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Top 10 Incredible Irish Inventions That Changed The World

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Irish people have made some incredible Irish inventions over the years. For such a tiny nation, we certainly have had quite a significant impact around the world. Previously I shared over 100+ Irish facts, and many of you were amazed to learn just how many things Irish people have invented. 

For example, did you know that Irishman James Hoban designed the white house? Amazing, I know. This post includes two sections on Irish inventions, food and technology. The first five are food related, and the second is technology. 

Also, be sure to subscribe to my weekly dose of Irish, where I send you an update on all things Irish every Friday. 

Wondering what these incredible Irish inventions are? Let’s get to it. 

The Bacon Rasher – Invented by Henry Denny(1820)🤤

The bacon rasher invented by Henry Denny in 1920

Yes, my favourite addition to a full Irish! Henry Denny, a Waterford butcher, devised the bacon rasher, which was a brilliant but basic idea for its day.

Denny developed several bacon-curing processes and entirely reinvented the bacon-curing process. Bacon was previously cured by immersing significant portions of meat in brine.

Denny added dry salt for the brine and used long, flat pieces of pork instead of chunks. Denny began exporting to continental Europe, the Americas, and even India.

The bacon’s overall quality and shelf life were much improved. Thank you, Mr Denny! 

2. The Flavoured Potato Chrisp(or Chip as you might know) – Invented by Joseph ‘Spud’ Murphy(1954)

Well, second on, my favourite food has to be Tayto’s! And, of course, it had to be an Irishman who invented it. Fortunately for us, Joseph ‘Spud’ Murphy disliked ordinary crisps like the plague.

The Flavoured Potato Chrisp(or Chip as you might know) - Invented by Joseph 'Spud' Murphy(1954)

The first flavoured potato crisps were introduced in the 1950s.

In 1954, Murphy, the founder of Tayto, created cheese and onion-flavoured crisps that became a hit both at home and abroad.

By the 1960s, ‘Spud’ had amassed a millionaire status and was dubbed “the pinnacle of Irish business spirit” by Sean Lemass. I think I will be grabbing a bag of Tayto’s after writing this. 

3. Guinness! Invented by Arthur Guinness(1759) 

Oh my goodness, my Guinness. Now, I know Guinness is not technically an Irish food invention, but it had to appear on this list.

Guinness! Invented by Arthur Guinness(1759). Certainly an Irish invention that I have had a lot of.

I guess me grabbing a bag of Tayto’s, a few bacon rashers and a Guinness won’t be out of the question after writing this, haha. 

Arthur Guinness believed that Guinness would be a successful Irish invention, so he signed a 9000-year lease at St. Jame’s Gate Brewery for only £45 a year.

Now Guinness(over 270 years later) has an estimated value of €3.6 Billion! It is safe to say his legacy will be on for a long time. 

4. Barmbrack – Invented by Ireland(Date unknown)

Modern-day Barmbrack only contains a ring.

You might be scratching your head and saying, what the heck is Barmbrack

Barmbrack is an Irish fruit bread that is traditionally eaten around Halloween. Barmbrack and Bairn Breac are two more names for it. The loaf may be used in one of many different fortune-telling games.

A variety of things were usually baked into the bread. The cake was then evenly cut, and whatever was in your piece represented a look into your destiny. Some of the most frequent things and their fortunes were a ring for love and marriage, a twig for a year of strife, a coin for good fortune, or a piece of cloth for ill luck.

Of course, in modern times, it is typically just a ring hidden inside the bread and the person who receives it is considered lucky/fortunate. 

You can make your own. This Barmbrack recipe looks pretty delicious. 

5. The Cream Cracker – one of my favourite Irish inventions by Joseph Haughton at his home in DublinIreland(1885)

Cream crackers on a cheese board an Irish invention that I am sure you have had before.

Is there a more iconic Irish food invention than the cream cracker? I think not. Like the bacon rasher, the cream cracker was developed by a Waterford family in the 1800s.

It was manufactured by William Jacob in a small bakery.

Now Jacob’s crackers are available in 40+ countries, and that small bakery is far from small in the present day. 

6. Colour photography – Invented by John Joly(1894 📷)

Irishman who invented colour photography

Pretty important, right? I personally can’t even fathom a world without colour. Our Instagram feeds would not be the same! Professor John Joly (1857-1933) of Trinity College Dublin, one of Ireland’s most prolific inventors, is the man behind colour photography.

