The British Inventor: His Decadence and the Remedy. IN an article published in the London Engineer Mr. W. O. Horsnaill analyses the reasons why England has fallen behind other nations as regards the evolution of useful inventions. In its editorial columns, the Engineer firmly declines to agree with Mr. Horsnaill in the assumption that British invention is at all in a backward state, and cites the British man-of-war. “ From beginning to end,” states our contemporary, “ she is the product of British imagination, British thought and British skill, and it will not be denied that she contains a collection of inventions for which it would be hard to find an equal outside of an international exhibition. We are not going to attempt the impossible task of separating the details of her contents according to the nationality of thought which first inspired them, though, if we did so, the preponderance of British inventiveness would be enormous, but we shall content ourselves by pointing out that nearly every one of the million details which may be found within her walls has been thought out in British drawing-offices." Mr. Horsnaill states that the attitude of the British manufacturer toward new inventions is one of apathy, coupled with extreme skepticism. The manufacturer can be induced to take up a new patent only under an agreement giving him the lion' s share of the profit, while the inventor is saddled with all the risks. "The majority of ideas cannot he put into worlmble shape without patient and often costly experimenting, hence an inventor without means of his own must apply either to a capitalist or a manufacturer for assistance. The former is very chary of risking his money on such ventures, in view of the attitude of the manufacturer indicated above, and the latter, if he can be persuaded to take any interest at all in the idea stage, will suggest employing the inventor under an agreement by which he surrenders all claims to any improvements resulting from his efforts. This state of things compares unfavorably with the attitude of manufacturers towards inventions in certain other countries who now give us the lead in this line. "In view of the epoch-making inventions brought out by British enterprise during the last century, it is difficult to believe that our inventors are suffering from any lack of originality, this view being further supported by the large and increasing number of applications for letters patent. Such being the case, we are driven to the conclusion that the chances of a reward, which were good enough to attract the best brains in the country thirty to fifty years ago, have now become too remote to act in this way, with the result that our manufacturers have been reduced to copying the inventions of other nations. There is little room for doubt that the position is mainly governed by the attitude of the manufacturer regards the independent inventor and his own employees. "It is not intended to suggest that tin: majority of the British firms make no recompense whatever to workpeopie who bring forward valuable inventions, but the reward is generally in the form of a srnall increase in salary, which may, and often does, end after a short period owing to a revision of the staff appointments. Only a very few manufacturers employ experimenters whose whole duty consists in developing new products, and the chances of a small increase of salary for an uncertain period are not sufficiently attractive to induce inventive efforts in those who have been engaged for other duties; hence. if a good idea is thought of, the experienced assistant will keep it to himself until he secures a new appointment, when protection can be obtained between engagements. "It is difficult to understand what objection there can be to paying a small royalty to a workman. It would have to be paid to an independent inventor, and, after all, the firm is placed under no permanent obligation, as the royalty ceases with the manufacture; moreover, much better terms can be arranged than would be practicable in taking up the invention of an outsider. It is only fair to state that certain enlightened firms have been very liberal with members of their staff who have brought out new inventions and such concerns have greatly benefited by this procedure, but the general rule is to give no royalties to workmen, whether engaged for experimental work or other duties." Mr. Horsnaill believes that one reason for the lack of English success in the direction of new inventions is the neglect of experimen tal and research work by manufacturing concerns. This plan is in marked contrast to the methods pursued in ' where almost every works has a number of men engaged in experimental and research work, no attempt being made to economize in this department, even during periods of depression. "Often the cost of manufacture is entirely ignored, but it is obviously useless to protect a device which cannot be made for a price at which It iS likely to sell. "It would