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 False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Wed 28 Dec 2011, 12:29

Every schoolchild can (or at least could once) recite the fact that Columbus discovered America and that Edison invented the light bulb. While the former is now generally understood to be incorrect the latter has seemingly persevered. I heard a reference to the "fact" only yesterday while watching Mythbusters on Discovery Channel uttered by someone whose interest in things scientific would have led me to expect better. (For the record the first incandescent electric lamp was demonstrated by Sir Humphry Davy at a Royal Institution meeting in 1802).



How many other examples of spurious historical claims of invention are there? How does one actually define an "invention"? Are there any such accepted but blatantly incorrect attributions of credit which you think require correction?


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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Thu 29 Dec 2011, 12:18

Alexander Graham Bell… generally accepted inventor of the telephone… however much controversy surrounds its invention and it appears he was accredited this distinction by default… even bribery at the patent office. Its roots go back sometime before Bell and there are many deserving a mention.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_of_the_telephone
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Thu 29 Dec 2011, 19:03

I get aggravated by the discovery of DNA structure being attributed to Watson and Crick, with Franklin and Wilkins rarely getting a mention except in scientific circles.

I know there is still controversy about who did what but I always had the impression that Franklin did most of the science while Watson did the self-publicity.

As far as workable lights are concerned I think Joseph Swann was well ahead of Edison in the science but nowhere with the patents. He did give a lecture, lit by his lights, at The Lit and Phil in Newcastle - a library which I use whenever I pop into town.
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Thu 29 Dec 2011, 21:33

Hi Brenogler, yes, I get equally irritated when I think of how badly Jocelyn Bell Burnell was treated over her discovery of pulsars.
James Watt on the other hand has entered popular consciousness as the inventor of the steam engine, nonsense of course even though his innovation of the separate condenser did make it much more efficient, practical and economic.
Are all inventions really just improvements of something extant, applications of existing knowledge perhaps with a twist? Did the idea for anything really 'spring unbidden'?
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Fri 30 Dec 2011, 23:32

I think there is much in the "step by step" theory - look at Stephenson's "Davy" lamp , for example.
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Thu 05 Jan 2012, 13:21

The one which winds me up no end is "Al Gore invented the internet". Obviously, the man deserves credit for inventing scientific sanctity (as in the accusations of heresy levelled at all who question our impending doom due to atmospheric CO2 increases), but he didn't invent the internet. If he had done, he'd have made even more money out of it than he has from climate change!
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Thu 05 Jan 2012, 14:40

I tend to get annoyed with most inventor, discoverer or first up, down or across claims. They are usually too Anglo/Euro or US centric for my taste and, more often than not, ignore the previous inventions, discoveries etc without which the current one would not have been possible.

If that makes any sense....
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PostSubject: Inventions and inventors; who switched on the light?   Tue 10 Jan 2012, 18:00

@Islanddawn wrote:
I tend to get annoyed with most inventor, discoverer or first up, down or across claims. They are usually too Anglo/Euro or US centric for my taste and, more often than not, ignore the previous inventions, discoveries etc without which the current one would not have been possible.

If that makes any sense....
It makes sense!
Calling the first manifestation of a great idea a 'lightbulb moment' itself re-iterates the very object much discussed here. And how apt, as Edison was at best a rogue and more likely a criminal when it came to elbowing his way to the front of the 'Inventions' queue at the metaphorical (or real) patent office.
I guess most inventions don't immediately manifest themselves in the first inception; Logie Baird did and didn't simultaneously invent the television. He offered a working potential for the machine, but others were researching and making the cathode-ray tube, which lead ultimately to a feasible 'televising' system; poor Logie Baird was working down to the end of a cul-de-sac of design, in my opinion.

