The Real Genius of Essex County

Posh Spice recently made a dig at her own home county of Essex. Born and bred in Harlow she seems to think that ‘the Essex bit’ is a bad taste in fashion. I can understand why and the people who are up in arms about it are the ones who are giving it a bad reputation. The cast of the The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) have got a lot to answer for. They are cast of preened pram faces and lame brained trollops. The kind who you’d expect to see in a stereotypical sitcom about a geographic location.

Why are the makers of TOWIE not even making a show about the other side of Essex other than these people like Amy Childs, Joey Essex, Sam Faiers and Mark Wright? An answer can be found in the show’s purpose of existence. One significant thing about TOWIE is that the cast are all seen to be doing outdoor recreational activities, clubbing, dancing, partying, dressing glamorously, shopping and getting pampered and dolled up for what looks like an ordinary working day. Real Essex people don’t do that on a regular basis. This shows paints the picture of Essex like an oversized boutique with a big green garden for playing golf populated with young trendy people. I really would like to ask ITV with all it’s collection of reality shows plugging brands and sponsors are they now making programmes specifically to indirectly advertise brands, products, services and lifestyle ideas? Has the recession made the businesses so broke that the clientele of the advertisers who fund these programmes need customers desperately? Have the advertisers now got control of programme making in commercial TV? Is that why you are not showing real Essex folk at work? You need shows that sell stuff with the cast using things that can create money? I love watching superhero films and sci-fi TV shows, but they are not made to sell toys and merchandising. They are original well scripted dramas made for entertainment, all TOWIE is made for is selling stuff at the expense of Essex’s good image. People only watch it for lifestyle choice ideas and point and laugh at the air headed nature of the programme.

Let me show you a side to Essex that I am proud to be a part of. I love this county and I am proud to be an Essex man. I was born and raised in East London’s Tower Hamlets but moved out to the suburbs when I was 15 when my family became homeowners again. This town is a nice close knit community of people and places. I live in Hornchurch and Romford and I have made this town someplace to love through my volunteering work and my commitment to the culture and heritage of the town. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops in Romford with a history of trade and commerce going back to the 13 century. The Romford town centre has got plenty of nice places and sights to see for entertainment and leisure. When I moved here in 1999 it had a nice new shopping park which took the place of the old Romford Brewery when it was knocked down and sold in 1993. It was a sad loss for the community but I am happy to keep the memory alive as I work at the Havering Museum in Romford. It’s built in the old reception area of the Brewery and has been going strong for 5 years now. Hornchurch has a good friendly environment too with it’s own town centre and it’s star attraction is the Queen’s Theatre. I used to work there as a volunteer and I was on work experience there long ago. It has given the arts and culture a platform for the most vibrant and fulfilling talent that gets rave reviews and outstanding performances. People flock from all over the world just to see what the Queen’s has to offer. It has such a broad repertoire that is suited for anything that takes your fancy. One of it’s most famous attractions is it’s annual seasonal shows performed by the UK’s only actor-musician repertory company, where each of the show’s cast play at least two instruments and sing and act in a variety of classic and contemporary plays, musicals and Shakespearean yarns. Yes I should mention the Shakespeare plays they have here, all of them are performed as musical versions with the language intact as it should be but with modern day and historically thematic settings. I once went to see a performance of Romeo and Juliet set in Mussolini fascist Italy and Macbeth set amongst a modern day London mafia clan.

As a science geek and a proud Essex man I like to talk about Essex from it’s culture, history, economy and politics. I am quite a clever and eccentric person who likes to show the other side that popular mainstream media ignores. Do you know what they call me here with my wealth of knowledge and wisdom: The Grand Geek of Essex. I have such a knowledge of Essex that there is one that is rarely talked about. Something that I have been reading about in my own project to keep the reputation of Essex good in value for it’s scientific and technological achievements. Do you know how many scientists and engineers that have come from Essex that have given the world tremendous innovations? The answer is nine. Nine geniuses from Essex County.

