A brief history of Norfolk’s top inventors

A brief history of Norfolk’s top inventors

Norfolk’s top inventors

Norfolk: home of a collection of true greats. The list includes actress Olivia Colman, comedian Stephen Fry, philosopher Thomas Paine and, of course, us here at Hawkin’s Bazaar.

However, many people don’t know that Nelson’s county is also a breeding ground for inventors. The area has had a significant influence on several geniuses, whose ideas have evolved into life-changing gadgets. To celebrate some of these wonderful individuals, we’ve pulled together a list of some of Norfolk’s finest minds.

Peter Chown

Chown isn’t a household name, but you probably have one of his inventions knocking around in your home. The King’s Lynn resident is the brain behind sponge-backed scouring pads, cycle carriers, odour-free Ezee-feet trainers and more. Now aged 75, Chown has an impressive track record – he started his career working for several engineering firms, before quitting to become a self-employed, full-time inventor.

James Dyson

James Dyson – master of the modern vacuum cleaner

James Dyson

If you don’t know who Dyson is, you must have been living under an extremely dusty rock for the past 20 years. In 1993, Cromer-born Dyson wowed the world with the bagless vacuum cleaner. Since then, Dyson has become the CEO of the Dyson Company, which has more than 560 patents. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, his net worth in 2013 was £3 billion. He’s kind of a big deal.

Mike Burrows

Norwich-born genius Mike Burrows is responsible for the track carbon-fibre Lotus 108 time trial bicycle, which was ridden to victory by British cyclist Chris Boardman in the 1992 Olympic 4000m pursuit. Burrows also developed the world’s first compact road frame, the Giant TCR, in the 90s.

He started designing bikes in 1976, when he built his first traditional steel frame bicycle. Burrows then started building bikes for local Norwich riders. The 73-year-old continues to build bikes today, including the 8 Freight – his new load-carrying bike. You could say he has a wheely long history in bicycle design. (On your bike – ed).

George William Manby

Not many people can say their ideas have saved lives, but Manby can. Born in 1765, he invented the first fire extinguisher, a copper cylinder containing three gallons of water. Manby’s extinguisher used compressed air to shoot water through a narrow tube and towards a fire. Manby’s invention was originally called the Extincteur.

Fun fact: The brainiac spent most of his life in Great Yarmouth. Here, he also invented the Manby Morter, a device which propelled a rope from shore to ship and enabled people in lifebuoys to pull themselves back to the shore.

Sir Christopher Cockerell

Gresham’s School alumnus Cockerell has a string of inventions to his credit, his most famous being the hovercraft. Dubbed a “man-made flying saucer”, the hovercraft combines aspects of an aircraft, a boat and a land vehicle. Cockerell lived in Lowestoft and developed his idea in a Norfolk boatyard.

Although the hovercraft isn’t an everyday form of transport for most people, they are widely used in regions where land surface is uneven or sea levels are low. In later life, Cockerell also developed a wave power raft.

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