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Five Irish Inventions That Changed The World – Part 2: Technology

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I hope you enjoyed part one of my Irish inventions that changed the world. It was food-related, and I promised for ages now to come out with part two, technology. I felt it appropriate to cover our fellow Irish men’s technological inventions. 

Many of these Irish inventions we take for granted. I think you will be amazed by just some of these Irish inventions. 

Let’s get to them:

1. 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! 

2. 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!

3. 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 as 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 who synthesised 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. 

4. 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. 

5. 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 American’s or the Germans that built it but an Irishman. John Philip Holland from Co. Clare in Ireland was invented in 1881. 

After he arrived in the United States, Holland slipped and 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 ceremony at Newport, Rhode Island, on October 12, 1900, USS Holland became the first submarine officially commissioned by the U.S.

Did you enjoy these five incredible Irish inventions?! 

I know I enjoyed writing and learning about them. Fun fact: You may have noticed that I used an emoji in the headline of each Irish invention, but there is no emoji for a submarine! Oddly strange. 

I may be back in the not too distant future for part 3 and part 4 of my Irish inventions that changed the world. Subscribe here to my weekly dose of Irish, where I send an email every Friday with all things Irish. 

If you missed part one, which is Irish food inventions, you could read it here. 

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