The Euro 2016 Championship may have reminded us of Wales’s ability to shock, awe and kick ass, but this country has a lot more up its sleeve than just a couple of fancy football moves.
From fantastic inventions to famous people, here are just some of the amazing ways small but mighty Wales has changed the face of history.
Born in Cockett and educated at Swansea University, Edward George ‘Taffy’ Bowen was a Welshman through and through. He also happened to be a brilliant physicist who made a major contribution to the development of radar. As a result, we were able to win both the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic. You’re welcome.
Wearable electronic hearing aids
You heard us right – the world’s first wearable electronic hearing aid was developed in 1935 by Welsh inventor, Edwin Stevens. The first model was hefty (it weighed more than a kilogram) but Stevens later created a much smaller version, worn by the likes of Winston Churchill.
If you’re wondering what the heck ‘packet switching’ is, you’re not alone. Rhondda Valley-born Donald Davies developed the concept of packet switching in computer networking in 1965, which turned out to be an extremely important mode of data transmission for computers. Long story short? It’s a really important part of the internet we know and love today. So, basically, it’s thanks to Donald Davies (and Wales) that you’re reading this right now.
Whether it’s reliable or not, we all put quite a lot of faith in the weather forecast on a daily basis. Sir David Brunt was not only a prominent Welsh meteorologist, but a pioneer in his field. So now you know who to blame next time you’re unexpectedly caught without an umbrella.
Forget what you think you know about the history of the aeroplane. Eight years before the Wright brothers attempted powered flight, Welsh carpenter William ‘Bill’ Frost patented his own aeroplane design and took off in the Frost Airship Glider from Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire.
Exciting? Not really. Absolutely vital? Yes. In 1794, Welsh ironmaster patented the very first design for a ball bearing for the wheels on carriages and inadvertently changed the face of mechanical history.
Whether you’re a gigging musician or a lover of karaoke, you’ve got David Edward Hughes to thank for the invention of the mighty microphone in 1878. There’s some debate as to whether Hughes was born in London or Corwen in Denbighshire, but – considering his love of a good sing-song – we’re officially claiming him as Welsh.
Before the heady days of Amazon orders and ASOS returns, the only way to shop without leaving the comfort of your own home was by leafing through a catalogue and sending off for your desired purchases. It seems the person responsible for mail-order shopping was the flamboyantly named businessman Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones, born in Llanllwchaiarn in the 19th century.
The sleeping bag
Seemingly full of ideas, Pryce Pryce-Jones returns with another belter – the sleeping bag. He patented this brilliant idea in 1876 under the name of the ‘Euklisia Rug’. Think of him the next time you’re warm and cosy in your festival tent.
Launched in 1999, everyone of a certain age will remember virtual pet website Neopets, where you could care for as many tiny artificial animals as you liked. Think Tamagotchis on a much, much bigger scale. Interestingly, it turns out that Neopets co-founder and computer programmer, Adam Powell, is Welsh and was born in Newport. He went on to sell the site for $160 million in 2005.
Dark, we know, but Caerphilly physician William Price is famous for popularising cremation in Britain in the late 1800s. Price was charged in court for infanticide after cremating a child’s body instead of burying it, but was let off, prompting the Cremation Act of 1902 and the opening of crematoriums in Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham. Fun fact – Price was also a Neo-Druid.
Deep space photography
Welsh engineer Isaac Roberts was a member of the Liverpool Astronomical Society, who went on to pioneer deep space photography at the end of the 19th century. Thanks to his early astrophotography experiments, the world saw space for the first time as early as 1886.
This one might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but Welsh cakes are a popular sweet treat much further afield than just in their namesake country. Also known as bakestones, these traditional flat cakes with dried fruit were once served as part of afternoon tea, or eaten by Welsh coal miners to keep their strength up.
Wimbledon worshippers, this one’s for you. In the mid-1800s, Welsh army officer Major Walter Clopton Wingfield helped to develop an outdoor version of tennis, known as lawn tennis. Here was Wingfield’s thinking – just convert your croquet lawn into a tennis court and invest in some vulcanised rubber balls. Simple. Of course, the entire game changed forever as a result.
Born to Norwegian parents, world famous children’s author, Roald Dahl, was actually born in Wales. Dahl came into the world on September 13 1916, in Cardiff and arguably went on to become one of the best known writers in the history of the world.
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