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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Meet Austalia's forgotten genius inventor Henry Sutton. He independently invented the electric light globe only 16 days apart from Edison. He invented a prototype helicopter. He did 20 designs for a telephone at the same time as Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent and designed television used by Logie Baird 40 years later and much, much more. Discover this amazing engineering genius who lived in Ballarat in rural Australia in the late 1800's......

Submitted: December 09, 2018

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Submitted: December 09, 2018





We think we know the answers to these two straightforward questions don’t we? Why it’s good old Thomas Alver Edison and the famous UK pioneer of TV, John Logie Baird………...except it’s not strictly speaking correct.


Do you have any know-all friends and family?? Most of us know someone who fits the bill. Well stun them with the answer, that it is a virtually unknown Australian inventor by the name of Henry Sutton. Not only that, but he invented a telephone system, prototype helicopter, a battery, radio transmitters and receivers, the world’s first portable radio and a colour printing process. Impressed?? I know I was, and as always, his story further validates “Life Cycles Theory” (also a world-first by another virtually unknown Australian………”me, of course”!)


Before I get straight into his age 24/36 years, I’d like to reflect on his unconventional upbringing. All six children in the household were home-schooled by their mother, but from the age of 11 young Henry taught himself science and engineering from books in the Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute. He went on to win 30 prizes with his drawings at the Ballarat School of Design. Observations he made at the age of 10 of a dragonfly fluttering its wings, would lead on to designing an experimental ornithopter at the age of 14 and having a paper on the principles of flight read at the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain 8 years later. He is credited as the inventor of a helicopter prototype.


So let’s go to his age 24 “Year of Revolution”. He was born Sept. 4th, 1855 so we are looking at the period Sept, 1879 - Sept, 1880.During this time Henry Sutton was working independently on Carbon Lamps (incandescent globes), without any knowledge of Thomas Edison's work on similar lines. Henry designs and builds the electric light bulb independent of Edison; Edison on 21 December 1879 and Sutton on 6 January 1880, only 16 days apart! It was recorded by the Victorian Government Astronomer R.L.J. Ellery, that due to Henry's isolation from the world stage Edison got the credit. I’m sure if he knew it was a race he would have got there first. So he is at the least the co-inventor of the light globe.


Let’s now go to his age 36 Year of Revolution which is Sept, 1891 -  Sept, 1892. In this time Henry was in the UK where he met that other engineering genius, Nikola Tesla. He had already managed to  transmit an image from the Melbourne Cup along telegraph wires to Ballarat in 1885 by using his amazing invention called the ‘telephane’ (the true birth of the facsimile). However, when he talked about this with Tesla, he became convinced that moving images could be transmitted wirelessly like they are in modern televisions. Some 40 years later John Logie Baird invented television using Henry’s same principles. So he was really the pioneer of TV as well!


Let’s not stop there however. In 1876, at age of 20, he designed at least twenty different types of telephones. This was the same year that Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent for a telephone and made a lucrative deal with Western Union. Sutton and Bell later corresponded and became lifelong friends and Bell visited him in Ballarat. Genius again! Then in 1881 he built the world’s first battery that could be recharged. He was also a contemporary of Henry Ford and guess what, by 1899, he had built and driven the Sutton Autocar, one of the first motor cars in Australia.


Finally he designed a torpedo, so he also contributed to world of warfare. Such a staggering array of different inventions places him at the very forefront of this elite group of scientists and engineers. When I thought about it, what he did came closest in its scope to the work of that other genius polymath, Nikola Tesla. Think about the comparisons, with inventions for such a wide range of different areas. More than a century after Sutton's death, his great-granddaughter and biographer, Lorayne Branch, has written a book in the hope of breathing new life into his legacy.



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