In 1894, he discovered a way to successfully produce coloured photographs from a single plate made up of red, green and blue-violet colours. Joly invented a system of colour photography based on taking and viewing photographs with plates ruled with many narrow lines in three colours. 

Three colours! Sure, that is nothing, and you would be correct. Essentially you had to jiggle around the different shades until you got the right colour. Wow! 

7. Trans-Atlantic calls – Invented by Kelvin, William Thomson, 1st Baron responsible for the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable (1866 📞)

the transatlantic phone call an incredible one of many Irish inventions

Way back before Skype and WhatsApp, there was this thing called a telephone. Some of you may still even remember to this day, haha. Yes, back in the day, there was no such thing as a long-distance phone call! You would have to rely on the postal service to communicate with the other side of the Atlantic ocean. Tinder matches would undoubtedly have taken a lot longer to come back to you then, haha. This was until everything changed(*dramatic sound effect😱) in 1865 when Kelvin, William Thomson, 1st Baron, 1824–1907, helped to lay the cable that would make trans-Atlantic calls possible. Now, of course, he was not the only person involved in this cable. 

Kelvin’s interest in submarine telegraphy and the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866 made him internationally famous. The Kelvin scale is named in his honour(yes, the Kelvin scale of temperature!)

Map of the transatlantic cable that was invented by an Irishman

That certainly was a long cable!

8. The cure for leprosy invented by Vincent Barry ~1981 ⚕️

I was only reading yesterday in the N.Y. Times about a woman who was cured of aids by a miraculous and novel treatment; wow. 

However, the cure, however, for leprosy was accidentally discovered by an Irishman named Vincent Barry. It was said that Barry was looking to solve Ireland’s tuberculosis problem when he made this incredible discovery, which would go on to cure 15 million people suffering from this disease! He was born in my hometown of Cork, Ireland, in 1908. 

Before a cure was found, leprosy was believed to be hereditary, not an actual disease. Vincent Barry realised that although the symptoms are very different, the bacteria that causes leprosy is similar to the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis(T.B.). From there, he led a team of scientists synthesising a compound called B663 (Clofazimine). The WHO(World Health Organization) made clofazimine a mandatory part of the multidrug treatment of leprosy in 1981. Sadly Vincent Barry passed away six years before that. 

9. The modern tractor, the first Irish person to build and fly his own plane, the first four-wheel-drive Formula 1 car – Harry Ferguson 🚜✈️🏎️

Harry Fergusen first inventor of the tractor

I wonder if he knew how important his invention would be?

Harry Ferguson:

  • Developed the modern agricultural tractor and its three-point linkage system -1926
  • He was the first person in Ireland to build and fly his own aeroplane – 1909
  • Developed the first four-wheel drive Formula One car, the Ferguson P99.

Pretty incredible, right? The same three-point linkage system is used in modern tractors today. 

10. The first functional submarine – Invented by John Holland ~1900 👀

One of the most important Irish inventions here John Philip Holland inventor of the submarine.

Holland stands in the hatch of a submarine. Unknown author

Yup, the submarine. By now, I am sure you are blown away by some of these Irish inventions. It was not the Americans or the Germans that built it but an Irishman. John Philip Holland from Co. Clare in Ireland was invented in 1881. 

After arriving in the United States, Holland slipped, fell on an icy Boston street, and broke a leg. While recuperating from the injury in a hospital, he used his time to refine his submarine designs.

So after his recovery, Holland submitted his paperwork to the U.S. Navy, but it was turned down as unworkable. I guess writing drawings for a submarine in a hospital could be a bit tricky, haha. But Holland did not give up. 

Holland continued to improve his designs and worked on several experimental boats that were not accepted by the U.S. Navy, including the USS Plunger. But of course, they say to never give up on your dreams and Holland was eventually successful with a privately built type initially named Holland VI, launched on May 17, 1897. This was the very first submarine even to be submerged for a considerable distance and combine electric motors and gasoline engines. Wow!

During a Newport, Rhode Island ceremony on October 12, 1900, USS Holland became the first submarine officially commissioned by the U.S.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about these Irish inventions.

Which of these Irish inventions do you think had the most impact on the world? Comment below and let me know. 

Oh, did you also know that Irish people invented Halloween? Yes really! Find out more here. 

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day! 

Stephen 

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Mary b.

Friday 16th of September 2022

I had no Idea! Wow. We Irish are a wonder! Glad to know about these inventions. Thanks for the info! I always enjoy your newsletter.

Nancy

Friday 26th of August 2022

A man from Ulster invented chocolate