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Blasts from the past - 1940's

In a decade scarred by years of World War, it is hardly surprising that many inventions should come out of the war effort...


The temporary 'Bailey' bridge was a familiar sight to troops across Europe while horrific weapons such as napalm bombs and the bazooka were followed by the ultimate atrocity of the atom bomb, although the first nuclear chain reaction demonstrated by Enrico Fermi at Chicago University was only capable of generating five watts. Werner von Braun produced the rocket-propelled V-2 'Vengeance Weapon' missile. The German firm of Heinkel produced the ejection seat, Yeagar piloted the Bell XI - the first supersonic aircraft - at 1070 kph, and the DeHavilland 'Comet I' was the first aircraft to sport turbojet engines. In the meantime, the Swiss were demonstrating a Gas turbine driven locomotive, polyester resin- reinforced fibreglass boats were appearing and Francis Melvin Rogallo had produced an improvement on Lillienthal's pioneering designs of 50 years before with a flexible- wing hang glider.


The world of computers sprang to life as terminals, printed circuits, remote processing, magnetic disks and memory and addition registers appeared on the scene. The Colossus-1 was the first programmable electronic computer, built in the UK to decipher wartime enemy codes. IBM's SSEC computer, the EDSAC and Mark I calculators and the BINAC computer all made their debuts, helped along by William Shockley, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen who developed the transistor to replace the valve.


A new surname was to enter the vocabulary with Biro's invention of the ball-point pen, and a melting bar of chocolate spurred Percy le Baron Spencer to harness microwaves in an oven. CBS corporation in USA produced a long-playing (LP) record that revolved at 33 and 1/3 revolutions per minute. Nearly twenty years after Erik Rotheim's 1926 first research, Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan produced a feasible aerosol can. Earl W Tupper produced his first example of Tupperware, Edwin Land produced a black-and- white instant (Polaroid) camera and Georges de Mestral demonstrated Velcro. In the meantime, Louis Reard had invented the bikini, Tuohy had refined the contact lens to cover the cornea only and Gibson and Medawar had discovered the human body's immune system. Schaefer and Lanmuir succeed in seeding clouds with CO2 and producing artificial rain , whilst with the addition of a regulating valve to Cousteau's aqualung, Gagnan produced the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus or SCUBA equipment which is now to be found in waters throughout the world

The 1940's

Related further reading...

Further Reading:

Bailey Bridge


V2 'Vengeance Weapon' Missile

Heinkel Ejector Seat

Rogallo Style Hang-Glider

De Havilland Comet 1

Chuck Yeagar in the cockpit of the Bell XI and (below) in flight

(Above) Part of Collosus at Bletchley Park - note the number of valves (soon to be replaced by transistors).


(R) Laszlo Biro and (Below) the first Biro pen

(Above) An early example of the 33 and 1/3rpm LP Record


(Right) An early Aerosol

(L) Edwin Land shows-off his Polaroid photography

(R) Louis Reard and his Bikini


(Below) Kevin Tuohy and (Below R) a Tuohy Contact Lens Patent Drawing

(Above) Velcro in close-up and (Above R) Georges de Mestral

Emile Gagnan wears his SCUBA - co-developed with Jacques Cousteau

(Left) Schaefer demonstrates the 'seeding' of a cloud by breathing into a freezer

(Below) Schaefer and Langmuir

Tupperware and Earl W Tupper

Early Microwave Oven

Percy le Baron Spencer

(Left) Shockley (Seated), Bardeem and Brittain

The First Transistor

More... Inventricity articles


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