Electricity and phones voted the best creations ever – but Brits can’t name inventors


Electricity, the telephone and vaccinations have been voted the best inventions ever – but most Brits cannot name the people who created the life-changing concepts.

The lightbulb, the internet and television are also considered to be among the best discoveries, with computers, cars, anaesthesia and planes completing the top 10.

But the study of 2,000 adults found that despite considering these to be among the greatest creations on earth, one in five didn’t realise Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb.

And more than half (52 per cent) incorrectly thought Henry Ford conceived the idea of a motor car.

A fifth were also unaware the Wright brothers were the creators of the first successful plane, while one in six couldn’t name Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone.

The research was commissioned by Thomas & Friends ahead of two new specials, Thomas & Friends Marvellous Machinery, guest starring Joe Swash, which will air on Channel 5’s Milkshake! on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th October at 7am.

Claudia Caron, from Mattel, said: “While many may not know who invented what, there is definitely appreciation for their efforts as the world would not look like it does today without their ingenuity.

“The results have also reflected a huge appreciation for some incredible British innovation both in the past and present day.”

It also emerged that of all inventions and wonderful discoveries in the modern world, Brits would most like to been in Sir Alexander Fleming’s shoes and discovered penicillin.

And Alexander Graham Bell was named the most iconic British inventor, beating Edward Jenner, creator of vaccination and Tim Berners-Lee, the architect of the first world wide web.

Children have also devised some incredible contraptions – with the most impactful on Brit’s lives being seen as Christmas lights – created by then-15-year-old Albert Sadacca in 1917.

The research also revealed underground rail, Concorde and the Harrier jump jet were considered to be some of the best modern machinery developed.

But 66 per cent of those polled admitted that older generations know more about inventors and their achievements than those younger than them.

A quarter even said they had pretended to know who has invented something in the past, to avoid looking silly.

British space scientist and inventor Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who will introduce the new ‘Marvellous Machinery’ specials to children on air, added: “It’s never too late to discover and explore these life-changing inventions and the stories behind them.

“It was also great to see the steam engine among the top creations – in the brand-new episodes, Thomas and the other much-loved characters make discoveries of their own at a Technology fair that comes to Sodor.

“And while it’s always great to discover new things, it’s also nice to look back on some of the marvellous developments we so often take for granted in the modern age.”


  1. Electricity
  2. Telephone
  3. Vaccination
  4. Lightbulb
  5. The internet
  6. Television
  7. Computer
  8. Car
  9. Anaesthesia
  10. Aeroplane
  11. Radio
  12. Steam train
  13. Camera
  14. Printing press
  15. Clock
  16. Optical lens
  17. Compass
  18. Boats
  19. Helicopter
  20. Tractor