The Toilet: The One Invention No One Can Do Without


The idea that Mr. Thomas Crapper invented the first toilet in the 18th century is a common misconception. The fact is simple toilets have been used since Babylonian times. However, in 1596, Sir John Harrington, the poet and godson of Queen Elizabeth I, invented an indoor water closet that apparently had most of the basic features of today’s restroom, even a flush toilet. However, the invention was largely ignored by the rest of society.

In 1775, London watchmaker Alexander Cummings patented the forerunner of today’s toilet, the standard flush toilet. Mr. Crapper, on the other hand, did hold nine plumbing related patents that improved the toilet. The Crapper name most likely became synonymous with the toilet because “Crapper” was marked proudly on the tanks and toilet bowls that he made and installed for princes and kings!

Without these inventors and others’ creative spirit, their quest for answers and their desire to question what is known; our world would be a much different place. It would be a world void of the daily life comforts, and what we use every day without a moment’s, thought as to how or who figured them out and made our lives so much better.

So the next time you send an SMS, take your coffee break or ride an elevator, remember to pay tribute to the pioneers who created all those things that we now take for granted. Remember the everyday inventors who made our life easier and our world happier, while also teaching us success.


David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, History and Story Behind Inventions"The People's Almanac" series of books, 1975 – 1981
Kendall F. Haven, 100 greatest science inventions of all time, Libraries Unlimited, 2006
Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, 2010
Catherine O'Reilly, The Inventions That Changed Our Homes and Our Lives, Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2008

*Published in the PSC Newsletter, Winter 2011 Issue.

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