Belfast Telegraph

Locals behind significant life-enhancing creations

By Lesley Houston

From a vital component of the modern tractor and the fastest way out of a plane, Northern Ireland inventors have been behind some of the world's most significant developments in human history.

Northern Ireland people can also claim ownership of a number of significant life-enhancing discoveries down the centuries – even hot chocolate.

Among the annals of the most important inventions from these shores must be the portable defibrillator, the brainchild of Professor Frank Pantridge (1916-2004).

The Hillsborough cardiologist transformed emergency medicine and paramedic services with the invention of the portable defibrillator.

As cardiac consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital and professor at Queen's University, his specialist cardiology research led to the first version of his portable defibrillator being installed in a Belfast ambulance in 1965.

Fighter pilots through world wars and since have been among those who have cheated death thanks to the ejector seat created by Sir James Martin (1893–1981).

The engineer from Crossgar, Co Down, together with RAF pilot Captain Valentine Baker, founded the Martin-Baker aircraft company, and it was Baker's death during a test flight which so affected Martin that he devised the ejection seat.

Those coming in from the cold have Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) to thank for hot chocolate, which the royal physician from Killyleagh in Co Down developed into the delicious beverage following his travels to Jamaica in the 17th century.

The doctor, who is immortalised by London's swanky Sloane Square, found the natives drinking cocoa mixed with water but finding it nauseating.

He found it much more appetising with milk. By the 19th century, the Cadbury brothers were selling tins of Sloane's drinking chocolate.

Harry Ferguson (1884–1960) was an engineer from Growell outside Dromore, Co Down noted for his role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor, namely the creation of the three-point hitch.

His invention revolutionised the way ploughs are attached to tractors.

A safety lamp sparked by the need to improve underground safety in mines was invented by Bangor doctor, William Reid Clanny (1776 - 1850), following a number of catastrophic explosions in pits near Sunderland where Clanny lived.

Belfast Telegraph