Henry’s Timeline of Inventions

Henry Sutton born the 4th September 1855 on the Ballarat goldfields, Henry’s parents were Richard and Mary Sutton who founded Sutton’s Music Store in Ballarat in 1854.

Henry Sutton’s list of achievements timeline:

Henry was schooled by his mother Mary till age 10 and apart from a short stint in an agricultural school, he was left to his own devices and studied unaided. By age 14 Henry had read every book on science in the Ballarat Mechanics Institute’s Library and had already begun inventing.

1869: At age 14 Henry invented the world’s first continuous current dynamo, this was 3 years before Zenobe T Gramme. Henry discovered early on that if his dynamo ran in reverse it acted as a motor. Gramme discovered this fact a number of years after he invented his dynamo.

1865-1869: Designed and built an ornithopter (helicopter) driven by a clock work which could fly in a circumference of 12 feet from left to right and upwards at any desired angle. The ornithopter was fixed on a lever having a universal joint so that it could move in any direction. Henry is credited with being the first person in Australia to have experimented with flight.

1870-1876: Attended the Ballarat School of design andwon a silver medal for drawing design and 30 other prizes. Henry also competed successfully at the Victorian Schools of Design Exhibitions annually.

1869: Designed and built a torpedo 8 ft long that could travel 10 to 25 yards under water, lack of funds prevented the idea from moving forward.

1876: At age 20 Henry read a brief account of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone in ‘Scientific American’. Bell’s telephone patent was issued on 7 March 1876 and within 6 months Henry Sutton had designed and built at least 20 different types of telephones. Henry installed Australia’s first telephone system between Sutton’s Music Store and the music warehouse. This was at least 2 years before Australia’s first official telephone system was installed in Melbourne (c1878). The first telephone exchange was in 1880 shortly before Ned Kelly was hanged and by 1884 7,757 calls had been made. Henry did not patent his telephones as he believed the fruits of science should be available to all. Later 16 of his designs were patented by others less noble.

1878: At the request of F.W. Brearey, the secretary of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain, Henry wrote 2 papers on artificial flight, they were then published in the Annual Report of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain. The theory for these two papers were conceived by Henry at age 10 by observing birds and insects.

1880: Henry Sutton was working independently on Carbon Lamps (incandescent globes) without any knowledge of Thomas Edison’s work on similar lines. Henry designs and builds the electric light bulb independent of Edison but due to his isolation from the rest of the world Edison beat him to it. Edison, on the 21 December, 1879, and Sutton on 6 January, 1880, only 16 days apart. It was recorded by the Victorian Government Astronomer R.L.J. Ellery that Henry had invented the light globe at the same time as Edison but due to Henry’s isolation from the world stage Edison got the credit.

1881: Designed and built a Storage Battery. His paper on this invention was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London and in the Royal Society of Victoria Transactions and Proceedings in 1881. This invention won Henry world acclaim and his battery was considered the best in the world at the time. Henry’s battery was not only able to store electricity but could also be recharged which was a significant step forward. His battery was exhibited at the London electrical exhibition in 1882 and in a selfless act Henry donated his battery free to the world, his generous gift to the world was applauded by many.

1881: On 13 December 1881 Henry’s paper on the mercury air pump was read at the Royal Society of Victoria and was published in the Societies 1882 Transactions and Proceedings. The paper was also published by ‘The English Mechanic’ and in the ‘World of Science’ on 21 July 1882. The vacuum pump created a perfect vacuum and The Swan Edison Company newly formed in England thought so much of Henry’s design they used his principles for creating a vacuum in their electric light bulbs.

1881: Henry marries Elizabeth Ellen Wyatt in Ballarat on the 6 September, 1881. They have 4 sons Arthur in 1882, Reginald and Percy die as infants and year later in 1897 they had another son Edward.

1883-1889: Henry is employed as a Lecturer in applied Electricity at the Ballarat School of Mines (SMB). While lecturing at the school Henry was frustrated at the delays in obtaining scientific instruments from England. This led him to organize a production facility for scientific instruments in Australia. That facility led to the emergence of Victoria’s scientific instrument industry. During Henry’s time as a lecturer at the Ballarat School of Mines (SMB) he set up a telephone system around the Ballarat Mechanics Institute. It was probably the world’s first academic institute to be wired up with telephones. Henry was a prominent member of the Camera Club and many other SMB clubs. While a lecturer at the Institute Henry also invented a cheap and effective method of cleansing bottles or containers in a rapid and practical manner. He also invented a mercury vacuum pump worked by water jet for use in chemistry classes.

