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Online map highlights the region's greatest inventions

PUBLISHED: 15:00 23 October 2009 | UPDATED: 08:45 01 August 2010

Shaun Lowthorpe

What are the greatest inventions this region has to offer? Who are our greatest inventors and scientists?

Shaun Lowthorpe

For those of us who think this region has simply given the world big open skies, fields and glorious coastline, it is time to think again.

Science and engineering innovations spawned from the east of England have played a key part in shaping the future of this region and beyond.

Now a list purporting to show the 10 greatest inventions from these parts is a mouse click away after an online map was set up to promote the best in science and engineering.

And organisers hope the map will spur us to offer up our own favourite inventions and inventors as well as enthuse future generations about the possibilities of a career in science and technology.

The map, which details inventions from across the country, has been compiled with help from 70 science, technology, engineering and maths organisations.

It is designed to encourage the UK's budding young scientists and engineers to be proud of their own work and remind them that they have only until October 30 to enter their science or technology projects into this year's National Science & Engineering Competition, while also supporting next year's The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists' and Engineers' Fair.

It shows that the world's first hovercraft was launched by Sir Christopher Cockerill on the Broads at Somerleyton, near Lowestoft, and it was James Dyson, the former Gresham's pupil, who gave us the cleaner of the same name in 1978.

The map tells us that East Anglia is the region which gave the world electricity and is home to the globally renowned physicist Steven Hawking.

We, the public, will be able to vote on these leading examples of innovation and discovery and even add our own suggestions of the finest scientific achievements to come out of their area, with the aim of identifying which UK region has the greatest scientific and engineering heritage.

Following the online poll, the map will reveal what people from East Anglia treasure most about their heritage in science and engineering.

Katherine Mathieson, head of education for the British Science Association, said the aim was to stir up a debate and also convince young people that science and engineering could lead to exciting careers.

"It is amazing that in just one region, scientific jewels range from the crucially important breakthrough on DNA by Crick and Watson at Cambridge University in 1953 to the globally recognisable design of the iPhone, iMac and iPod by Jonathan Ive from Essex," she said.

"Mass-produced steel was first effectively produced by Henry Bessemer from Hertfordshire and Cambridge University's very own Steven Hawking continues to pioneer theories of quantum physics. We've been fascinated by what our research has mapped in terms of local and varied treasures.

"However, I'm sure there are more than appeared on the list we've collated so far, and we would love others to nominate their own scientific 'greats', and help us map out where the UK's most successful scientific breakthroughs and awe-inspiring feats of engineering hail from."

So who else should be added to the list?

Back at school it was Coke of Holkham and his four course rotation system which filled many a history lesson. Is the noble farmer the man? Or could it be Norfolk's Charles Barnard, who built the world's first wire-netting machine in 1844, which were then manufactured by Boutlon and Paul at its Norwich foundry (that's not in the list either).

And with the Norwich Research Park, University of East Anglia, Hethel Engineering Centre, and John Innes Institute all close by, the next great scientific leaps forward could well be discovered on our doorstep.

To see the map and for more information on the National Science and Engineering Competition, log on to www.thebigbangfair.co.uk.

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