  1. William Gilbert – Gilbert was the first experimental scientist in the world. He grew up in Colchester and was a physician to Queen Elizabeth 1 in the 16th century. Gilbert was the first person to prove to the world that the Earth was made of Iron and it was responsible for making compasses point north. It caused by this field of electricity and magnetism that is driven by the Earth’s core, which is constantly spinning deep in the bowels of the planet. Gilbert’s science also explored how magnetism affected many other things and it was used by future scientists to tap the power of electricity and give us the power to build the modern world.
  2. John Ray – Ray was a botanist from Black Notely, near Braintree. He lived in England throughout the 17th century and lived through the age of Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy. He also studied and collected plants and studied their differences and similarities to one another. At the time there was no formal system to describe the features and characteristics of plants and animals. Ray however did something better than that, he created taxonomy. Taxonomy is the system whereby plants and animals are classified according to differences and similarities to one another. Like that of how humans and apes are bipedal creatures who have arms and legs or how lions and tigers came from the same genus as cats. Later when researching his theory on natural selection and evolution Charles Darwin would Ray’s work on natural selection as the basis of how mankind was believed to have evolved from apes. It is considerably true when the difference between man and ape is 3% of that genetic material. Among Ray’s other achievements include explaining that the rings inside a tree reveal it’s age and he also gave the name of the coloured leaves on flowers petals.
  3. William Derham – William Derham was an eccentric clergymen and natural philosopher. He was originally from Worcestershire and came to live in Upminster 1689 where he was the village Rector at St Laurence’s Church. During his time he conducted a number of scientific studies including recording eclipses, measuring rainfall, astronomical observations which he did with a 16-foot telescope at the church and writing works on the subject of theology. However his real breakthrough was the measurement of the speed of sound. He found it by watching gunman fire rifles at a distance and measured the timing of the sound of the bang reaching him using a half second pendulum. He worked it out accurately at around 300 metres per second. A notable measurement that would be challenged by the high speed pioneers of supersonic flight in 1950s and 60s.
  4. Lionel Lukin – Lukin is an engineer from Great Dunmow, Essex who invented the self-righting lifeboat operated on the coast by volunteers from the RNLI. Lukin developed a prototype by converting a Norweigan yawl and fitted it with hollow watertight enclosures along the bow and stern to increase buoyancy. It also had a false iron keel to keep it upright. He showed off his invention in 1784 and the following years ahead the design was adapted and modified by boat builders who turned into a highly practical workhorse of the British coastlines. For other 200 years an Essex genius’s invention has been responsible for saving lives and protecting seamen who have been in peril on the waters at our doorstep.
  5. Joseph Lister – Joseph Lister is perhaps the most valuable Essex scientist in medical history. Without him we would still be dying needlessly on hospital wards. Educated at King’s College of London and worked extensively during his career in Scotland. Before Lister came along hospitals and surgical wards were rank with diseases and infections. You stood more chance of dying from an infection in a hospital instead of getting treated for the injuries you were admitted. Cleanliness was not a priority and so the doctors and surgeons would often be seen walking the streets home and to work with blood stains all over their jackets. In 1867 Lister started to use carbolic acid as an antiseptic to disinfect instruments and wounds in a surgical operation. The patients started to survive their injuries and they lived long after release from the wards. Lister’s practices soon spread worldwide and he became known as the inventor of the anti-septic surgery. He received so much praise that he was awarded a peerage and he became known as Baron Lister. This innovation in medical science has become a life saver and thanks to Lister he has revolutionised the way hospitals operate their medical practices.
  6. John Strutt – John Strutt is the only one of these Essex scientists to have a Nobel prize to his name. He was also one of the royals, being the 3rd Baron of Rayleigh or Lord Rayleigh. Rayleigh comes from Maldon and he went to school in Harrow and went to Cambridge where he studied physics. His achievements include the discovery of the gas argon and the behaviour of sound waves. Rayleigh’s research in sound waves was used to help understand acoustics and the behaviour of magnetic materials in electromagnetic fields. He also made studies of optics and light with which he discovered a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, which explains how the sky is blue. The colour of the sky applies to all things and tells us how our eyes interpret the colour of things according to the way the sunlight is scattered as it travels through different materials.
  7. Gugliemo Marconi – This one is not even born nor bred in Essex at all but because Marconi created his invention and based his research in Chelmsford, he is credited with putting Essex on the map as the birthplace of radio. Gugliemo Marconi came to Britain in 1896 from Bologna, Italy. He had already made a number of experiments in harnessing the power of radio waves. He had read about the work of Heinrich Hertz who discovered that radio waves could be produced and detected by artificial means. Marconi that these radio waves could be used as a form of telecommunications across vast distances. So he started work on a series of machines that could replicate and manipulate radio waves. Marconi’s work wasn’t fully appreciated until it reached the western world with his move to Chelmsford where he set up a factory and from there he launched a telecoms revolution that would eventually lead to all a manner of things that shrink the world and bring us closer together. Without Marconi and Chelmsford the world would never see the light through radio, TV, telecoms or even the internet.
  8. Owen Finlay Maclaren – Maclaren is a name famously associated with a car brand, but this Maclaren is a superhero to proud mums the world over. Owen Finlay Maclaren was an engineer from Saffron Walden who invented the undercarriage for the Spitfire during the war. Later when he retired from aircraft design he was living in America and received a visit from his daughter who brought his grandson in an oversized baby pram. He took one look at the design of the pram and decided to make it more useful to his daughter. To that end he took out a patent for a machine that combined the scissor folding mechanism of an aircraft undercarriage and the frame of the pram to create the collapsible baby buggy. He set up a company to make the buggy and they went on sale in 1967. Later he was given a knighthood in 1978. The Maclaren company still continues his mission to this day with it’s slogan ‘What a mother wants, what a baby needs’.
  9. Jonathon Ive – Anyone who owns an Apple product or endorses the Apple brand will know this guy. Jonathon Ive, otherwise known as Jony Ive is the chief designer of Apple’s vast collection of electronic gadgets. Born in Chingford in 1967 Ive went to school in Chingford and then Stafford and studied design in Newcastle. He went into a product design after he graduated and worked for a London based design agency. Before he went to work at Apple Ive designed a vast array of products. In 1992 he became a full time employee at Apple and since then he has been living and working in California’s Silicon Valley. Ive was in Apple at just right moment when Steve Jobs returned after he was reinstalled as CEO in 1996. Together Ive and Jobs became the most prominent force in the recovery of the tech giant and restored to the world’s coolest and most profitable brand in the world for many years running. What Ive brought to Apple was also felt by all the other electronics industries across the world. Before he came along the vast majority of electronic consumer goods like home computers were bland, boring, beige boxes with no style or taste that had been lost over time. Ive turned the entire consumer tech industry on it’s head and created a vast array of Apple products with their own unique style and individual characters. The iMac, the Newton, the PowerBook, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch, everything that is churned out of Apple Inc is Ive’s outstanding contribution and it outshines the entire market that has made Apple and consumer technology highly functional and highly fashionable.

