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The Victorian years were a time of great scientific breakthrough in Britain, and around the world.


With the heavy Industrialisation of the nation came advances in many areas of technology. Production and transport, sanitation and communication all benefitted from the Industrial Revolution.


The strong sense of national pride and the booming economy meant that many people saw Britain as the centre of the civilised world. This feeling of being able to achieve anything permeated the sciences very strongly and there were many inventions during these years.

In 1838 the first photographs were taken by Louis Daguerre in France and William Henry Fox-Talbot in Britain. Just one year later Fox-Talbot invented light sensitive photographic paper.


In 1839 Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Scottish blacksmith, invented the first pedal bicycle, which was propelled by pedals, cranks and drive rods.

Petrol was developed in 1850.


Henry Bessemer, in 1854, found a way to consistently convert iron into steel, which is both lighter and stronger. This massively important discovery allowed the construction of huge structures such as ships and bridges.

Also in 1839 Isambard Kingdom Brunel produced the first paddle steamboats.


In 1845 Robert Thomson, another Scot, invented the air filled pneumatic tyre. Also that year the first roads were covered in Tarmacadam (Tarmac) in Nottingham.


Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1846. This was followed in 1850 by Isaac Singer producing a sewing machine that could be used at home.

Alexander Bell, a Scotsman living in America, invented the telephone in 1876.


Karl Benz invented the petrol driven motorcar in Germany in 1885. The initial speed limit in this country was 4mph, which was then raised to 20mph in 1896.


The Lumiere brothers invented the cinematograph in 1894. Moving pictures were born in France.


These are obviously just a small selection of the inventions that were made during this time, and it is astonishing to see how many of them are still in use, in one form or another, today.

1863 saw the opening of The Tube in London, the world’s first underground railway.

In 1873 the typewriter was invented by Christopher Sholes.

Most of our common items were invented in the Victorian era.