Inventions that Make Our Day (1)


From the moment you wake up on the sound of your alarm clock, going through washing your face, drinking your morning coffee, and driving your car to work, all the way through the day till you go to bed at night; do you ever stop to think about all the inventions you used during the day, and will continue to use every day?

Alarm clocks, running water, coffee and automobiles; these are all inventions that we use on a daily basis. Yet, most of us never think about the stories behind them, nor are we familiar with the inventors who came up with them. From the simplest gadget to the most sophisticated contraption, they all have a history behind them, and a line of inventors who created them.

Ring Ring! Wake Up!

Alarm clocks

The earliest alarm clock dates back to around 250 BCE, and was invented by the Greeks. It was nothing like the alarm clocks we use today; its mechanism was basically that of a water clock where rising water would keep time and eventually hit a mechanical bird that triggered an alarming whistle.

Closer to our modern-day alarm clocks was the first mechanical alarm clock invented by Levi Hutchins of Concord, New Hampshire, in 1787. He was a clock-maker, who was the figure of punctuality and promptness. His firm routine was to awaken at 4:00 am in order to be at his job on time, but he sometimes slept past that hour, which distraught him deeply.

He was determined to solve this problem and soon he came up with the idea of a clock that could sound an alarm. He constructed a pine cabinet of 29"x14", transferred the inner mechanism of one of his large brass clocks into it and inserted a pinion inside. “When the minute hand of the clock reached and tripped the pinion at 4:00 o'clock, the movement of the pinion set a bell in motion, and the bell made sufficient noise to awaken me almost instantly", he wrote.

The alarm clock he invented would only ring at 4:00 am, and it was not adjustable. He also never bothered to patent it or mass produce it as he clearly was not interested in money; only in being on time.

Years later, in 1847, the French inventor Antoine Redier invented and patented the first adjustable mechanical alarm clock that bears much resemblance to the alarm clocks we use today.

The One Invention No One Can Do Without

The Toilet

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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