Google Doodle on Wednesday highlighted the work of Hubert Cecil Booth, the British engineer who invented the vacuum cleaner, on what would have been his 147th birthday.
Before 1901, cleaning technology blew or brushed dirt and dust away. After seeing a demonstration of such a cleaner, Booth wondered why the invention didn’t suck up the dirt instead.
He tried out this idea by putting his handkerchief on a restaurant chair, putting his mouth to it and sucking the dust. When he saw that dust collected on the handkerchief, he knew he was onto something.
His initial design — known as “Puffing Billy”– was powered by a massive engine that had to be pulled around by horses and parked outside the house to be cleaned.
Booth set up the British Vacuum Cleaner Company in 1903. Uniformed experts would drive a smaller version of Puffing Billy in a red van, then lug hoses into clients’ houses through the doors and windows, according to Invention and Tech.
This was embraced by the upper classes and Booth even counted the British Royal Family among his clients — the company cleaned the carpets of Westminster Abbey before Edward VII’s coronation, Independent reports.
Booth even found himself under arrest after one of his cleaners accidentally sucked up silver dust from coins at the Royal Mint, but he was quickly released.
He also built bridges, designed Royal Navy battleship engines and made ferris wheels in England, France and Austria. He died on January 14, 1955 in Croydon, England.