Arts & Culture

5 British inventions that changed the world

The last hundred years have seen the world change unimaginably. Technologies that could barely have been conceived of at the start of the last century exist today, and the rate of change is increasing exponentially. Great Britain has been at the forefront of these technological developments for centuries, pioneering the ideas and technologies that made our world what it is today. The impact made by British scientists and inventors truly can’t be overstated.

That’s why, this week, we wanted to do a rundown of seven of the UK’s most incredible inventions. If you’re visiting London, you may even be able to visit the very places where these technological innovations were created. Let’s take a look at our top 7 world-changing British inventions.


multicoloured clock faces

Bear with us. This might be a strange one to wrap your head around, but the world hasn’t always thought about time in the same way. Before the 1800s, different places around the world would keep their own time according to the rising and the setting of the sun.

There was no universal time framework to connect different cities and countries. Scientists at the Greenwich Observatory changed all that in 1884 when they created Greenwich Mean Time – the first national standard time framework.

The Steam Engine

locomotive steam engine passing through mountain pass

The invention of train travel broadened the world’s horizons, speeding up industry and commerce and cheapening the cost of international trade.

The first commercially viable steam piston engine was developed by Thomas Newcomen in around 1712. The steam engine would go on to define an era of transport innovation and thrust the world into the cradle of the industrial revolution.

The Electric Motor

closeup of motor engine

The development of the electric motor was the result of hundreds of crucial scientific experiments and discoveries. However, the first recorded demonstration of an electric current being generated in a circular motor was engineered by Michael Faraday in 1821.

His experiments demonstrated how an electrical charge could be used to stimulate mechanical motion, paving the way for the entire history of electronics.

The World Wide Web

hand holding an ipad browsing the internet

We hardly have to explain to you the significance of the world wide web in shaping today’s socio-political landscape. The father of today’s digital landscape was an English computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee, who created the first web browser whilst employed at CERN in 1989.

The world wide web should not be confused with the internet, which is the series of networks through which we access the web.


road asphalt sky

Ok, it would be a push to say that the British invented roads. They’ve been around for quite a long time! However, road construction as we know it today – that is, a hard stone layer covered in a softer, absorbent surface, was pioneered by Scottish engineer John Macadam during the 18th century. Without his innovations, the world we live in today would look very different indeed.

If you’d like to learn more about British culture and heritage, explore some of our fantastic tours of London. You’ll get to see all the major sites, as well as discover the stories behind some of Britain’s iconic moments throughout history.