However, I'm always amused by those 'potty putty' inventions; those objects or ideas that happen by whilst other things are being considered. The 'potty putty' in question, for those who were deprived of it as children, was a sort of silicon(?) rubber that has interesting properties of a thixotropic nature, is fun to squidge in your hand and takes impressions which it immediately forgets about. But it has no real use. (Unless you know otherwise?)
Likewise, consider the chap at 3M (?) who created a very unsticky glue. Worse than that, it never dried. But wait! -- I like to think he had a sort-of lightbulb moment -- and subsequently invented the 'post-it note'.
Any other cul-de-sacs of design, that suddenly open out into a wide-avenue freeway of technology?
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Tue 10 Jan 2012, 18:29

Much as I like this chap http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Baylis and his matter of fact approach, it hacks me off that so much was made of ‘his’ invention. It cost a fortune. At the time I was enjoying getting re-educated into small electronic devises, now the availability and price of the ‘chip’ was no longer prohibitive… and I remember buying a small radio for my son to play with from ‘Maplins’ for about £12, a fraction of the price of a Baylis model. The much cheaper Maplins job was far superior and much better suited to the job Baylis invented his radio for as it was battery powered mains powered, solar powered and wind up. Considering Baylis invented his to work in Africa as shown in the wiki link, one thing Africa has in abundance is sunshine… why didn’t he tap into that as a design feature.

Welcome Hugh… I hope you’ll be a regular here.
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Tue 10 Jan 2012, 20:45


Quote :
Welcome Hugh… I hope you’ll be a regular here!

Thanks, Norman!
I know what you mean about Trevor Bayliss, but (and I have not yet followed your link) I consider what he invented was a slow-release spring. This was his genius; and his subsequent application of it to a radio 'battery' was a follow-on subject.
His first radio did cost a fortune; well, about £40 I think, and I still have one of the 'Baygen 1' models. It's big and clunky, it's great wrist exercise but only runs for 30 minutes; however, it's actually a good radio. Mine does service in the loo. Surely this was the only wind-up radio for a while. It must have been a precursor to Maplins' later and cheaper model, was it not?
One of the great niggles of my life, and it's germane to this thread, is that I ' invented' the wind-up torch. That is to say, years ago as a theatrical propmaker (we always were having madcap wheezes!) I used to need a torch for pitch-dark backstage work. There was an emergency torch by the fire-door. It had a sort-of dynamo squeezy-handle action. It just about worked, but whilst trying to search under-stage in boxes and keep squeeezing the bl**dy thing, I had a 'lightbulb moment', no less. "Why is there no such thing as a clockwork torch?" I thought. Had I been in possesion of The Bayliss tenacity, I might have actually (rather than hyperthetically) invented a realistic clockwork motor before he did.
The best man won, I s'pose....
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Tue 10 Jan 2012, 23:11

And that leads on to what I was going to say, Hugh. Apart from the fact that most inventions do come from others and lead on to others, the inventor isn't going to get the credit if they don't patent their discovery or ensure it is known outside themselves.

I could mention that here in NZ there are plenty of people who object to the Wright Brothers being given the credit for flying a plane first. A young isolated farmer (one of few working away on their own without using the discoveries of others, I think) near Timaru, Richard Pearse, spent his spare time building a plane and eventually flying it. But he doesn't get this credited to him because nobody thought to date the experience. There seems, somehow, to be knowledge of the day it flew, but not the year, so was it 1903 or 1904? People saw, but nobody had the nous to write to their relatives about this oddity, and he didn't think he had gained sustained flight and didn't seem to bother with written evidence dating it either. There's no doubt that he flew an early plane which he built with no help.

Wikipedia says, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Pearse , "According to witness statements, Pearse flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903, some nine months before the Wright brothers flew their aircraft.[1] The documentary evidence to support such a claim remains open to interpretation, and Pearse did not develop his aircraft to the same degree as the Wright brothers, who achieved sustained controlled flight.[2] Pearse himself was not a publicity-seeker and also occasionally made contradictory statements which for many years led some of the few who knew of his feats to offer 1904 as the date of his first flight. The lack of any chance of industrial development, such as spurred the Wrights to develop their machine, seems to have suppressed any recognition of Pearse's achievements."

