Eggsilarated by The great egg-race?
Bemused by Best inventions? Inspired by Innovation nation?
Stunned by Scrapheap challenge? Then you’re probably geared up
for Geronimo! the ultimate invention series, on BBC2 this week.
I’m an enthusiast for inventions, because they are clever, and also
they are what we Brits do best.
What is it about inventors, that makes people
think they are eccentric? I’ve invented a cunning device for
carrying a shopping bag on my bike, and I’m not at all eccentric. No.
Most inventors are calm, sensible people who sit in their rocking
chairs and dream up clever new ways of doing things. Take Trevor
Baylis; last time we had dinner together he was wearing a smart grey
suit – perhaps he’s thrown that corduroy jacket away. And James Dyson,
inventor of the ball-barrow and the bagless vacuum cleaner, is a
high-powered businessman who delivered the posh BBC Dimbleby Lecture
Perhaps for the benefit of television the
producers find the wackiest inventors they can, and I expect we’ll
meet a few in Geronimo! who are right off the wall. Certainly
the gadgets they have come up with sound truly amazing.
In the long history of innovation, many stars
slaved away on their own. Archimedes, who was the finest mathematician
in the ancient world but also produced a string of brilliant
inventions, seems to have worked all by himself. Leonardo da Vinci,
amazing technical artist and dreamer of the renaissance, was a misfit,
and wrote all his notes in mirror writing to keep his ideas secret.
Thomas Newcomen, who built the first effective steam engine, seems to
have done it with help only from a plumber to sort out the joints.
Colin Pullinger took time off from his duties as Clerk to the Selsea
Police and Clerk to the Selsea Sparrow Club to invent the best
mousetrap in the Victorian era. John Logie Baird managed to make the
first ever working television after years of desperate struggle and a
not-very-successful career as a manufacturer of boracicated socks.
Perhaps gregarious scientists and engineers stay
in the establishment, and work in teams in engineering companies and
universities, while the natural loners prefer to live in their garden
sheds inventing bifurcated widgets and improving their harmonographs.
Which reminds me, I must try modifying my own
harmonograph so that each pendulum swings in only one dimension; that
might improve the results – sorry, must dash…