacted by the ability of humans to capture images of themselves and the world we live in, something which was first being developed nearly two hundred years ago.”.

Bradford Parkinson – 1935-present

“For me the most useful invention has been the Global Positioning System (“GPS”). As someone who travels a lot and doesn’t yet have the skills to navigate by the moon and stars, I can’t survive without GPS! I don’t mind where I am, as long as I have data on my mobile, I can download a map and know I’ll get to where I need to be when I need to be there!”.

Hedy Lamarr – 1914-2000

“Most people know Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-born American film actress, but what they don’t know is that she was also an inventor who created a frequency-hopping signal for radio-controlled torpedoes during World War II that could not be tracked or jammed. Although this technology wasn’t adopted until the 1960s due to implementation challenges, it was the forerunner of various spread-spectrum techniques that are now used by Bluetooth, a technology that now we are all very familiar with. I think it is fascinating that she managed to carve out a successful career in Hollywood whilst simultaneously breaking glass ceilings”.

Thomas Edison – 1847-1931

“One of the most well-known inventors of all time, Thomas Edison was an American inventor and businessman incorrectly thought to have invented the first lightbulb. This however is not to belittle his actual accomplishments, which include the development of the phonograph, the motion picture camera and yes, a type of long-lasting practical electric light bulb. Edison was also the first person to commercialise a “distribution network” of electric power and light. He was also one of the first inventors to apply the principles of organised science and teamwork to the process of invention.

These are just some of the incredible men and women who have contributed to the world we see today.  Everything we do here on a daily basis is made possible by their ingenuity, from the computers and servers that keep the business going, to the coffee machines in the kitchen that keep us going!

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs – 1955-2011

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All figures correct as at 31.12.2020.