One of the best known landmarks in Bristol, UK, the Clifton suspension bridge first opened in 1864. It was built by the famous British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but it has recently become public knowledge that it was designed by a woman. Our science editor Sam Gouldson explains who she was and why her work isn’t more widely known.
Who really designed the bridge?
The Clifton suspension bridge was designed by a woman called Sarah Guppy. She was born Sarah Beach in 1770, but when she married her husband Samuel Guppy she took his name. She was one of the great British inventors of her time and the bridge isn’t the only thing she came up with.
What else did she design?
The invention that earned Sarah the most money was her device to prevent barnacles forming on the hulls of ships. Without barnacles the ships would be able to cut better through water and travel more quickly, and the Royal Navy paid her £40,000 for it. That may not sound like much for such a valuable design, but today it would be more than £2.3 million. Her other inventions included a kettle that not only boiled water for tea but could cook an egg and keep toast warm, a candle holder that could keep candles alight for longer and a way of treating boats so that they were more watertight. She also came up with the idea of planting willow and poplar trees on the embankments of new railways, to hold the earth together and prevent landslides.
Why isn’t she more famous?
Sarah lived during the Georgian and Victorian eras. In those times married women weren’t allowed to own property in their own name, and intellectual property such as Sarah’s inventions were no different. Her husband had to file the patents on her behalf, as the property of the Guppy family. The patent for her method of piling bridge foundations in order to create a new kind of bridge was filed in 1811, but she refused to charge others to use the idea because she felt it was for the benefit of the public. Thomas Telford, a civil engineer, used her design to build the Menai bridge in 1826, and when the competition to design the Clifton bridge was announced Sarah gave her work to Brunel. When she wrote to him to suggest the use of willow and poplar trees to reinforce railway embankments, she explained that she didn’t want the credit for her idea because she felt that women “must not be boastful”.
Have you ever thought ‘There MUST be an easier way to do this’? If you have, you are not alone. People around the world invent and re-invent products all the time. Some of them are professional, and inventing is part of their job. Others are just normal people who had a bright idea.
There are many clubs and societies which you can join and learn to invent or develop your curiosity and talent for science and invention. All inventors start somewhere, and most of them start when they are very young. Young people have the best imaginations so if there is something you think is a good idea and you want to try and create, why not join up with other young creative people and work together.
Every year the internet search engine Google holds a competition to find the best research and/or invention by a kid inventor. The winners of the Google Science Fair have been both boys and girls. All that is needed to win the competiton is curiosity, interest, patience and hard work, and never to be afraid of failing!
The difference between an invention and a scientific discovery is that an invention involves the creation of an item whereas a discovery involves the analysis and definition of an item that already exists.
The Google Science Fair is open to anyone aged 13 to 18 across the world and has produced incredible inventions and scientific discoveries by young inventors. They have three age categories, 13 to 14, 15 to 16, and 17 to 18. Previous winning inventions include:
This 17 year old from Florida, USA created a system for detecting breast cancer without having to have a procedure which would be what is known as invasive. This means no needles or surgery required!
A 16 year old who in 2013 invented a torch which worked without batteries or any moving parts in it, making it cheaper to produce and more long-lasting than other torches.
The number of young scientists and inventors is growing every year. In 2012 alone over 500 people aged between 11 and 18 applied to patent their inventions here in UK, which means they wanted to register their idea as their own with the governments Intellectual Property Office. This ensures they are credited with the invention and if there is any money to be made from selling it, the inventor will receive the money.
The young inventors who won the awards and who display their talents every year study science in school, and are supported by their teachers and parents or guardians. All you need to create is an imagination and a desire to learn. So why don’t you have a go? You never know, what you create may change the world one day!
You don’t have to enter a competition to invent something. Young people have been inventing for years. Here are a few to give you inspiration:
On a cold and snowy winter’s day, 10 year old KK Gregory was out building a snow fort when her wrists started to hurt because they were cold and wet. She remedied the problem by inventing Wristies, and wore them under her coat and mittens.
When Connor was in third grade, he began making science experiments and showing them to friends, who thought they were really cool. So, in the fourth grade, his love of teaching and his love of science came together when he started Connor’s Kits for Kids. Today, kids all over the US are using his kits and having fun with science!
Eesha Khare, an 18-year-old student at Lynbrook High School in California, made a technological discovery that has the potential to change the future of how you use your cell phone. Her groundbreaking invention? A device that can charge a cell phone between 20 and 30 seconds.
Do you know of a cool kid inventor or a science fair in your area? Let us know, and we will add them to this list!
Tina Price-Johnson is a Paralegal and Litigation Assistant by day, and Freelance Writer/Poet by night and weekend. She loves history, social studies and biographies, and enjoys writing about almost anything. She lives in London and travels in the UK and abroad whenever she can, and can usually be found wandering around crumbling ruins, wherever they may be.
