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01 April 2004 1405 BST
Graphic: A-Z of Norfolk Science, H: Hovercraft
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Christopher Cockerell invented the hovercraft

Sir Christopher Cockerell was one of the most amazing inventors of the 20th Century.

He invented lots of different things, but he will be best remembered for inventing the hovercraft.

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Sir Christopher Cockerell

Hovercraft club of Great Britain

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Born in 1910 near Cambridge, Sir Christopher's interest in science was encouraged at Gresham's School at Holt in Norfolk.

Sir Christopher Cockerell
Sir Christopher Cockerell 1910-1999

He studied engineering at Cambridge University, and joined Marconi as a wireless engineer in 1935.

He made 36 inventions for the company, for which he was paid £10 each.

In 1950 he left Marconi and bought a boat building/hire business on the Norfolk Broads.

Baked beans and fireworks

He used a baked beans' can and a firework in an early attempt to prove that a vehicle could float on air.

He finally proved that it was possible on Oulton Broad near Lowestoft in the early 1950s. The first commercial vessel crossed the channel in 1959.

Hovercrafts are now used all over the world and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in north Norfolk has one of only two hovercrafts in the UK, for sea rescue.

Cockerell had to fight for years to get any financial recognition and he believed inventors often got a raw deal.

Sir Christopher Cockerell died on the 40th anniversary of the launch of the hovercraft, June 1st 1999.

Recommended reading
By Sheila McKeown, a librarian at the Millennium Library in Norwich.

1000 Inventions & Discoveries, by Roger Bridgman.

Mega Book of Ships by Lynne Gibbs. Zizag 2003. ISBN 1903954991.

You can get hold of these books through your local library.


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