I bet you’ve never heard this before and it wouldn’t surprise me if you hadn’t. I think that we are celebrating Essex for a consumer and fashionable purpose rather than of a cultural significance to the country. Essex is not a shopping market, or a nail salon, or a wine bar, it’s a quintessential southern county. Full of bright young happy people working hard to make a crust out of it’s economy. As well as the shopping centres like Lakeside and the high street boutiques Essex makes it’s money out of science, engineering, electronics, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. Chelmsford being the birthplace of radio has a large number of telecoms and electronics companies. The Ford Motor Company has a factory making car parts in Dagenham and a research and development facility in Dunton. Colchester is a garrison town where the British Army lives there. Southend-on-Sea still has a thriving seaside resort which brings joy and wonder to the town’s folk thanks to the Adventure Island theme park. There are two rail links direct from London, one at Fenchurch Street and the other at Liverpool Street and within a few years it is likely to grow further when the Crossrail service is up and running.

Although this is all very good there is one industry that particularly excites me. In Chelmsford there is an aerospace company called e2v that has its roots in developing radar equipment during the war. Today it is the proud manufacturer of equipment for heavy industries like high frequency power generators and semiconductors for fighter planes and jumbo jets. Their most impressive bit of kit to come out of their factory however is high resolution imaging equipment, which in plain English is special cameras. These cameras have been custom built for spacecraft that are currently at work right now. There is at least one in the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars Curiosity rover and the Rosetta comet spacecraft. Essex genius is totally out of this world alright. In fact it is currently riding on a comet speeding around the Sun, and that is what I would call well jell!

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