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At Eartham Pit, Boxgrove near Halnaker in West Sussex in December 1993, the oldest human remains in the UK – a tibia bone and a pair of lower incisor teeth – were found. An Acheulean hand axe was also found. Bones of a Megalosaurus were found at a slate quarry at Stonesfield in Oxfordshire and named in 1824: it is now at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. In 1822 an Iguanodon was found (by Gideon Mantell) at Whitemans Green near Cuckfield, West Sussex.
The Meonhill Vineyard, near Old Winchester Hill in east Hampshire on the South Downs south of West Meon on the A32, was the site of where the Romano-British grew Roman grapes.
The Ridgeway runs through Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and is probably Britain's oldest road. The post office at Shipton-under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire, in the Cotswolds, is the oldest still in use in England, built in 1845. The first British Grand Prix was held in 1926 at Brooklands, the world's first purpose-built motor circuit built in 1907 by Sir Hugh F. Locke-King, the land owner.
World War II
Much of the Battle of Britain was fought in this region, especially in Kent. RAF Bomber Command was based at High Wycombe. RAF Medmenham at Danesfield House, west of Marlow in Buckinghamshire, was important for aerial reconnaissance. Operation Corona, based at RAF Kingsdown (at West Kingsdown next to Brands Hatch in Kent, between the A20 and M20), was implemented to confuse German night fighters with native German-speakers, and coordinated by the RAF Y Service.
Bletchley Park in north Buckinghamshire was the principal Allied centre for codebreaking. The Colossus computer, arguably the world's first, began working on Lorentz codes on 5 February 1944, with Colossus 2 working from June 1944. The site was chosen, among other reasons, because it is at the junction of the Varsity Line (between Oxford and Cambridge) and the West Coast Main Line. The Harwell computer (Dekatron), now at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley, was built in 1949 and is believed to be the oldest working digital computer in the world.
John Wallis of Kent, introduced the symbol for infinity, and the standard notation for powers of numbers in 1656. Thomas Bayes was an important statistician from Tunbridge Wells; his theorem (of probability theory) is used for spam filters and .
Sir David N. Payne at the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre invented the erbium-doped fibre amplifier, a type of optical amplifier, in the mid-1980s, which became essential for the internet. Henry Moseley at Oxford in 1913 discovered his Moseley's law of X-ray spectra of chemical elements that enabled him to be the first to assign the correct atomic number to elements in periodic table; he did not receive any Nobel Prize as it is not awarded posthumously, and he was killed in 1915 at Gallipoli with the Royal Engineers. Carbon fibre was invented in 1963 at the RAE in Farnborough by a team led by William Watt. The Apollo LCG space-suit cooling system originated mostly from work done at RAE Farnborough in the early 1960s.
Donald Watts Davies, who went to grammar school in Portsmouth, took over from Alan Turing in developing Britain's early computers, and invented packet switching in the late 1960s at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. Packet-switching was taken up by the Americans to form the ARPANET; the first computer network was built by Lawrence Roberts and three others at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory (IBM and AT&T took no interest in the project), built by BBN with Bob Taylor and Paul Baran (who chose the design of packets and nodes) with Interface Message Processors; TCP was invented in 1973 and adopted as standard in 1981.
The IBM 360/195 at RHEL was the first machine outside of the US to connect to the ARPANET in 1973; the connection went via UCL then Norway (NORSAR and SATNET) to the USA. SRCNet was formed in 1975 which linked Oxfordshire to Cheshire; this became JANET in 1984, which ran on the X.25 protocol. In 1992, Britain had its first webserver at RAL in Oxfordshire, one of only around 50 in the world; Britain's first website; five years later the site was the UK's regional office of the W3C. Early computer animation was developed at RAL in Oxfordshire. Surrey's Alec Reeves invented pulse-code modulation (PCM) in 1937 (at ITT's research laboratories in Paris), the standard for digital audio recordings.
Sir John Herschel, son of the astronomer, from Kent, invented the term photography in 1839, meaning light writing.
and discovered the first photographic fixer, sodium thiosulphate, known as hypo, also in 1839.
GLEEP was Britain's first nuclear reactor, in August 1947 at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) at Harwell,
and would stay operational until 1990; it was followed by the British Experimental Pile 0 (BEPO) in 1948.
