When it comes to notable inventions in human history, things like the wheel or antibiotics are usually at the top of the list. The toilet may not immediately spring to mind, but the comfort that it provides to our daily lives is truly immeasurable. Our homes and community’s would be structured a lot differently if we were forced to find a private, unused, and appropriate place every time we had to do our business, not to mention the effect on sanitation. As early humans evolved defecating and urinating anywhere they saw fit to simple holes in the ground, it wasn’t until the realization that running water greatly improved sanitation did the wheels get in motion on the slow evolution of the toilet.
One of the earliest discovered forms of the flushing toilet, discovered near Greece, was a trough that had a lever that would release running water to clear away waste.
After this modest invention it was very popular for cities, towns, and villages to have bathhouses that contained the flushing trough contraption and people could also cleanse themselves in these buildings.
These bathhouses were big steps in separating waste water from drinking water and contributing to the prevention of diseases such as cholera and dysentery that had previously been the cause of substantial percentage of deaths.
John Harrington is credited for perfecting the indoor flushing device and installing it in homes for the first time in the late 1500’s. This remained only a luxury for the rich until the late 1700’s when many cities in Europe and America started investing in city-wide sanitation systems, making indoor flushing more accessible to the masses.
Thomas Crapper is credited with inventing the modern porcelain toilet as we know it and popularizing its use in households in the late 1800’s. It wasn’t until World War 1 did American troops stationed in England and France use the modern toilet for the first time and bring the idea back to the states.
The next time you’re able to sit down in privacy in your own home take a second to appreciate that we are not that far removed from using outhouses and community bathhouses. The toilet may not spring to mind when naming important inventions but it has definitely forever cemented its place in our homes and society.