It seems a very long time since we were three years old, but we’re pretty certain we were more occupied with watching Rainbow than inventing labour-saving garden implements. However, Sam Houghton from Derbyshire has put us all to shame by becoming the UK’s youngest patented inventor – and although he’s now a positively mature five years old, he came up with the idea when he was three.
Apparently Sam was watching his father sweep the back yard, swapping between a big brush for the leaves and a small brush for the dust. Quickly realising that this was an egregious waste of valuable gardening resource, Sam grabbed an elastic band and hooked the two together, creating a double-headed broom that would do both jobs at once. Now his nifty invention has been awarded a patent – which means that if any of you try and copy the idea at the weekend, you might well have a five-year-old’s lawyer on your case (unless of course Sam has used the intervening period to qualify as a solicitor, in which case he might come after you himself).
Sam says his inventor heroes are Wallace & Gromit (presumably more the former than the latter) and Archie the Inventor from Balamory, a TV show on CBeebies that the non-parents among us have frankly never heard of. So not quite James Dyson and Trevor Baylis, but it’s good to see that even toddlers have some good role models these days. That said, he apparently has no plans to bring the ‘Improved Broom’ to market – so perhaps a bit of entrepreneurial training wouldn’t go amiss (and possibly some branding, if that name’s anything to go by).
Of course Sam does have one advantage that most juvenile inventors don’t – his dad is a patent lawyer, which explains why what might have been an amusing anecdote for friends and family ends up in the august webpages of Britain’s top business publications. Dad apparently negotiated all the vagaries of the patent application process for Sam, although he insists that the inspiration all came from his son.
But it does raise the question: how many other incredible inventions are lost to the world, purely because their creators aren’t related to a patent lawyer? All around the UK, playschool children could be creating more efficient energy cells, finding a cure for the common cold and reconciling quantum theory with general relativity – and we just never find out. Are nurseries the real hotbed of British creative talent? We deserve to know...