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The History of the Flush Toilet

According to research, at least 130 grams of poop is released by an average person every day (although that may vary depending on how much food they’ve eaten) and with today’s population of 7 and a half billion people, that would be enough to build a mountain of poop.

However, thanks to modern technology, people do not seem to recognize that huge amount since they just disappear anyway. All thanks to one of the most important human inventions of all time: the flush toilet.

To say that people nowadays have it easy when discarding human excrement compared to medieval times is an understatement. Now, whenever people have an issue with their pipes and toilets, they can directly get plumbing services in Murray, Utah – something that people back then had no access to, or even know.

But have you ever wondered how the flush toilet – one of today’s most important parts of any house, building, or establishment – came to be? What was it like back in the day when there were no flush toilets? How did they dispose of their wastes?

And more importantly, who is the real inventor of the flush toilet?

The First Known Toilets: A brief history

Approximately 5,000 years ago, the first-ever toilets that were constructed were known to be created by the Neolithic villagers at Skara Brae, at the same time that toilets with drains were featured in several houses in Mohenjo Daro. These toilets, however, were all emptied and washed away in the Indus River.

It would take a few thousands of years before humans would realize the cause of diseases were germs. The Romans also had a way to dispose of human wastes. At one point, Rome had 144 public toilets that were open for everyone.

Back then, going to the toilet together was even considered as a public gathering where people could meet and talk about how their day was. These Roman toilets were lined up in long benches which would then be released in the Cloaca Maxima (one of the earliest known sewage systems), and be washed down in the Tiber River.

Who Invented the Flush Toilet?

flush toilet

This question would often raise eyebrows and escape giggles among people, but contrary to what many people believed to know, Thomas Crapper did not actually invent the flush toilet. Thomas Crapper was an English plumber and businessman who’s known for inventing the ballcock – the automatic valve that is still used in modern toilets today.

However, the real credit for inventing the flush toilet should go to Elizabethan courtier and the godson of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Harington. The device created by Harington required at least 7 gallons of water to flush, and when there’s scarcity of water, at least 20 people could use the pot in between flushes.

Even though Harington has installed his device to the Richmond Palace for the Virgin Queen, the flush toilet didn’t fully catch on until 1775. Alexander Cumming innovated the ‘S-trap’ which is used to retain the water still within the pipe and therefore getting rid of the foul smells.

Cumming’s S-trap is now the toilet design being used today.

Whether or not you’ve had the wrong idea for who really invented the flush toilet, it’s important to remember that every single gentleman contributed big time for one of the greatest inventions in human history.

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