Museum of Renaissance Inventions

Bringing Renaissance Inventors and Their Inventions to You

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Exhibit on Renaissance Inventors and Their Inventions

This exhibit features some of the important Renaissance inventors and their inventions that were created during the mid 14th century, all the way until the mid 16th century. You may know of Da Vinci or Guttenberg and their inventions, but hopefully this exhibit will give you a wider variety of different inventors and their famous inventions.

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Museum of Renaissance Inventions

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John Harrington- The Flushing Toilet (1596)

John Harrington was a courtier, author, and scientist. He was one of the members of Queen Elizabeth I's Court and Queen Elizabeth I's godson. John was not very popular with some people though. He was eventually banished from the court for telling sexual stories to Kelston near Bath. During his seven year exile, he built himself a house with the first flushing toilet, which he named Ajax.

During this time period of the Renaissance wealthy households might have had a close-stool with a padded seat and a metal or porcelain container below it that had to be emptied by hand. This is what Harrington tried to move away from, his device could empty itself. His toilet had a pan with a seat, and the water was pumped into the cistern above. When a handle on the seat was turned, water came down from the cistern into the pan and its contents were swept away into a cesspool.

Cornelis Drebbel- The Submarine (1620)

Cornelis Drebbel was a Dutchman in the service of James I if England. Drebbel constructed the first successful submarine in 1620, but his submarine may have been based off of William Bourne's design. Bourne was a British mathematician and a writer on naval subjects, he proposed a completely enclosed boat that could be submerged and rowed underwater. His submarine would have a wooden frame that was covered by waterproof leather. It would be submerged by reducing its volume by contracting the sides with hand vises.

Between 1620 and 1624 Drebbel successfully maneuvered his submarine in depths ranging from 12 to 15 feet below the surface of the Thames River in England. The submarine was powered by oarsmen, the oars would come out through holes with flexible leather seals. Snorkel air tubes were held above the water by floats, and this allowed the submarine to submerge in several hours.

Blaise Pascal- Calculator (1642)

Blaise Pacal was France's most famous mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was taught by his father. Pascal worked on conic sections and laid the foundation for the theory of probability.

In 1642, at the age of 18, Pascal invented and built the first calculator to help his father do his taxes more efficiently. His device was called the Pascaline. The first Pascaline could only handle 5-digit numbers, but later he developed versions that could handle 6 and 8-digit numbers. The calculator had metal wheel dials that were turned to the right number with a stylus, and then the answer would appear in boxes at the top of the calculator. His machine could add, subtract, multiply, and divide, but multiplying and dividing were more difficult. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing were all done by repeated addition and subtraction. In reality the calculator could only add; over the next decade he continued to improve his device and built fifty Pascaline machines in all.

Otto Von Guericke- Air Pump (1650)

Otto Von Guericke was a Prussian physicist, engineer, and natural philosopher. Guericke went to school at the University of Leipzig, he later studied law at the University of Jena in 1621, and mathematics and mechanics at the University of Leyden in 1623. After his studies he became an engineer in the army .

in 1650 he invented the first air pump. He used the air pump to create a partial vacuum and to study the role of air in combustion and respiration. His studies showed him that light travels through the vacuum but sound does not. In his early experiments during 1647, he made a vacuum by using a suction pump to remove the water from a sealed wooden cask. However the cask leaked air in from the outside as the water was withdrawn, thus confirming the need for glass or metal system. Von Guericke learned that the most desirable shape for withstanding the pressure difference was a sphere.