Cheers, Caro.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Tue 10 Jan 2012, 23:52

Of course, Caro, the Brazilians will tell you that Santos-Dumont acheived the first real flight, as the railway ramp / track the Wrights used meant that the Flyer didn't take off, it was catapulted into the air.
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Wed 11 Jan 2012, 12:02

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Of course, Caro, the Brazilians will tell you that Santos-Dumont acheived the first real flight, as the railway ramp / track the Wrights used meant that the Flyer didn't take off, it was catapulted into the air.
The Wright brothers did not use a catapult to aid take-off until quite a few flights after their first. Given that they were on the spearhead of discovery, it is hardly surprising that they were innovated to try all sorts of technology.
I also accept that Richard Pierce can lay claim to being the first powered flyer. Alberto Santos-Dumont certainly demonstrated the potential in Paris for powered flight, but I'm not sure he actually achieved it until a couple of years after the Wright's flight in 1903. I believe he was a bit of a playboy; did he not buzz around Paris in a hot-air dirigible, tying up outside clubs and bars? It would be more impressive than turning up in a Ferrarri today....
...however, the quest for powered flight proves again that there is no immediate 'white-light' moment, no instant breakthrough in technology. It is usually a coalition of thought and experiment, and often driven by competition. Hence Brazil's claim; although Alberto had little to do with his country of origin; his life was in Paris. And Richard Pierce could have learned a lot from Edison; not about technology, but about self-agrandisement...
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Wed 11 Jan 2012, 15:08

Well, the then top authority - the French aero club or some similar name - disallowed the Wright's claim because they judged them to have used assisted take-off, and ratified AS-D's. The dirigible trips were d0ne for a much more pressing reason than pestige - MONEY. There was a prize which old Alberto picked up for a flying circuit around Paris.
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Wed 11 Jan 2012, 18:10

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Well, the then top authority - the French aero club or some similar name - disallowed the Wright's claim because they judged them to have used assisted take-off, and ratified AS-D's.
I did not know that, but why am not I surprised? On what basis was their 'judgement' made, I wonder? I was not aware anybody else was there, apart from the one photographer. I suppose they could simply argue that the Wright Brothers had not proved sufficiently that they had actually flown, so French chagrin kicked in. And Orville and Wilbur were notoriously shy about publicity, so maybe any doubt was the fault of their's.
I'm a fan of Percy Pilcher myself, who might have beaten the Wrights (or anyone else)had he not been killed in an aeroplane before a potential powered flight, I believe. And he has a Great British cartoon name...and might have put Lutterworth on the map, up there with Daytona Beech...
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Sun 22 Jan 2012, 16:16

I am not quite sure is this technically classifies as a false 'inventor', but as those who have read the book I currently writing and from posts on the BBC pages, the false perception of the extent of the success of the PLUTO pipelines greatly annoys me. This may well be due to having worked for over 20 years on the largely unknown but successful pipeline and storage system which fed PLUTO.

Below if from chapter 4 'PLUTO - the Tail that Wagged the Dog?'


It would probably be also true to state that the perception of those who have heard of PLUTO is that it was a great success and that the Normandy invasion might not have succeeded without it. This perception was started almost immediately after the end of the war in Europe when the secret of the PLUTO pipelines was made public. For example, Henley Cables ran an advert referring to ‘Operation “PLUTO” the petrol pipe-lines that made V.E. possible’. Captain Hutching, Senior Naval Officer Commanding Force “PLUTO” wrote to all members of Force “PLUTO” advising them that they had ‘contributed not a little to the final victory’ advising them, rather more modestly, that the Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower described it as ‘second only in daring to the Mulberry artificial harbours’.

This view has scarcely changed over time. For example the message from Sir Winston Churchill at the unveiling of the plaque to commemorate the laying of the PLUTO pipelines described it as being ‘crowned by complete success.’ In 1995 Lord Prior in his introduction to Adrian Searle’s book on the PLUTO pipelines, wrote that ’possibly because a pipe-line is essentially a prosaic object, largely unseen and uninspiring to the eye – unlike, for example, the floating prefabricated Mulberry harbours - PLUTO has perhaps not received its due recognition in the context of our wartime victory.’ An online article on PLUTO based on information provided by Captain F.A.Roughton states ‘Soon after D Day, a continuous flow of petrol to meet the heavy demands of the liberation armies and air fleets was maintained by the ‘Pipelines Under the Ocean’.’ A BBC Hampshire news item on 8th June 2010 described PLUTO as a ‘key contribution to victory in World War II’. The BBC interviewed Robin Maconhy, Chairman of the Bembridge Heritage Society , who declared “If PLUTO had not worked, there is a chance we wouldn’t have won.”

