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An introduction to some significant inventions from the Victorian era. Adam Hart-Davis explains how the tree found to have an antidote to malaria helped invent the 'gin and tonic' (it was used to disguise the taste). The use of iron significantly helped the Victorians build railways and steam engines at a rapid pace. In 1837 Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the SS Great Britain, connecting the UK with America. However, Adam demonstrates how these iron ships caused problems for the navigational compasses and explains how Lord Kelvin's invention, the binnacle, worked to overcome these. We see a 'tempest prognosticator' (leech barometer) which the Victorians tried to use to predict the weather. With the increasing need for international trade, we are shown original telegraph cables which linked together across the globe.
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
25 June 2003

Classroom Ideas

Teachers could set the scene so pupils are prepared to complete the task as if they were investigators or explorers. Questions could be printed and given out to pupils for example: "If you were a Victorian explorer what equipment would take with you and why? Could you invent a new piece of technology to help you explore new countries? If so, what would it be and how would it be used?" Pupils could share their thoughts with the rest of the class. An outcome of this task could be that pupils could make their inventions during an art lesson.
Children can create a timeline of significant inventions and developments from the Victorian era. Children can write an explanation report explaining how each of these inventions work. Children can also write a biography about Isambard Kingdom Brunel including his most significant achievements.