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More articles from September 2006 newsletter
The toilet has probably been the butt of jokes ever since it was invented. Perhaps this is because the certain bodily functions associated with the toilet tend to make most people squeamish. However, the toilet is an integral part of the history of human hygiene, and that's no flush in the pan.
The toilet is a critical link between order and disorder. Imagine what a city like Los Angeles or New York would be like if everyone went about their "business" wherever they pleased!
It is no wonder that enterprising inventors have long worked on this issue. In 1596, Sir John Harington invented the WC, short for "water closet", a term still used in England today (much to the chagrin of foreign tourists). The facility featured a seat, a bowl and a cistern of water for washing away the contents. Harington's godmother, who happened to be none other than Queen Elizabeth I, liked the invention so much that he developed one for her (maybe this is where the bathroom term "throne" came from!).
Thomas Crapper, an inventor who held nine patents, is largely credited with bringing the concept of indoor plumbing into the mainstream. His modern bathroom showrooms initially shocked the public, many of whom felt that it was unhygienic to have a WC indoors. Despite the initial reaction, it didn't take long for the idea to catch on.
The shunning of the toilet from public discussion has made quite a turnaround, as evidenced by recent shows such as the World Toilet Expo and Forum, which opens this fall. Held in Bangkok, Thailand, the show will attract curious shoppers to some 60 display booths.
According to the Associated Press, the organizers of the Expo, Quality Restroom Association, said in a promotional brochure that they were seeking to create a "national restroom culture" and educate the public about cleanliness.
Toilets in Malaysia have long disgusted residents and tourists with their lack of basic sanitary supplies and even toilet seats, and the nation is trying to rid itself of this negative image. Air-conditioned booths, self-cleaning bowls and dissolvable odor-removal tabs were just a few of the invention ideas featured at the Expo.
This "restroom revolution" is prominent in other Asian countries as well. The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, in New Delhi, India, features a vast array of refuse receptacles ranging from rudimentary chamber pots to exquisite porcelain cisterns and urinals. According to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, humanitarian and founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement, the mission of the museum is to educate visitors on the history of toilets, to provide information about the design of medieval and contemporary toilet models, and to help sanitation scientists solve problems in the sector.
If you're not planning on traveling to the Far East anytime soon, don't worry – INPEX®, The Invention & New Product Exposition, features potties aplenty every year! Held annually in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the 2006 show was no exception. This year featured toilet inventions including "The Flipper," "The Direct Vent Toilet" and "Odor Removal System".