For the reality of the contribution of the PLUTO pipelines to the success of the invasion of Normandy and Victory in Europe, one needs to consider how much fuel was actually delivered by PLUTO at the various key changes of the invasion. This is set out in the table below:

Date Event Fuel Delivered by PLUTO in tons

6th June 1944 D Day
27th June United States forces capture Cherbourg 0
18th to 20th July British/Canadian Forces capture Caen 0
25th to 30th July United States forces breakout 0
20th/21st August Closing of the Falaise Gap 0
25th August Liberation of Paris 0
4th September British forces reach Antwerp in Belgium 0
17th September Start of Operation Market Garden 0

Tim

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The Man From Devana
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Fri 08 Jun 2012, 12:47

Operation Pluto was, after some initial setbacks, much more successful than that. This from the National Archive:

"The first lay for Bambi took place on 14 August 1944 but it did not
become operational until 22 September 1944. In all four pipe lines were
laid over this route, all later proving unsuccessful. Later lines laid
between Dungeness and the Pas De Calais (Dumbo) proved a greater
success. Laying operations began on 10 October 1944. Eventually a total
of 17 pipelines were laid over this shorter route and by March 1945
1,000,000 gallons were being pumped each day."

http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Operation_Pluto

In other words, PLUTO was not operational for ANY of the dates you provide as 'proof' of its failure in the Invasion and Victory in Europe. It would have been impossible for it to provide anything for the early stages of the invasion, and Bambi, as suggested above, did not live up to expectation; however, Dumbo, when it became fully operational contributed greatly to the progress of the war in Europe up to VE Day, as acknowledged by General Eisenhower, who, in describing Pluto in his report said that it was "second in daring
only to the artificial harbours projects", and wrote, "This provided our
main supplies of fuel during the winter and spring campaigns."

If you want source material, however, Go to the National Archive at Kew, and ask for any of the documents they have on operation PLUTO.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Tue 12 Jun 2012, 19:54

If you had read my post properly you would have seen that I specifically referred to the perception that 'the Normandy invasion might not have succeeded without it.' There were two sets of PLUTO Pipelines code-named BAMBI and DUMBO and my post was specifically to do with the pipelines from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg (BAMBI), which are the ones that people seem to know about, and not with those from Dungeness to Boulogne (DUMBO).

However, even DUMBO did not reach full capacity until after VE Day and only 8% of the fuel delivered to North West Europe was delivered by PLUTO, 92% was delivered by other means, principally tankers, but who talks about the vital importance of Chant or Greyhound tankers compared to PLUTO?

To quote from the official history D.J.Payton-Smith: Oil – A Study of War-time Policy and Administration 2 Volumes.

‘PLUTO contributed nothing to Allied supplies at the time that would have been most valuable – that is when no regular oil ports were available on the Continent and the Allies were relying on the unsatisfactory Port-en-Bessin.'

‘DUMBO was more successful; but at a time when success was of less importance. It made no substantial contribution until the campaign in Western Europe was already more than half over’.

Do have anything to prove that D.J.Payton-Smith was wrong in his assessment?



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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Wed 24 Oct 2012, 13:45

I came across an interesting one earlier today. While it is well known that Guillotin did not invent the execution mechanism named after him (he was on the committee which commissioned its development and use), I wonder how many people realise that its first documented use was in 14th century Ireland? (well, possibly)



This engraving entitled "The execution of Murcod Ballagh near to Merton in Ireland 1307" depicts a device uncannily close in design to the later French machine (designed in fact by a German harpsichord manufacturer). However it first appeared in print in a book published in England in 1577 so we are not actually sure that the artist wasn't at least partly inspired by another long-time precursor to Mme de Guillotine, the so-called Halifax Gibbet.



This device (a full scale model of which still graces the town) was allegedly invented by a visiting "feat friar" who concocted it in response to local Halifax men's reluctance to act as hangman. At one point there were up to 50 of them in operation in various towns around the Yorkshire area, and the last recorded use was in the mid 17th century when execution for petty theft was outlawed by that great humanist, Oliver Cromwell.

