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From Birmingham to the world… 10 of Brum’s best inventions

You might be surprised just how many inventions hail from the Second City…

Birmingham’s always held a reputation as one of the UK’s most innovative cities. Even today, almost three-quarters of the inventions copyrighted in the UK every year hail from the West Midlands.

To get your creative energy flowing, here are some of Birmingham’s greatest gifts to the world…

Bicycle bell
The innovation that helps keep cyclists safe all over the world was invented by Birmingham’s own John Richard Dedicoat, who patented the bell in 1877. Dedicoat also invented an early mechanical pencil sharpener.

Bright orange bicycle bell. Shot was taken in Amsterdam, Holland.

Postage stamp
Schoolteacher Rowland Hill established the world’s first modern postal system back in 1839, which involved the sender paying postage costs for the first time. As part of the new system, he invented the stamp we still use today.

Whistle
Joseph Hudson, a toolmaker living in St Mark’s Square, made the first whistle in 1875. In 1878, his invention was used in a football match for the first time, in an FA Cup game between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield.

Weather map
Back in 1861, Birmingham’s own Sir Francis Galton created the world’s first weather map. Unfortunately, Sir Francis was probably outshone at family get-togethers though, as his half-cousin was Charles Darwin.

Pacemaker
In 1960, Birmingham heart surgeon Leon Abrams fit the world’s first variable-pace pacemaker, a product he’d designed alongside electronic engineer Ray Lightwood.

Electric kettle
Your tea times would be a lot different if Arthur L Large, an engineer at Birmingham’s Bulpitt & Sons, hadn’t invented the electric kettle back in 1922.

X-rays
Following its discovery in 1895, it took Brummie John Hall-Edwards no time at all to see the medical potential of X-ray. In 1896, Hall-Edwards carried out the world’s first radiograph — of a needle stuck in a patient’s hand.

close up of male doctor holding x-ray or roentgen image

Vacuum cleaner
Although the first vacuum cleaner was invented in 1901, it wasn’t until 1905 that Walter Griffiths revolutionised the concept. Griffiths’ invention was the world’s first portable vacuum cleaner for domestic use.

Windscreen wiper
Although a little after the original American invention (back in 1903), Brum manufacturer Mills Munitions become the first British company to patent windscreen wipers in 1921. Among the firm’s other inventions was the modern hand grenade.

Computer
Brummie Conway Berners-Lee was part of the team which produced the Ferranti Mark 1 in 1951, the world’s first commercially-available electronic computer. Berners-Lee’s son, Tim, was also involved in computers and invented a little something called the World Wide Web.

 

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