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Forgotten hero of the age of steam.

Byline: By Daniel Thomson

Survey shows ignorance of genius

If you know that North railway engineer George Stephenson pioneered the steam locomotive then you are in the minority.

More than half the country do not know trains were invented here, never mind who invented them.

And he is just one great British inventor whose achievements seem to have been forgotten.

The annual survey by the Science Museum revealed that 58pc of people did not know who invented the steam locomotive and that a further 77pc did not know that cloning and the jet engine were also British inventions.

It also showed that 71pc of people did not know that British scientists discovered DNA and 72pc were unaware that the computer was invented in this country.

A Science Museum spokeswoman said the survey revealed a "staggering lack of appreciation for Britain's incredible scientific heritage".

The curator of Stephenson Railway Museum and keeper of science and industry for Tyne and Wear Museums John Clayson last night said he was shocked by the survey, but hoped people in the North knew who George Stephenson was.

He said: "It is surprising to hear that 58pc of people don't know that trains were invented in Britain.

"However, I am more hopeful that people from the North are aware about the role George and Robert Stephenson played in the creation of the first passenger railways in this region ( more than 150 years ago.

"Interest in them and other North inventors has been so strong that the Discovery Museum is in the process of creating a new display devoted to telling the story of the great pioneers including the Stephensons.

"Before his death in 1848, George Stephenson predicted that before the end of the century the world would be powered by electricity and it was fitting that the North played an important role in this.

"Another North inventor, Charles Parsons created the steam turbine which made swift travel possible by land, sea and air and laid the foundations for power generation around the world.

"Parsons' ship, the Turbinia, which he built in the North to test the steam turbine now stands at the centre of Discovery Museum.

"It is not only trains and turbines which were invented in the North, Joseph Swan invented the first lightbulb and the region is also home to the first windscreen wiper and aeroplane joystick."

Head of Collections at the Science Museum Dr Tim Boon said: "British science has had a massive contribution to the modern world. Much of the world's scientific and technological heritage can be seen for free at the Science Museum."
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2004
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