Innovation of the day: The flush toilet

Who: John Harrington (b. 1561 d. 1612)

Innovation: The flush toilet, or at least the British forerunner to it.

What does it do?

I'm sure all readers know how a modern flush toilet works. However, the basic principle is that water flushes human waste down a drainpipe. Instead of human waste disposal being your problem, it's someone else's.

What problem does it solve?

Before the advent of flush toilets, raw sewage littered the streets. That's kind of gross.

A success?

In 1596, Harrington published A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax, in which he described the flush toilet he had installed in his home. There was a flush valve to let water out of the tank, and a 'wash-down design' to empty the bowl. Harrington installed one at his godmother's houses. His godmother just so happened to be Queen Elizabeth I. The design didn't really take off, but it certainly informed future flush toilet innovators, who perfected Harrington's concept.

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