William Thompson, who became Lord Kelvin, was an important scientist and inventor. Born in 1824 he loved a challenge and started university at the age of ten!
Thompson worked on all kinds of problems including sending messages down cables across the ocean, paving the way for the internet. Sadly, his nephew died at sea, but this led him to investigate safety at sea, specifically the use of compasses.
A compass helps people navigate using the earth’s magnetic field (the earth basically acts like a giant magnet). However since parts of ships are made out of iron or steel they are also a bit magnetic. In the past this led to large errors in the compass readings and many ships were lost.
During the 1870's Thompson built on the work of other scientists and invented a new compass that uses extra compensating magnets to give accurate readings even when on a ship. It was also more stable than previous compasses, which he apparently showed by throwing it across a room! His compass was then adopted by most of the world’s navies. He once said "When you are face to face with a difficulty, you are up against a discovery."
What could you invent that would change the world?
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