10 Inventions You Never Knew Were Irish

10 Inventions You Never Knew Were Irish


We’re a pretty innovative bunch, so we thought it would be fun to round up ten of our favourite Irish inventions! We’re willing to bet that you never knew that most of these were Irish.

Each of these have had a impacted people’s daily loves and global industries in all sorts of different ways!

Lets’s Jump In!!

What: Flavoured Potato Chips (Crisps)  

Who: Joseph ‘Spud’ Murphy (Co. Dublin)  

When: 1954

Who doesn’t love potato chips? Or ‘crisps’ as they’re known in Ireland and the UK. Well, you’ve an Irishman to thank for those delicious snacks.

In the rare auld times, the only flavour of crisp available was salt. A flavour as plain as the people who still buy them today – no offence if you’re a fan of ‘ready salted’, but in my opinion you should be arrested.

Turns out a man named Joseph ‘Spud’ Murphy held similar prejudices, so he founded the now beloved Irish brand ‘Tayto’ and set about experimenting with methods of flavouring crisps – the results being the flavours of cheese and onion, salt and vinegar, and barbecue all of which I’m sure you’re familiar with!


What: Color Photography

Who: John Joly (Co. Offaly)  

When: 1894

One of Ireland’s most prolific inventors, John Joly discovered a method of producing colour photographs based on a method proposed in 1869 by Louis Ducos du Hauron .

The Joly colour process used a glass photographic plate with fine vertical red, green and blue lines less than 0.1 mm wide printed on them. The plate acted as a series of very fine filters. To take a photograph, the filter screen was placed in the camera in front of the plate, so that the light passed through the filter before striking the emulsion.



What: The Ejector Seat  

Who: Sir James Martin (Co. Down)  

When: 1946

After WW2 the need for a system like the ejector seat became clear as aircraft speeds had increased to the point that the traditional ‘bailing out’ method of escape –which consisted of simply opening the window and leaping out - was becoming increasingly dangerous.

Martin developed a system that used explosive blasts to blow the cockpit canopy clear of the plane and a second blast to propel the pilot out of the plane allowing them to parachute to safety. The entire RAF fleet was fitted with ejector seats within a year of the first successful test in 1946.


Trust an Irishman to invent a way to escape a burning plane without even leaving your seat.


What: The Portable Defibrillator

Who: Prof. Frank Pantridge (Co. Down)

When: 1965

Professor Pantridge is responsible for who-know-how-many saved lives with his portable defribulator design. The first prototype was installed in a Belfast ambulance, with modern iterations now found in public buildings and offices around the world.

What: The Tank

Who: Walter Gordon (Co. Dublin)

When: 1911 

When Winston Churchill ordered the design of a vehicle that could withstand shrapnel and bullets, cross trenches and flatten barbed wire, Dublin man Walter Gorden teamed up with William Tritton to develop the first tank prototype – ‘Little Willie’, with it’s second iteration called…….. ahem….. ‘Big Willie’.

Gordon’s ‘Little Willy’

Gordon’s ‘Little Willy’

What: The Bacon Rasher  

Who: Henry Denny (Co. Waterford)  

When: 1820  

Waterford butcher Henry Denny completely reinvented the curing process for bacon, resulting in rashers or bacon as we know it today. Traditionally large chunks of meat were soaked in brine, whereas as Denny used long flat pieces of meat, used dry salt instead of brine.

This method vastly improved the quality and shelf-life of the bacon, and was soon being exported to to continental Europe, the Americas and Asia.


What: The Hyperdermic Needle

Who: Francis Rynd (Co. Dublin)

When: 1844

Dublin doctor Francis Rynd was treating a patient who ahd been suffering from pain in her face for years. Despite taking morphine pills, she was unable to get relief, so Rynd created an implement to puncture the skin and apply morphine close to the nerves.

The treatment was successful and became the first known instance of hyperdermic injection.

What: The Submarine

Who: John P. Holland (Co. Clare)

When: 1881

Clare man John P. Holland transformed deep sea exploration and naval warfare when he successfully tested an underwater craft that he had designed for use by the Fenian Brotherhood – a republican organisation – against the British in 1881. Officially named Holland Boat No. II, (No. I sank on it’s maiden voyage!) the role of the Fenians in its funding led the New York Sun newspaper to nicname the vessel the ‘Fenian Ram’.

Holland went on to build submarines for the US, British and Japanese militaries.

The Fenian Ram!

The Fenian Ram!

What: The Guided Torpedo

Who: Louis Brennan (Co. Mayo)

When: 1877

Louis Brennan observed that if a thread is pulled on a reel at an angle with suitable leverage, the reel will move away from the thread side. He applied this principle to a torpedo design and patented the Brennan Torpedo in 1877. The idea was trialled as a coastline defence mechanism near Crosshaven, Co. Cork.

What: Rubber Shoe Soles

Who: Humphrey O’Sullivan (Co. Cork)

When: 1899

Skibereen native Humphrey O’Sullivan emigrated to the US where he found work in a printshop. Standing all day proved to be tough on his feet, so he attached small pieces of rubber to the soles of his shoes. Happy with the results he set up his own company to produce and distribute his invention, the company still trades today as the O’Sullivan Corporation.

rubber sole.png

So there you have it - the next time you’re eating bacon or chips, getting a shot at the doctor, taking a photo or perhaps even launching a guided torpedo - you can thank the Irish!

Until next time…..


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