Monday, February 2, 2009

Alexander Cummings (c. 1775)

Alexander Cummings was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1733. He started his professional career as a watchmaker in London, England. During his lifetime, he wrote a few books about machinery and watches, and was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He was awarded the first patent for the flushing toilet (or valve closet) in 1775. This new toilet was an improvement of Sir John Harrington’s water closet, which was invented in 1596 and used by Queen Elizabeth I. The water closet was able to flush, but did not have a water trap. Cummings’ toilet allowed some water to stay in the bowl after flushing because of the “S trap,” a sliding valve between the bowl and trap. This excess water kept the house from smelling like sewage and helped to clean the bowl after use. Many other inventors followed Cummings and contributed their ideas to what is now the modern day toilet. In 1848 a Public Health Act stated that all new houses should be built with some sort of toilet.

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