Science and Invention

The Calendar

When was the flush toilet invented?

The invention dates to the 1590s and is credited to Sir John Harington (1561–1612), hence its nickname, “the john.” A courtier and godson of England’s Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603), Harington installed a flush lavatory in one of the queen’s palaces. Though he was a serious scholar and translator, Harington was also a rebel who wrote controversial satire, leading to his banishment. His invention of the so-called “water closet” was not taken seriously in its day. But over the following two centuries various inventors worked to improve it, ultimately developing the plumbed sanitary toilet, a flush commode that is connected to plumbing and sewers or septic tanks.


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