appear that an inventor, if he is not an expert in the industry to which his idea applies, would often be well advised in consulting some one whose knowledge and experience would enable him to say whether the invention was likely to prove successful, and this course should be pursued before any money is spent upon taking out a patent. It will no doubt be contended that by such procedure the inventor risks having his idea taken from him for the use of some one else. If, however, care is exercised in the selection of an expert, this risk should be infinitesimal, and in the case of a useless invention the outlay upon patent fees, experiments, models, and attempts to sell, are saved. "Then, again, expert knowledge is necessary for the perfecting of an invention before any attempt is made to place it on the market, and if the inventor does not possess such knowledge he should certainly seek assistance. "Many good inventions have failed because they have been offered to manufacturers in an imperfect state, backed up by inefficient designs and carelessly constructed models. The drawings of the invention, and the workmanship of the model, are most important when it is desired to sell a patent. A number of mechanical inventions have made a market for themselves without possession any merit whatever, excepting they have been well designed and made, while others, with novel and useful features of considerable value, have failed to receive recognition owing to the careless way in which tiiey have been put forward." Notes for Inventors A New Way of Hanging Clothes.— A city dweller once built his garage on the back of his home lot, shortening his yard and causing the women folks to complain of lacking space to hang the family wash. “ Oh!” he said, “ I' ll fix that.” He ran two small iron pipes, which had formed parts of an awning frame, lengthwise along and supported from the side fences by brackets which spaced the piping away from the fences. Then the clothes line was laced from side to side of the yard around the opposi.te .pi.pes. When a row of wash was hung, i. t could be pushed along close to the preceding row, so that the capacity of the yard was equal to, if not greater than, that of the entire original yard when hung in the usual manner. A Perpetual Motion Inventor and His Practical Suggestion.— Misdirected effort is frequently found in the pursuit of inventions, and we read of the death a short while ago of a Baltimore inventor eighty-eight years of age who is said to have spent fifty-five years of his long life seeking perpetual motion. At the same time we read of the old man' s evidencing his natural and developed inventive ability by stig-gesting to a relative, as a wedding present, a reaping invention which is reported to have realized one million dollars or more. If this be true, his inventive talents can hardly be said to have been given him in vain. A Parsons Turbine Gearing.— In a patent, No. 997,635, Charles Algernon Parsons of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, provides for the running of turbine elements at their most economical speed independently of the speed of the propeller shafts. He does this by combining, in the turbine installation, one or more pro^ peller shafts with a plurality of other shafts and gearing between said shafts, together with tu.rbine elements some of which are reversing turbine elements distribute d over all the shafts, all arranged to secure the economical speed of the turbine elements. Recent Patents for Treatment of Refractory Material.— The treatment of refractory material is involved in five patents, Nos. 997,879 to 997,883, issued to the General Electric Company, assignee of Ezechiel Weintraub of Lynn, Mass., and Schenectady. The same company is assignee of patent No. 997,940, to Elihu Thomson of Mass., for a method of generating high temperatures, in which the vapor is generated in a conduit of relatively unrestricted bore by heating the conduit externally, accompanied by other steps in the process. An Observation Car.— An observation car in which seats are arranged sloping upwardly from both ends of the car to a central level portion is shown in a patent, No. 997,704, to Richard M. Rodden of Montreal, Canada. Cleaning Glass Dry.— In a patent, No. 997447, Samuel Grimson of New York city provides a dry cleaner for glass, in which a cleansing surface of tripoli powder is held to a suitable backing by a minute coating of vaseline, which will hold the tripoli to the backing without passing through the powder. A Parachute for Aeroplanes.