William Harvey of Folkestone, in Kent, discovered the circulation of blood. The Lilly Research Centre in Windlesham, Berkshire, part of Eli Lilly, developed Olanzapine in 1996 (for bipolar disorder, selling around $5bn worldwide annually). Beecham Research Laboratories at Brockham Park in 1959 discovered meticillin (or methicillin), the first semi-synthetic penicillin (beta-lactamase stable), deriving from their discovery in 1958 of 6-APA, the core constituent; the team, led by Prof George Rolinson, won the Mullard Award in 1971. Bipyridine compounds (Paraquat-Gramoxone and Diquat) were discovered for herbicide use in 1954 by William Boon at ICI's Plant Protection division at Jealott's Hill, being released onto the market in 1958. AZT/Retrovir (zidovudine) was first manufactured by Wellcome in 1987 in Kent; they also introduced Zovirax (aciclovir), and the naturally occurring digoxin, a cardiac glycoside. After a plane crashed near his house in Oxford in 1940, Sir Peter Medawar helped the injured pilot, and in the process discovered homograft rejection, leading to organ transplantation using azathioprine. Viagra (Sildenafil) was synthesized at Pfizer in Sandwich, Kent.
South Foreland Lighthouse on Dover cliffs
Sir Francis Pettit Smith of Kent invented the screw propeller. Faversham Oyster Fishery is the oldest company in the world. Maidenhead Railway Bridge is known for its flat arch, built in 1839 with 39-metre spans. The Wealden iron industry in the Weald was the site of the first blast furnace in Britain in 1491, and produced much of Britain's cast iron until the 1770s. Portsmouth Block Mills were the site of the world's first metal machine tools, built for the manufacture of wooden pulleys, invented by Henry Maudslay, and the site of the world's first industrial assembly line in 1803. South Foreland Lighthouse on 8 December 1858 was the world's first lighthouse with electric light, with the first type of industrial electrical generator made by Frederick Hale Holmes, from work he had carried out with Floris Nollet of Belgium, and 36 permanent magnets. By 1880, of the ten lighthouses with electric light, five were in the UK. From the lighthouse in 1899, the first international radio broadcast to France was made. Zénobe Gramme of Belgium made a much better design in 1870 with self-excitation of magnets, and the first modern dynamo. North Foreland Lighthouse was the UK's last-manned lighthouse until 1998.
Portland cement was developed in Northfleet, Kent, by William Aspdin, son of Joseph Aspdin. The development was to heat the ingredients to around 1450C, producing clinker. Previously, temperatures were taken to only 800C, which was not enough. The first ever cement kiln is still in Northfleet today in a cardboard factory. In the late 1800s, the rotary kiln made the process much more efficient. Concrete, effectively man-made stone, is the most widespread man-made material. 5% of all carbon emissions worldwide are from concrete production.
On 16 October 1908 the British Army Aeroplane No 1, flown by the American Samuel Franklin Cody, was the first aircraft flown in the UK, at Farnborough; on 14 May 1909 he flew it for more than a mile. On 13 August 1909, his wife would be the first woman in the UK to fly in a plane, also at Farnborough. The first Harrier aircraft XV738 flew on 28 December 1967; this was the first aircraft of the RAF to have a head-up display avionics system. The first two-seat Harrier XW174 flew on 24 April 1969, later crashing at Larkhill in June 1969. The British Aerospace Sea Harrier XZ450 first flew on 20 August 1978; on 4 May 1982 this aircraft would be hit by anti-aircraft fire at Goose Green, killing the pilot with 800 Naval Air Squadron from HMS Hermes; the aircraft had no radar warning receiver (RWR), due to testing the Sea Eagle, so could not detect the Skyguard radar had locked on to it, being destroyed with the Oerlikon GDF (35mm) of GADA 601; it was the first Sea Harrier lost in the Falklands campaign.
The first manned airborne ejection seat firing took place on 24 July 1946 over Chalgrove Airfield, Oxfordshire, in a Meteor, piloted by Bernard Lynch; the first dummy ejection had been 10 May 1945 over RAF Oakley in west Buckinghamshire (today near the M40); on 13 March 1962, the first in-flight rocket-powered ejection took place by Peter Howard, an RAF doctor based at Farnborough's Institute of Aviation Medicine in Meteor WA364 at 250 ft over Chalgrove, with the rocket giving a maximum force of 16G. The Miles M.52, designed at Woodley Aerodrome in Berkshire by Miles Aircraft, was an advanced design of aircraft which had the innovation of the flying tail or all-moving tail also known as a stabilator; this would solve the problem of stability and aircraft control at supersonic speeds, and its design was taken wholesale into the American Bell X-1, the first supersonic aircraft.
