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New inventions in 1917
Patent drawing, not from 1917, but 1865. It is for a prosthetic arm. Many of the innovations during the war have been military or medical in nature. Photo: National Archives, U.S.

New inventions in 1917

London, 3 January 1918 - The Great War that continues to rage, as well as causing untold death, destruction and human misery, has seen marked decline in innovation.

Across the UK, the normal annual rate of new patent applications numbers around 30,000. Last year, however, it only reached 19,000 and this was up 1,000 on the previous year. It is striking that the number of applications for patents from women has considerably declined, as has the number of applications for British patents filed by Germans.

But if the demands of war have served to curtail the culture of inventiveness, it has equally determined what inventions have been undertaken.

Perhaps inevitably, a large number of the patent applications relate to production of armament devices, including contrivances for arresting torpedoes, submarine locators, and a means for enabling one submarine to communicate with another underwater.

Likewise, there have been a number of patents for inventions designed to afford protection against U-boat attacks.

Besides those with a military application there have also been patents filed relating to chemical processes, new dyes, tanning, food substitutes, glass substitutes, internal combustion engines, automatic machinery, artificial limbs, surgical appliances, agricultural implements, toys and games.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.