The Perse School

Renowned inventor Dr John C Taylor OBE reflects on ‘fun’ career in inspiring talk to Perse students

28 Jun 2018

Dr John C Taylor OBE gave Perse students an insightful look into ‘My Life as an Inventor’ during a 42 lecture reflecting on his illustrious career.

Born in Derbyshire in 1936, Dr Taylor explained how he had overcome dyslexia and childhood illnesses before being accepted by Corpus Christi College, Cambridge to study Natural Sciences.

Dr Taylor’s time at Cambridge included a foray into exploration. He was part of an expedition to Spitsbergen and was set to head to Antarctica on a three-year mission only for the funding to be withdrawn, so he went back to work at his father’s company. It was there that he discovered a skill for inventing, going on to accumulate 440 patents for his creations.

Dr Taylor is most well-known for devising the thermostat which switches electric kettles off when the water boils. However, he also told students about some of his other inventions, including the cooling fan for the radiators of Jaguar E Type cars, and electrical motor protectors, of which around 250,000 per week have been produced since the 1960s.

Dr Taylor added that although not all of his ideas worked first time, he used any problems to his advantage to find another way of making those ideas happen. He illustrated the point by talking about a kettle safety control he had designed only to discover it would not prevent plastic parts from melting. As a result, Dr Taylor added a small plastic component which is in contact with the hottest part of the kettle element, with a spring making the contacts move away the moment the plastic begins to soften.

Dr Taylor went on to talk about the stunning Corpus Clock, the large sculptural timepiece he conceived and funded, which has gone on to become a Cambridge landmark since it was unveiled in 2008. Inspired by his hero John Harrison, the inventor of the marine chronometer, which solved the problem of calculating longitude at sea, Dr Taylor said he wanted to make a clock in a way that had never been done before. He explained the process that went into turning the design, including the stunning “time-eating” Corpus Chronophage feature, into reality over a five year period.

Dr Taylor rounded off the lecture with some inspiring words for the students. “I’ve tried to have fun in my life and that’s what I recommend you do. Follow your dreams and make sure you have fun at the same time.”

More information about Dr Taylor’s life and work can be found here.

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