On 3 May 1830 the world's first passenger train service, the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway (6 miles) built by George Stephenson, began, hauled by the locomotive Invicta and introduced the world's first railway season ticket in 1834. Maidenhead Railway Bridge, known for its flat arch, was built in 1839 with 39-metre spans. The Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment, in Chertsey, developed Chobham armour. On 12 April 1903, the world's first bus service was by Eastbourne Buses from Eastbourne railway station to Meads. ThrustSSC, the fastest car in the world in 1997, was built in Aldingbourne, West Sussex, by G-Force Engineering, designed by Ron Ayers, with further work done by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency at Farnborough.
BritNed connects from the Isle of Grain in Medway to the TenneT
network in the Netherlands
UK-Belgium 5 laid in 1986 from Kent was the world's first optical fibre submarine cable, and is 36 miles long. The world's first submarine telephone cable was laid between England and France in 1891 by HMTS Monarch, enabling London-Paris calls from April 1891. On 3 December 1992, Neil Papworth of Reading, an engineer from Sema Group Telecoms at Vodafone in Newbury, sent the world's first text message from his computer to an Orbitel 901 handset of Richard Jarvis, Vodafone's technical director. The first public automatic telephone exchange in the UK was at Epsom telephone exchange from 18 May 1912, and was introduced as standard across the UK's 6,700 telephone exchanges in 1922, lasting for around 70 years; it could handle up to 500 lines, and was the Strowger design and made by Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company of Liverpool. The world's first automatic telephone exchange had opened in La Porte, Indiana in November 1892.
The BritNed 1000MW power-supply submarine cable from Isle of Grain to Rotterdam, was built in 2009. The HVDC Cross-Channel (2000MW) submarine cable was built in 1986. This is the world's highest-capacity submarine HVDC cable; it goes from France and lands near Folkestone, with the large transformer station (built by GEC) squeezed between the CTRL and the M20 in Aldington and Smeeth, made of eight 270kV cables.
Royston Instruments of Byfleet developed the world's first multi-channel flight data recorders in 1965. Although the Comet is generally accepted as the world's first production-run jet airliner, the first jet airliner ever built (individual) was a Nene-powered Vickers VC.1 Viking on 6 April 1948 from Wisley Airfield; the world's first turboprop airliner would fly from there on 16 July 1948 by Mutt Summers. In 1939 at Cowes (Northwood) John Godeck invented the plan position indicator method of radar display as most commonly known ever since; the site became Plessey Radar in 1965, and currently is run by BAE Systems. Sperry Gyroscope in Bracknell produced the guidance systems for Britain's 1960s space rockets.
The tallest freestanding structure in the region is the chimney of Grain Power Station at 801 ft; it is the second-tallest chimney in the UK after Drax power station.
George Albert Smith developed the first colour film process, known as Kinemacolor, in 1906 at Southwick, West Sussex. George E. Davis from Slough, is the founding father of chemical engineering. Wiggins Teape, later ARJO Wiggins Fine Papers, had the largest paper research centre in Europe at Butlers Court in Beaconsfield; built in 1891 and vacated in 2009. Bentalls in Bracknell (now Fenwick since 2017) had the first point of sale terminal in Europe - the NCR 280 in 1973.
The National Fruit Collection is the largest collection of fruit trees in the world, at Brogdale, and is next to the M2 at the A251 junction in Ospringe. Scalextric was invented by Fred Francis in 1956, who founded
Minimodels in Havant; initially the model cars had been clockwork; it was made from 1967 at Triang in Margate. The world's first Mars Bar was made in Slough in 1932; it was modelled on the Milky Way, popular at the time in the USA. Twix was introduced at Slough in 1967, with production moving to eastern France (Mars Chocolat France at Haguenau in Alsace) in 2005. The Ford GT40 was developed by Ford Advanced Vehicles at Slough in the mid-1960s.