Inventions and Innovations Straight Outta Ireland

Since everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, we thought we’d mention some  inventions that we can now claim as part of our newly acquired heritage. As listed at Irish Central (seriously, it’s a website) here are 10 notable inventions by our Irish brethren:

Color Photography

Invented by John Joly, Bracknagh, Ireland (1857 – 1933)

According to singer Paul Simon, everything looks worse in black and white. Fortunately, we’ve had the option of color photos since 1894, when John Joly came up with the first successful process for producing images from a single photographic plate.

Cure for Leprosy (Closfazimine)

Discovered by Vincent Barry, Cork, Ireland (1908 – 1975)

Once upon a time, the only cure for leprosy was a miracle healing. But in 1954, a team of nine scientists led by Vincent Barry synthesized a compound called named Clofazimine, which became part of the multi-drug antibiotic therapy used worldwide in the treatment of leprosy.

The Tank

Co-Invented by Walter Gordon Wilson, Blackrock, Ireland (1874 – 1957)

Leonardo Da Vinci may have drawn up plans for something like a tankback in the 16th Century, but in 1919, England’s Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors credited Walter Gordon Wilson and Sir William Tritton with the invention of the tank used by the British in WWI.

U.S. Navy Submarines

Designed by John Philip Holland, born in Liscannor, Ireland (1841 – 1914)

Warring parties had been trying to use submersible vehicles in combat as far back as Alexander the Great, but the U.S. Navy didn’t have a working model until Irish engineer John Holland presented a design that was commissioned as the USS Holland in 1900.

The Guided Torpedo

Invented by Louis Brennan, born in Castlebar, Ireland (1852 – 1932)

So where would submarines be without torpedoes? In 1874, Louis Brennan noticed that a thread pulled away from a reel at an angle will cause the reel to move away from the thread side. From this rather random observation, he somehow designed and patented the first steerable torpedo in 1877.

The Ejector Seat

Invented by Louis Brennan, born in Castlebar, Ireland (1852 – 1932)

Brennan makes his second appearance on our list with his invention of the ejector seat (field tested by a dummy in 1945). He may have been inspired to build it by the crashing and burning of his helicopter prototype in 1925.

The Modern Tractor

Developed by Henry George “Harry” Ferguson, born in Growell, Ireland (1884 – 1960)

Have you ever heard of Massey-Ferguson, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of agricultural equipment? The Ferguson in the name comes from Harry Ferguson, an Irish engineer and inventor who played a leading role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor (1917 – 1938).

Kelvin Temperature Scale

Devised by William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, born in Belfast, Ireland, (1824 – 1907)

Thanks to William Thomson (ennobled in 1892 as Baron Kelvin, referencing the River Kelvin) we know the bottom limit of cold-minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. In his honor, we have the Kelvin Temperature Scale.  In addition to his work as a mathematical physicist, Thomson was also an engineer and inventor, knighted by Queen Victoria for his work laying the first Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable (Ireland to Canada in 1865)

The Coffey Still (whiskey distillation)

Patented by Aeneas Coffey, born in Calais, France to Irish parents (1780 – 1852)

In 1830, Aeneas Coffey of Dublin, Ireland, patented an important modification of an earlier design of the column still that eliminated the need for multi-distillation and made possible the production of higher proof liquor. Coffey’s design was quickly embraced by nearly every liquor producer in Europe and North America.

Guinness Beer

Established by Arthur Guinness, Celbridge, Ireland (1725 – 1803)

On St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll see plenty of American bars offering beer turned green with food dye, but if you really want to get in the Irish spirit, we suggest you heft a pint o’ Guinness instead. The history of this stout goes back to 1759, when Arthur Guinness took out a 9,000-year lease on a brewery and went to work crafting the now famous black beer. Today, Guinness is the best-selling alcoholic drink of all time