Essex’s Most Famous Inventors


Could You Add Your Name to Essex’s Illustrious Cast of Inventors?

Essex is famous for its innovators, and remains so today in the modern entrepreneurial era.

A trip through the towns of Essex gives you an eye-opening perspective on just what a hotbed of innovation the county has always been. Chelmsford proudly proclaims itself as the birthplace of radio, Harlow pioneered fibre optic cable technology and Brentwood has long been synonymous with the birth of home computing.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that invention is just a part of the county’s history. This is the age of the entrepreneur, and at least one Essex patent attorney is as busy as ever, protecting the ideas of a whole new generation of Essex innovators. Here, we take a look at those who have gone before them – there are some seriously large shoes to fill.

MarconiGuglielmo Marconi

It is a testament to Marconi’s achievements that Chelmsford is still synonymous with the man and his company, despite Marconi closing its doors for the last time more than 25 years ago.

Guglielmo Marconi is generally credited as being the inventor of radio, and those first broadcasts came from his famous purpose-built facility in New Street.

Lord Alan SugarLord Sugar

Lord Alan Sugar is best known today for his role on The Apprentice, but those of a certain age will always remember him most fondly as the founder of Amstrad. He founded the company in 1968 at the age of 21, from a small facility in Kings Road, Brentwood, and the story sounds like something straight from his TV series.

Initially focusing on cheap consumer electrical goods of questionable quality, he spotted a niche in the burgeoning home computer market in the early 1980s, and the company became an overnight success.

Geoffrey and Charles Barrett

These cousins were the founders of Hoffmann’s, the company that would have been synonymous with Chelmsford, had Marconi not got there first. Opened in 1898, this was the country’s first ball bearing factory, and in a few short years was the go-to brand for high quality, precision components.

Sir Charles Kao

Charles K Kao
Charles K Kao

We think of fibre optic as a modern day invention, but it was first pioneered by Dr Charles Kao of Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in Harlow. Known as The Godfather of Broadband, it is thanks to Sir Charles and his work that you are able to open this page and read about him so quickly. Now aged 84, Sir Charles lives in the USA. Tragically, he has suffered from Alzheimer’s for the past 15 years, and he has no recollection of his many achievements.

REB Crompton

Take a trip to Southend, and you will see the longest pier in the world, an achievement in its own right. Part of its charm has always been the train that carries passengers the 1.3 miles from one end to the other, and in the late 1800s, this was powered by an all new motor generator, developed by Crompton Engineering in Chelmsford. The factory building still stands on Writtle Road, although it is now home to a pharmacy and residential apartments.

Could you be next?

You only have to switch on the television and watch an episode of Dragon’s Den to know that there are more opportunities than ever for budding inventors in today’s economy. Just remember the golden rule – if you’ve got a great invention, patent it, as you never know who is looking over your shoulder!

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