1655: One Hundred Inventions


In 1655, Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester composed his Century of Inventions — a listing of 100 things that needed to be invented. The full title is A Century of the Names and Scantlings of such Inventions As at present I can call to mind to have tried and perfected, (which my former Notes being lost) I have, at the instance of a powerful Friend, endeavoured now in the Year 1655, to set these down in such a way as may sufficiently instruct me to put any of them in practice.

Some of the devices Worcester imaginestelephones, machine guns, airplanes, steam engines—have been invented, and some have not. Here is a selection:

No. VI.
How, at a window, as far as eye can discover black from white, a man may hold discourse with his correspondent, without noise made or noise taken ; being, according to occasion given and means afforded, ex re nata, and no need of provision beforehand; though much better if foreseen, and means prepared for it, and a premeditated course taken by mutual consent of parties.

No. VII.
A way to do it by night as well as by day, though as dark as pitch is black.

No. XII.
A way to make a ship not possible to be sunk, though shot at an hundred times between wind and water by cannon, and should she lose a whole plank, yet, in half an hour’s time, should be made as fit to sail as before.

How to make upon the Thames a floating garden of pleasure, with trees, flowers, banqueting-houses, and fountains, stews for all kind of fishes, a reserve for snow to keep wine in, delicate bathing places, and the like; with music made by mills; and all in the midst of the stream, where it is most rapid.

How to compose an universal character, methodical and easy to be written, yet intelligible in any language ; so that if an Englishman write it in English, a Frenchman, Italian, Spaniard, Irish or Welsh, being scholars, yea, Grecian or Hebrean, shall as perfectly understand it in their own tongue as if they were English, distinguishing the verbs from the nouns, the numbers, tenses, and cases, as properly expressed in their own language as it was written in English.

How to make an artificial bird to fly which way and as long as one pleaseth, by or against the wind, sometimes chirping, other times hovering, still tending the way it is designed for.

How to make a man to fly: which I have tried with a little boy of ten years old, in a barn, from one end to the other, on a hay-mow.

A watch to go constantly, and yet needs no other winding from the first setting on the cord or chain, unless it be broken, requiring no other care from one than to be now and then consulted with, concerning the hour of the day or night ; and if it be laid by a week together, it will not err much ; but the oftener looked upon, the more exact it showeth the time of the day or night.

An instrument whereby persons, ignorant in arithmetic, may perfectly observe numeration and subtraction of all sums and fractions.

The full text of a 1746 edition is here.

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2 Responses to 1655: One Hundred Inventions

  1. julie harms says:

    I truly enjoyed visiting your blog. I’ ll be looking forward to come again !

    Liked by 1 person

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