Extraordinary inventions

Engraving of fantastical drawing of a giant bird-like flying ship with a man inside, holding a telescope.

Print. The Figure of the Flying Ship / B. Cole sc. nd. [c1785]. Engraving, platemark 11.5x19cm on sheet 12.5x21cm. Science Museum Group Collection

© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

    • Each invention begins with an inventor… and all inventors have to start somewhere, with something. It might be just an idea, a coincidence or maybe even an accident; but whatever it is, it’s a start.

      At Show Me, we’ve been exploring the art of invention and we’ve found some pretty peculiar inventors for you along the way.

      Rowland Emett, a man of intricate and wacky drawings, began as a cartoonist for Punch magazine, after showing a clear talent from a young age.

      Emett was a man who invented weird and wonderful contraptions, often naming them with silly names such as ‘Borg Warner Car of the Future’. Yet, in 1968 he was hired to design the elaborate inventions of Caractacus Potts, for the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

      This short film from Ditchling Museum (he used to live in the village) in Sussex shows some of his 'Magical Machines' in action:

      Emett’s sketches could be linked to the print above from The Science Museum - as it’s shown to have a lone explorer/passenger on an eagle-shaped ship, flying close to the sun.

      The invention below, from 1928 -The Dynasphere by J. A. Purves - where a wheel becomes a car, was inspired by a Leonardo da Vinci sketch. Da Vinci was an artist who lived from 1452 to 1519 and has become famous for his inventions as well as for his art.

      Heath Robinson was also a cartoonist, who in the 1930s was named “The Gadget King”, he often designed and invented intriguing machines; his work is shown to have a similar concept to the whimsical inventions shown in Wallace and Gromit, where Wallace’s machines are used to make his life easier; for example, waking him up, making him breakfast and dressing him.

      You can see lots of Heath Robinson's designs in a new museum dedicated to his life and work in London.

      Drawing showing whimiscal, very detailed picture of a mechanical digger at work, with men, a horse, birds and lots of action.Digging the raw materials. Messrs G & T Earle's new patent combination action digger at work (1928)© Estate of JC Robinson Estate of JC Robinson
      Wouldn’t it be easier if you had machines to do everything for you too?
      Since inventions are often made simply to make our lives easier, then why aren’t there more inventions? Because after all… who wouldn’t want to be an inventor like Wallace?

      Well that’s the thing; inventions are used in day-to-day life, created to make your life easier. The Web? No, that didn’t just appear, that was invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee.

      It just goes to show that things you use daily and take for granted, were invented by amazing people, and often inventions lead to massive scientific breakthroughs too. This means that inventors are have a great influence on the future ahead of them, without Thomas Edison, you wouldn’t have lightbulbs.

      Inventing sound admirable yet? Why not give it a go.

      We’d love to see how you get on, send your extraordinary inventions to:

      This article was written by Lili, our year 10 work experience student.
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