1 in 5 can’t name inventor of lightbulb

Brits rate electricity, the telephone and vaccinations as the best inventions ever – but many of us cannot name the people who created these life-changing concepts.

While the lightbulb, the internet and television are considered to be among the best discoveries, the study of 2,000 adults found that 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 an 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 be in Sir Alexander Fleming’s shoes and have 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 worldwide web.

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.


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

Chris Price