Brits unaware of UK’s role in important high-tech inventions

Millions of Brits don’t know the world wide web, the colour television and jet engine are British inventions, a study found.

Despite playing a key role in our lives many of us have no idea the UK is behind some of the world’s most important high-tech creations.

Around half the population weren’t aware London’s Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in 1989.

Similarly, 55 per cent didn’t realise John Logie Baird, who hailed from Dunbartonshire, was the first person to demonstrate a working colour television back in 1928.

And 51 per cent had no idea Sir Frank Whittle from Coventry made the very first jet engine having patented the invention in 1928.

The research of 2,000 UK adults was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering which will announce the finalists for its prestigious MacRobert Award in June.

The prize, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is awarded for UK engineering innovation and the winners will be announced on 11 July.

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE, chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award Judging Panel, said:

“For the last 50 years the award has celebrated ground-breaking engineering innovations that have established the UK as a global leader. “Leading the judges for the MacRobert Award over the past five years I have been privileged to see at first hand the engineering behind products that are changing our lives for the better. “The incredible work being undertaken around the country right now will help to generate jobs and growth in the future.”  

The research also found just a third of those polled had heard of London’s Ada Lovelace, the inventor of the computer algorithm.

And only 12 per cent were familiar with the person responsible for the world’s first programmable computer, Tommy Flowers MBE, who was from London too.

While 79 per cent didn’t know the world’s first commercially available bionic hand was developed in the UK by Touch Bionics of Livingston, which won the MacRobert Award in 2008.

But despite such gaps in our knowledge of British inventions and inventors six in 10 said they are in no doubt the UK will make the next technological breakthrough.

And 88 per cent said they are proud of the nation’s engineering achievements to date.

While 90 per cent said they think engineering is important to the UK economy.

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE added:

“The UK has a rich engineering heritage and this poll suggests that people want to hear more about modern engineering developments. “It is very encouraging to see that the public is positive about what the future holds for UK engineering and its importance to our economy. “Celebrating current engineering excellence is crucial if the sector is to receive the support it needs and to inspire the next generation of engineers.”

Last year, Cambridge-based Owlstone Medical won the award for its ReCIVA Breath Sampler which can detect signs of cancer and other diseases in their infancy.

The joint first winners in 1969 were Rolls-Royce for the Pegasus engine which powered the Harrier jump jet – the world’s first vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

The other winners that year were Freeman, Fox and Partners for the innovative deck design of the Severn Bridge.


More in this category

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x