"At Halifax, the Law so sharpe doth deale,
That whoso more than thirteen pence doth steale,
They have a jyn [engine] that wondrous quicke and well
Sends Thieves all headless unto Heav'n or Hell".


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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Wed 24 Oct 2012, 14:35

There is a device known as "The Maiden",built in 1564, in the National Museum in Edinburgh, which is a guillotine-like apparatus.
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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Sun 06 Jan 2013, 12:07

I suspect we’ve all seen one of these ‘drinking birds’, either as a child or we’ve bought one for a child, but I wonder how many of us know how they work.



Over the Christmas period, my thoughts wandered back to many Christmases long past… to my childhood and my children’s childhood and to some of the presents that meant a lot to them and others that didn’t. One such that did, was the ‘drinking bird’… they sat and watched it for hours and asked me numerous times how it worked… I had several theories but didn’t really know. To be honest I was more interested in who when and where it was invented, although since Googling it, I find it’s really more than just a mere toy.

From Wiki… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_bird it tells me it’s a ‘heat engine’, and gives the history included below…
“A Chinese drinking bird toy dating back to 1910s~1930s named insatiable birdie is described in Yakov Perelman's Physics for Entertainment. The book explained the "insatiable" mechanism: "Since the headtube's temperature becomes lower than that of the tail reservoir, this causes a drop in the pressure of the saturated vapours in the head-tube ..." It was said in Shanghai, China, that when Albert Einstein and his wife, Elsa, arrived in Shanghai in 1922, they were fascinated by the Chinese "insatiable birdie" toy. In addition, the Japanese professor of toys, Takao Sakai, from Tohoku University, also introduced this Chinese toy. The drinking bird was patented in the US by Miles V. Sullivan in 1946. He was a Ph.D. inventor-scientist at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, USA.”

Wiki goes on to tell me Yakov Perelman… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakov_Perelman was a Russian and Soviet science writer and author of many popular science books including ‘Physics Can Be Fun; and Mathematics Can Be Fun; (both translated from Russian into English), and that he died from starvation in 1942, during the German Siege of Leningrad.

So despite Einstein being ‘fascinated’ by the toy in 1922, and a mention of the Japanese professor of toys, Takao Sakai, from Tohoku University, introducing this ‘curiosity’ as a Chinese toy… it was patented in the US by Miles V. Sullivan in 1946, a Ph.D. inventor-scientist at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, USA. It would appear the toy originally ancient Chinese by invention -http://www.mysteriouschina.com/china-once-invent-%E2%80%9Cperpetual-motion-machine%E2%80%9D-drinking-bird/ was high jacked by the Bell Labs then- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_Labs leaving us watching the bird continuing to ‘dip’ away but with the question unanswered of who exactly did ‘invent’ this amusing demonstration.

By the by… as we all know, Edison was well known in the patents office, and for not always registering his own ideas… http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090808045443AAOmUNs

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PostSubject: Re: False "inventor" claims - any which particularly annoy you?   Sun 06 Jan 2013, 13:42

Your mention of the 'drinking bird' heat engine, and bearing in mind the OP, has reminded me of a lttle known fact: that the patent for the gas turbine was granted in 1791. Yes I did type that date correctly. Forget Sir Frank Whittle's 1930 patent (which was specifically for a gas-turbine for aircraft jet propulsion) the basic gas turbine itself was patented 220 years ago.

The patent was given to John Barber of Warwickshire (UK patent no.1833 – "Obtaining and Applying Motive Power, & c. A Method of Rising Inflammable Air for the Purposes of Procuring Motion, and Facilitating Metallurgical Operations"). His idea contained all of the important features of a successful gas turbine to run on coal-gas, or gassified oil: a chain-driven, reciprocating gas compressor, a combustion chamber, and a turbine. In the patent he describes it as a suitable engine for powering industrial machines or propelling a "horseless carriage".

The idea was sound but given the manufacturing technology of that day it was not possible to build a machine with sufficient power to both compress the air and the gas and produce useful work. But in 1972 a German engineering firm using modern precision manufacturing techniques and materials did succesfully construct a fully working model to Barber's 18th century design.
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