Can it just be my birthday already? I really want to get my hands on some of the amazingly cool toys, gadgets and new games for kids that I spotted at London’s Toy Fair 2014…
Toy Fair, which took place from 21-23 January at the Kensington Olympia in London, was an overwhelming experience – more than 280 exhibitors showcasing thousands of new toys and games. While I doubt anyone could see and sample all of them in three short days, I did my best to do a whistle-stop tour of the exhibition centre so I can show you my picks of the most exciting new releases. Check ’em out!
Science and Biology Kits
One of the things I loved about this year’s Toy Fair was the huge selection of fun science- and biology-themed games! The kits above are by Portuguese company Science4you, and the kits are developed in collaboration with Oxford University. How’s that for credibility? They have science games that combine fun and learning for ages 3-14 years, and to find your nearest stockist they suggest you get your dad or mum to tweet them or ask them on Facebook.
These science games are by toy company Clementoni. Their products are aimed at kids from 6-10 years, and cover everything from food and kitchen experiments, to gardening, dinosaurs and archaeology, chemistry, sustainable energy, electricity, climate and weather, and underwater and underground life. Find out more here.
If you’re into entomology (that is, BUGS), you’ll love these! Learn more about the insects in your world by keeping them close by for observation. Nick Baker’s Bug Safari and Worm World are available from Interplay, and the Butterfly Garden is by Insect Lore.
We had a flurry of queries about GoldieBlox engineering toys for girls when we first posted about them on Twitter. Good news, they now have a UK distributor! You can find them on the Interplay website. They didn’t have an open box at the stand, but you can see inside two GoldieBlox games on the site. They look like great fun, and are aimed at age 4 and up.
I also loved the idea of the Marbureka marble run sets. Each set comes with a combination of pieces you can fit together to build your own marble run. They are available online in several sizes and from a number of distributors – just search “Marbureka marble run” in Google.
The scary spider in the bottom picture was built from KAPLA blocks. They are a similar idea to the wooden block game of Jenga, in that you build by just placing them on top of each other – no glue, nails or clips required. You can buy them in different colours, but I quite like the neutral ones as you could then paint or colour them yourself!
The main image at the top is of Lego’s prize-winning police station set – one of Toy Fair’s Best New Toys for 2014.
Just for fun
So those were all my favourite finds before my phone died from over-enthusiastic picture taking!
I was really entertained byThe Ugglys electronic Pug Pet. Just like a real dog, this pup snores, farts and makes other horrible noises to gross out you and your friends!
Fans of the Minecraft game (which you can read more about here) will want to get their hands on some of the many Minecraft toys and figurines I spotted. I like the idea of taking the fun and creativity away from the screen and into real life too. Lego and Minecraft teamed up to create classic Minecraft environments you can build from Lego blocks – take a look here. Again, there are a few places you can buy your Minecraft toys from, so it’s best to Google “Minecraft toys” so you can choose where to make the purchase.
Where else can you find great Science Resources for Kids? You can browse our archives here on Jump! Mag or you can check out the following sites.
We will update this list in the coming months, and will concentrate on resources you can access online – lectures, TV Shows, YouTube channels, online archives, websites and blogs with science tutorials so that you can roll up your sleeves and get stuck into science.
We will update this list regularly, so if you have something cool to add, let us know.
Sparxx is an initiative bought to you by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).
Their aim is to bring you all the latest news, views, events, opportunities, careers, interesting stuff, fun stuff and freebies to help girls find inspiration for future careers. Sign up for their newsletter here.
Real science, online – The Zooniverse is home to the internet’s largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects. You can choose to help researchers characterize bat calls, or explore Mars, without leaving your house.
Bill Nye is a scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor. His mission is to make science fun, and help people understand the science that makes our world work. Here are the Home Demos, the experiments you should try at home sometime. Keep clicking around and you’ll find the Episode Guides.
Edheads is an online educational resource that provides free science and math games and activities that promote critical thinking. You can design a mobile (cell) phone, repair a weakened aorta or learn about simple machines, and much more.
Silvia is a young girl from California, USA and she’s been making Super-Awesome webshows on making cool stuff since 2010. She demonstrates science experiments, and great craft projects. You’ll never be bored, when Silvia is around!
Veritasium is a science video blog featuring experiments, expert interviews, cool demos, and discussions with the public about everything science – these are at times more advanced, but well worth a look.
Engineering is Elementary is a project of the National Center for Technological Literacyat the Museum of Science, Boston (MOS). They have fantastic resources for teachers and home-ed families, on a range of topics. Some of the content is free to use, and the teaching guides and stories can be purchased on the site.
If your parents are on Twitter, get them to follow @realscientists – a rotational twitter account featuring real scientists, science writers, communicators and policy makers talking about their lives and their work. Tweeters from different fields of science and science-related fields.