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Happy National Inventors' Day to you!


Happy National Inventors' Day to you!

What do National Inventors' Day and Thomas Edison's birthday have in common? They're both on February 11th. Coincidence? Absolutely not. The very first NID was proclaimed in 1958 by President Ronald Regan himself in honour of Mr Edison and still, today, remains the day to celebrate those who boggle their brains to make life easier, sweeter and whole lot cooler for us averages Joes.

According to the powers of knowledge (and common sense), "necessity is the mother of invention" and without these geeky geniuses we might still be walking to work and bumbling around in the dark until the sun comes up. Granted, lots of inventions that are knocking about these days are a bit silly (who needs bacon flavoured dental floss...) but plenty of life-changing creations have to come to be over the decades and it's time these unsung heroes got their time to shine.

On that note, we thought you might like to know more about how the humble carpet tile came to be...

Where would we be without Heuga...

These days there are hundreds and thousands of carpet tiles on the market - we should know, we have the UK's biggest selection - but once upon at time, these babies didn't exist. It was only thanks to a certain Petrus Johannes van Heugten who, during the 1950's, came up with one heck of a lightbulb moment that would change the face of flooring for good.

Bare feet on kitchen floor tiles with underfloor heating
Example of the structure of underfloor heating

Van Heugten started messing about with felt to create saddle blankets and hand warmers and soon saw the potential in this marvellously versatile material. His felt-based repertoire expanded into stair runners, kneeling cushions and eventually carpet flooring. He began by dying jute and backing it with a felt underlay but eventually turned the whole operation on its head, reversing the two materials and hey, presto - carpet! In 1952 this was still being sold on the roll until 1958 when the very first commercial carpet tile exploded onto the market.

Now let's take a look at some of those unsung inventors I was talking about earlier...

Clarence Birdseye's quick freeze brainwave

Starting off his professional life as a taxidermist, Birdeye (naturally) progressed onto a passion for food preservation. His extensive research led him to being taught by the Inuits how freeze fish under huge blocks of ice. He translated these techniques into modern technolgy and well, the rest is history. So think about that when you next pick up a box of fish fingers.

Feilding & Chavannes' - the brains behind bubble wrap

Another one of life's little luxuries is bubble wrap. Beautiful, stress-busting, package-protecting bubble wrap and it's all thanks to Alfred Fielding and his savvy sidekick, Marc Chavannes. Through an attempt to create plastic wallpaper that went down like a lead balloon, these guys invented what has now become an $8 billion per year empire. Now that's what I call a happy accident.

Bare feet on kitchen floor tiles with underfloor heating
Example of the structure of underfloor heating

John Walker's stroke of matchstick genius

Once upon a time, man make fire by man rubbing stick and stone together. That is until man (or pharmacist) going by the name of John Walker concocted an innovative paste-like solution that would ignite when struck against a rough surface. Et voila - we have a match!

Walker began selling cardboard matches way back in 1824 but eventually gave up on it. Sir Isaac Holden swooped in some years down the line and picked up where Walker left off to evolve and improve the product, which means Sir Holden often steals all the credit for this humble household item which many of us would struggle to get through the week without.

All hail Arthur Fry's sticky Post-It notes

Inspired by scientist, Spencer Silver's (cool name for a cool guy) 1974 adhesive innovations and his own page-marking frustrations, Fry set about creating something that would be tacky enough to stick but not permanent enough to damage. He spent many an afternoon at the church choir picking up pieces of paper that slipped from his song book and decided it was high time he devised a solution.

Fry took the two things and put them together (quite literally) and eventually came up with those sticky little pieces of brightly coloured paper that help us remember to pick up a pint of milk or send that really important email. It might have taken a whole load of trial and error but he got there in the end and I mean, I'm glad he stuck at it...

Sorry that was terrible. I'll let you escape from my bad jokes now but feel free to share this article wherever you please but be sure to use the hashtag #NationalInventorsDay to spread the lurrrve and appreciation.