Bright Sparks Who Gave Us the Modern World; despite Wales' Relatively Small Population, It Can Boast Scores of Inventors Who Have Played Significant Parts in Shaping Our World. Today, Which Is World Intellectual Property Day, European Patent Attorney Dr Gillian Whitfield Profiles Some of Those Innovators, and Argues Why Their Achievements Should Be Used to Inspire a New Generation of Pioneers

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Bright Sparks Who Gave Us the Modern World; despite Wales' Relatively Small Population, It Can Boast Scores of Inventors Who Have Played Significant Parts in Shaping Our World. Today, Which Is World Intellectual Property Day, European Patent Attorney Dr Gillian Whitfield Profiles Some of Those Innovators, and Argues Why Their Achievements Should Be Used to Inspire a New Generation of Pioneers


Byline: Dr Gillian Whitfield

THERE have been times when Wales has been accused of being too parochial, so it may come as a surprise to learn that it was the Welsh who first flew, pioneered radar, developed the internet, made climate change an international issue, changed shopping habits - and developed the BBC's pips.

Intellectual Property means that if you created something, you can own it, and there are worldwide laws to protect your creations from being copied by others.

Innovation remains at the heart of the Welsh Assembly Government's economic policy. It understands that we won't compete with emerging nations like China on labour costs. So we have to look to countries like Germany to build a highly-skilled, high-value economy.

Wouldn't it be good if the Assembly was to introduce a Welsh Inventors Day in schools, drawing upon the work of these pioneers to encourage tomorrow's innovators?

Students would hear more about their achievements, and could be encouraged to believe in their own creative abilities.

Tie-ins with local companies could strengthen the initiative and benefit both schools and business.

Here are some examples of Wales' rich legacy of inventors, and the inspiring lives they led.

David Brunt

IT should be Abertillery-born Sir David Brunt that we thank for the science of air quality and pollution. He first became involved while serving in the Army in World War I, investigating how poison gases were dispersed. A brilliant mathematician, Sir David joined the Met Office after the war, and used his skills in statistics to chart fluid dynamics, or the movement of gases, which causes weather change. Working at a time when airplanes were having an increasing impact on the atmosphere, his later research concentrated on weather conditions and human health, concluding that the ideal climate for man was New Zealand. He died in 1965.

Edward Bowen

BORN in Swansea, Edward 'Taffy' Bowen was a major figure in the teamthat developed radar, which in turn played a huge role in saving Britain from Nazi invasion.

Graduating from Swansea University College, Bowen was recruited by Robert Watson-Watt, the 'father' of radar, and developed the transmitter for ground-based radar. This crucial technological advantage that Britain held over Germany may never have been developed into an earlywarning system after a demonstration failed in front of top brass. But Bowen, who was later awarded the CBE and became a Freeman of the Royal Society, worked through the night to fix it. Radar was as important as the Spitfire, as it allowed a vastly-outnumbered RAF to know when the Luftwaffe was coming. Unable to win air superiority during the Battle of Britain, Hitler shelved Operation Sealion - the invasion of the UK. Bowen died in 1991.

William Jones

3.14159265358979323846...and on and on it goes. Pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, and a seemingly endless number, was first devised by Welsh mathematician William Jones.

Born in Llanfihangel Tre'r Beirdd in Anglesey in 1675, Jones taught maths on board ships and in London, as well as working in government. A close friend of Sir Isaac Newton, he published Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos in 1706, a theorem on differential calculus and infinite series. His son, also called William Jones, discovered the Indo-European language group, which includes Welsh.

Martha Hughes Cannon

LLANDUDNO-born Hughes Cannon emigrated with her parents to the United States when she was three, and would go on to become a doctor, suffragist and the first woman ever elected to the US Senate.

Her family became Mormons and moved to Salt Lake City. She worked at Deseret Hospital from 1882 to 1886, and the Utah State Department of Health is currently housed in the Martha Hughes Cannon Health Building there. She became involved in the Utah Equal Suffrage Association and, following the restoration of women's right to vote, she successfully stood as a Democrat against her Republican candidate husband Angus and went on to serve two terms as Utah's Senator.

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Bright Sparks Who Gave Us the Modern World; despite Wales' Relatively Small Population, It Can Boast Scores of Inventors Who Have Played Significant Parts in Shaping Our World. Today, Which Is World Intellectual Property Day, European Patent Attorney Dr Gillian Whitfield Profiles Some of Those Innovators, and Argues Why Their Achievements Should Be Used to Inspire a New Generation of Pioneers
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