The flushing toilet has a long and illustrious history, one that dates back to ancient times. We have evidence of indoor toilets in ancient Egypt, India and during the Roman Empire. However, after the fall of the Rome the idea of having a planned out sewage system seemed to be flushed down with Rome. For the next hundreds of years we see civilizations and cities growing as well as great growth to the amount of human refuse and waste being put in their rivers and streets. It appears that for some time there was no correlation made between the amount of waste being produced and the amount of rampant disease killing thousands. But in 1844-1855 when cholera claimed the lives of some 20,000 lives in London, people began to make some drastic changes and a sewer system was built in London. The first recorded toilet is attributed to John Harrington in 1596. He was a poet by trade and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. (Also fun fact – he is the great, great, great…. something to Game of Thrones actor Kit Harrington) Queen Elizabeth was so impressed with his invention that she asked him to put a toilet in the Royal Palace. There were still a few bugs in his design because noxious gases regularly escaped the toilet making it a very stinky affair.
Hard-working plumber Thomas Crapper is usually given the credit for creating the flushing toilet, but that is just not the case. The first patent for the flushing toilet was given to Alexander Cummings In 1775. His design allowed for a seal that would trap the sewer gasses. What Thomas Crapper did do was to create a pull chain system for powerful flushing with an air tight seal between the toilet and the floor. He also patented many ventilation systems. He partnered with Thomas Twyford who helped to make assembly lines of toilets making the toilets available for the masses.
With the help of these amazing inventors we have a system of indoor plumbing which brings joy, and sanitation to many. There are still billions of people today who do not have access to a flushing toilet. So today when you go to the restroom, let’s all be grateful for innovations in indoor plumbing.
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