How the modern toilet has changed the world

How the modern toilet has changed the world

The main part of the toilet bowl — S-shaped knee — was invented in 1775, but a third of humanity still living without that convenience.

“Decent it no longer exists,” read an editorial in a London newspaper City Press in 1858. “There is a stench!”.

The stench, which was discussed, was not only figuratively. Those politicians do not cope with a very obvious problem.

The population of London has grown significantly, and existing at the time the system getting rid of waste human body could not cope with the task.

So far, these wastes were placed in cesspools, with all the consequences — they leaked, overflowed, and Yes, smelled. The authorities decided to send sewage into the gutter.

This has led to new problems. These ditches were designed for rain water, and their contents flowed directly into the Thames.

As a result, the river was simply an open sewer, and the stench was unbearable.

Engineer Joseph Basaljel proposed to build a sewer system that carried all the waste of human life away from the city. This draft was to approve the policy.

The summer of 1858 was extremely hot, and bad-smelling river in the city centre could no longer be ignored or to mention going out of the miasma with the polite euphemisms. That summer was called “the Great stench”.

An unexpected Savior

If you live in the city with modern sewer, you may be difficult to imagine that every hour of your every day may be accompanied by the stench of excrement.

For this we have to thank many people, but in the first row is their unexpected Savior named Alexander cumming.

Cumming was a watchmaker in London for a hundred years before the “Great stench” and was known for being able to produce very complex mechanisms.

King George III ordered him a difficult instrument to measure atmospheric pressure. He also improved microtome — a tool to cut samples of wood of several micrometers, for optical microscopy.

But his invention that changed the life of mankind, has nothing to precise engineering. We are talking about a simple curved pipe.

In 1775 cumming was granted a patent for S-shaped knee. This part is not enough to create a flushing of the toilet.

And without such a toilet seat is impossible to create a modern sewer system.


The idea of flush toilets existed before Cumming, but they are faced with the problem of unpalatable smell. Pipe connecting such toilets with sewers would allow to pull back the filth, but she missed back in the house sewer smells in all their glory, if this tube were not equipped with airtight insulation.

Cumming has found an elegant and simple solution to this problem — the pipe should be easy to bend.

In the lower part of the knee is water that does not pass the disgusting smell, and the water is automatically replenished at each descent of the tank.