Great British Innovation: Part 2 – The North West

Welcome to the second instalment of our series celebrating the innovation which Great Britain has offered to the world.

Being based in Chorley in the North West of England, we have decided to focus on the forward-thinking innovations which have been produced by people and institutions from our local area. As they say ‘Up North’, “North West is Best!”

Here’s our top 4 offerings from our ‘homeland’, some of which may surprise you!

Vickers Vimy Biplane

Lord Northcliffe, the owner of The Daily Mail, offered a £10,000 reward to the first person who could cross the Atlantic in one continuous flight within 72 hours. The idea behind this being to give a boost to the British aviation industry in the early 1900’s.

You may naturally think of “The Wright Bro’s” when it comes to aviation, but not on a scale such as this. Manchester born John Hancock took up the challenge by approaching the Vickers firm in Weybridge in March 1919. By June of the same year they had modified an aircraft with two Rolls Royce engines for a long-haul flight.

Setting off from Newfoundland, Canada on 14th June 1919, they arrived the next day in Galway, Ireland with a total journey time of 16 hours and 27 minutes – well within the timeframe specified by Lord Northcliffe, making them the first people to fly over the Atlantic Ocean non-stop.

In Vitro Fertilisation

The gift of life – From Oldham!

In Vitro Fertilisation (or IVF – fertilisation in a glass) is the commonly used procedure of fertilising a woman’s’ egg with the sperm of a partner in a petri dish. Ground breaking and astonishing procedure offering the gift of life for those who may otherwise be unable to reproduce.

The forward-thinking innovators in this sector were Patrick Steptoe, Director for The Centre for Human Reproduction and physiologist Robert Edwards.

Robert Edwards created the equipment for the procedure to collect a woman’s egg with an instrument called a laparoscope, and successfully fertilised human eggs in a laboratory.

The first ever IVF born child was Louise Brown, born in 1978, and now thousands of IVF babies are born each year with millions of children worldwide being conceived via this method.

Calder Hall Power Station

The World’s First Commercial Nuclear Power Station!

The nuclear power station at Calder Hall, in the sleepy and picturesque county of Cumbria, was the first ever power station in the world to be able to provide the amount of energy needed in commercial quantities.

The power station had 4 reactors, the first of which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17th October 1956.

Calder Hill was the first of its kind, not only due to the size but thanks to the way in which it was cooled – via gas. This led onto the construction of further magnox style power stations whereby the uranium was cooled by surrounding the rods with fuel cans made from magnesium alloy.

Calder Hall ceased producing power in 2003, at which point it was the oldest magnox power station in the world.

Splitting of the Atom

No small feat for the North West of England!

Thanks to our innate fascination with discovering the unknown, by the end of the 19th Century not only were we further trying to explore the vastness of space, but always we were aware that particles could be observed on a much smaller scale than ever before.

Ernest Rutherford, Chair of Physics at The University of Manchester, was able to reveal the nature of the atom and how the components worked – making the dissection of an atom a possibility.

Rutherford was able to compare the atom to a structure we all know – the Solar System. This then allowed further research and ultimately led to the discovery of firing radioactive particles at an atom resulting in the disintegration and release of protons from the atom – creating the first ever artificial nuclear reaction.