Throughout history, humanity has witnessed great inventors such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Leonardo da Vinci. One innovative mastermind you probably have never heard of, however, is a man named Sir John Harington. Who was this guy anyways? Next time you sit on “the john”, just ask yourself who invented the toilet. The answer to this question is Sir John Harington!
English courtier and the godson of Queen Elizabeth I, Harington invented what is known as the first modern flushable toilet in the year of 1596. People would normally use chamber pots or cess pits at the time because the knowledge of modern day hygiene did not exist! Harington named his invention “the Ajax”, which sounded like “jakes”, an old slang word for toilet.
The device consisted of a 2-foot-deep oval bowl that was waterproofed with wax and resin. A cistern fed water to the bowl, that would come from an upstairs source. The flushing pot would require 7.5 gallons of water and would prevent the smelliness from the storage below. As innovative as it may seem, Harington’s invention would not see mass production until the 18th century. Queen Elizabeth received a working model at the Richmond Palace which was the only known functioning toilet until 1775.
Although not much is known about Sir John Harrington, we do know this: we will all be thinking about him next time we sit on the “john”. (pun intended)