— A safety attachment for aeroplanes has been patented, No. 997,354, by Grover C. Young-green of Los Angeles, Cal., and includes a sheet of fabric which may be folded in triangular form into a vertical plane to promote lateral stability of the aeroplane, or may be folded into a horizontal plane to act as a parachute. Another Marconi Marconi of London, assignor to the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, New York, N. Y., has secured patent No. 937,308 for a transmitting apparatus for wireless telegraphy. Any reference to the transmitter is necessarily technical, but the improvement includes a battery of low resistance with moving terminals arranged so that a gap is left between them, together with pieces to bridge the gap, which bridging pieces are moved, in operation, rapidly past the gap. A Cup Packer for Wells.' — A cup packer for wells, in which a cup formed of material which softens under the of liquid is combined with a spring of insufficient strength to expand the cup when dry, but can expand the cup when softened by the liquid, is presented in a patent, No. 997,721, to Charles A. Waitz of Rouse-ville, Pa. A Group of Safe and Vault Patents.— Twenty-five patents, Nos. 997,771 to 997,795, inclusive, have recently issued to Taylor Iron and Steel Company, High Bridge, N. .1., as assignee of Samuel W. Fish of Plainfield, N. J., for safes or vaults, safe or vault doors, safe or vault bodies, safe or vault door holding means, locking mechanism for safes or vaults, and safe or vault door holding or locking means. S. P. C. A. Horseshoe Prize.— Early in the year the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals instituted a prize competition for a shoe which would prevent horses from slipping. The competition was to close on June 1st, 1911. We are informed by the general manager 1 of the society that it is unlikely that any experiments will be made or decisions arrived at until of winter, as the object is to find a shoe or device that will prevent horses from slipping on icy pavements. The Death of Samuel T. Fisher.— Mr. Samuel T. Fisher, who was Assistant Commissioner of the Cleveland administration, died in Saturday, July 22nd, 1911. Mr. Fisher was a graduate of Harvard, subsequently taking a special course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to fit himself for work as a surveyor, which he followed in the United States service in Colorado and then returned to Massachusetts, studied law and accepted a position as assistant examiner in the United States Patent Office, rising to the assistant commissioner-ship. Later he resigned to enter the practice of patent law which he followed with signal success up to a few months ago, when he was stricken with what proved to be his last illness. A Waterproof Cellar.— In some sections ordinary cellars are impracticable, and James William Lane of Atlantic City, N. J., provides in a patent, No. 997,835, a waterproof cellar having a waterproof concrete floor and walls of considerable thickness with a vertical standpipe centrally on the floor and extending above the normal height of the water, in the surrounding sand, the standpipe having a filter and the standpipe being open at both ends, so .that water may rse and fall freely therein. A New Two-cycle Engine. — Charles Francis Jenkins of Washington, D. C., a well-known inventor especially in the moving picture apparatus art, has recently obtained a patent., No. 997,195, for a two-cycle gas engine including a longitudinal passage outside of the cylinder and within the water space of the same, one end of the passage being in open communication with the upper end of the cylinder while its lower end, in which a spark plug is located, is opened and closed by the reciprocation of the piston. Doping Gasoline.— A real estate agent of our acquaintance uses a light runabout machine, and says he can get about eighteen to twenty-one miles out of a of gasoline, but that he finds if he puts an ounce of laudanum to each five gallons of gasoline, will increase the mileage per gallon from twenty to per cent. Whether this is so or not— and no reason is seen why any such effect should result from the use of laudanum— it calls to our attention the use of additions to the explosive fluids for increasing their efficiency. The use of nitro compounds, such, for instance, as picric acid, been suggested. As early as 1903 Le Mare, an engineer of Brussels, Belgium, obtained an English patent, No. 3,623, for an invention whose object was to increase the number of available calories for a given weight of fuel. He proposed an explosive fluid mixture combining 30 per cent of nitro-benzine with 70 per cent of alcohol. The fuel carried by motor cars should of course be as rich as possible in calorific energy, and a compound that can be provided for addition to the fuel charge of an automobile or motor boat should find a ready sale, if it can increase the per gallon or can reduce the expense adding to the dangers of operation. While some think the development of aeronautics will be greatly affected by improvements in the fuel products, others look for material improvements in the motors, and we have seen no less an authority than Hiram Percy Maxim quoted as prophesying that “ in a few years we may get a thousand horse-power within the weight we now use for ten." 126 August 5, 1911
This article was originally published with the title "The Inventor' s Department"