It’s hard to imagine our lives today without the convenience of a toilets. These simple devices make disposing of waste easy and keep your home far more sanitary.
With the more appropriate last name, Thomas Crapper is widely thought to be the inventor of the toilet. He filed many patents in the late 1800’s and brought the device to the general public. However, Sir John Harington should be given the credit for inventing the toilet. Thomas Crapper did a great job of promoting the toilet and adding tweaks to improve its performance (e.g. the floating ballcock to prevent overfilling and running toilets), but Harington’s water closet, described in A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax, deserves the credit.
Harington’s invention was the first appearance of the flush toilet. The toilet was activated by a rudimentary valve that released water from a holding tank above the bowl. The waste was flushed into a collection vault below. No sewer systems existed at the time so the waste would collect in this vault and need to be emptied from time to time.
By the time Crapper came upon the scene several improvements had already been added. The most significant improvements were the s-curve, chain operated flush, and siphon flushing system. The s-curve piping helped keep out noxious gases from below using trapped water. The siphon flushing systems improved the effectiveness of removing waste.