Irish History: Volume XVII
Irish Inventions, Part 3
Check out part 1 and part 2 first!
1. The “bacon rasher” (aka English/Irish bacon versus the “streaky bacon” we colonists prefer,) was invented by Waterford butcher Henry Denny in 1820. This technique—cutting thin slices of pork loin and sandwiching them in between layers of salt to better cure it aka give it a longer shelf life—allowed for the long-distance distribution of meat, opening Ireland’s meat production to buyers beyond its shores.
2. Less delicious, but equally innovative, Castlebar-born Louis Brennan invented the guided torpedo in 1874. Though he started his career as a watchmaker, his patent for his invention was reportedly purchased by the British War Office for over £100,000 (more than 12 million pounds today.)
3. Born in Wexford, Ireland in 1822, Dr. Arthur Leared is now best known for inventing the binaural stethoscope—but only years later! The good doctor presented his work at the 1851 Great Exhibition and the next year an American named George Camman had created the first commercially sold stethoscope…but history has righted things, and we all know the truth now.
4. Did you know croquet, the mainstay of very English gardens, is actually, originally Irish? The game of croquet was invented as far back as the 1830s by the Archbishop of Tuam in County Galway. He even hosted tournaments—the popularity of which made sure the English had their hands on the game by the 1850s.
5. Known as “the father of emergency medicine, Professor Frank Pantridge is the inventor of the portable defibrillator. Born in County Down, the cardiologist’s medical training was interrupted by WWII, but he survived and went on to conceive of this device that’s now saved countless lives by 1965.
6. Speaking of life-saving medical marvels, we can’t forget the likes of Dr. James Barry, who performed the first successful cesarian section in 1826. Dr. Barry was born as Margaret Ann Bulkley in Cork in 1789, and kept the secret of her birth gender until her death in 1865, saving countless lives as a doctor (which she couldn’t have worked as if the truth was known) and obstetrician in her lifetime.
7. County Down-born Harry Ferguson is the man we have to thank for much of the food on our tables—he invented the modern tractor in 1936. His real break came when Henry Ford decided to back the project in 1939, allowing for a larger commercial production, but that relationship soured and the two were caught up in litigation for years. Still beats the plough!
8. Dubliner Walter Gordon is another military inventor—he’s who we have to thank for the tank! An engineer for the British forces during WWI, helped shock and overrun the German forces on the Somme in 1916, though the original design has been much improved in subsequent years.
9. Though Sir Charles Algernon Parsons was born in London, his heritage was Irish—he was the son of the Earl of Rosse, with a family seat at Birr Castle in County Offlay. Parsons’s father was known for interest in astronomy, but Parsons set his sights down to earth, where he invented the steam engine in 1884 and helped pioneer the use of electricity.
10. And lastly, we have Irish-American immigrant and laborer Humphrey O’Sullivan, who invented the rubber soled shoe. O’Sullivan worked at a print shop in Lowell, Massachusetts, and was suffering from fatigue from standing on hard floors all day—so he nailed a rubber floor mat to the bottom of his shoes. He started production in 1899 with only a $7k investment, selling the business in 1908 for approximately $4 million!
We hope all these incredible Irish inventors inspire you to go out and create, solve problems, and make the world a better place!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish History post, all about Irish Nobel Laureates, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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