1883: Henry becomes an associate member of the Royal Society of Victoria.

1883: Henry becomes an associate member of the Victorian Institute of Electrical Engineers.

1883: Henry becomes an associate member f the British Institute of Electrical and Telegraph Engineers known today as the IET.

1883: Experimented with mineral flotation long before Carlton and United’s head brewer Charles Potter pioneered a technique for separating Broken Hill’s zinc lead ores in 1899. From a young child Henry studied in Astronomy and undertook Microscopical studies. Henry had a large telescope to which he adapted a device which allowed it to be turned in any direction.

1886: Henry invents a method for using gas and water pipes to transmit telegraph signals. On 26 October 1886 Henry took out a patent on improvements in electric circuits for telephonic purposes

1884-1897:  Invented a colour printing process and a intaglio photo printing, a photographic halftone process. Henry was the first to use a screen to break up the image of a photograph or picture even before Miesenbach obtained the credit for it.

1886-1892: Designed and helped build Ballarat’s first water powered hydraulic elevator lift with the Austral Otis Lift Company, the lift was installed in Sutton’s Music Store in Ballarat which became an instant draw card and novelty with the public. Henry’s design was later utilized by Otis in America.

1885-1893: Made improvements to lantern (camera) lenses.

1886: On 26 October 1886 Henry took out a patent on improvements in electric circuits for telephonic purposes

1887: Invents and patents on the 20 October 1887 an improved method of Photo-lithography to enable photographs to be printed in newspapers, it is a new half-tone process which is faster an cheaper to produce photographs.

1889: Henry invents a telegraph facsimile which was a relatively simple means to transmit photographic printing plates similar to Alexander Bain’s and Giovanni Caselli’s systems. Henry’s machine’s sole difference consisted in producing another printing plate at the receiving end, rather than just a piece of paper chemically treated with potassium-iodide.

1890: Henry left Australia and travelled to England in pursuit of scientific knowledge and to promote his new photographic invention and meet other scientists. On the 3 February 1890 just before Henry left Ballarat to travel overseas the city and citizens of Ballarat presented Henry with a farewell Charter it was signed by the Mayor of Ballarat City Mr William Little and the Mayor of Ballarat Town Mr Edward Murphy. Henry left Australia for London in February 1890 on the ship fittingly called ” Ballarat.”

1891: Henry Sutton forms a company in England based around his halftone photographic process which ran successfully for many years.

1870-1892: In 1870 at age 15 Henry Sutton becomes the first person in the world to think up and document the concept of television by using cameras, this is 7 years before the first person previously credited with the honour. Years later as technology moved forward, Henry’s paper on his new idea of transmitting images was published. His paper on the Telephane was published in The Electrical Review, in the French science Journal La Lumiere Electrique and in 1890 it was then republished twice in Scientific American in 1910. Henry’s Telephane is considered today as the first feasible television system. Decades later John Logie Baird used Henry’s principles to come up with his Televisor. The Telephane is considered to be Henry’s magnum opus by some people. In London in 1892 with the aid of Sir William Preece and Nikola Tesla, Henry Sutton transmitted an image a short distance.

1892: After meeting Nikola Tesla Henry Sutton became convinced that one day you could transmit images wirelessly and began working on wireless telegraphy.

1894: Began Designing and building Combustion Engines and carburettors, he underwent many experiments on air cooled engines to run on low grade fuel. Henry applied for a patent titled “improvements in and relating to internal combustion engines” in 1898.

1897: Henry took out a number of patents relating to bicycles he also designed and built a motorized two cylinder three wheeler tricycle for pacing racing motorcycles. The motorized tricycle which could travel a long distance travelled from Melbourne to Ballarat in September 1897 and created public hysteria and interest when it arrived. Police had to control the crowd to prevent a riot. Henry, along with his son Arthur, went on to design and built a number of motorcycles.

1897: Designed and built one of Australia’s first cars in Melbourne. It was called The Sutton Autocar, an Antipodean invention which could go 30 kilometres an hour. This car may have been the first front wheel drive car in the world. Henry’s car was reported in the English press at the time and featured in the English magazine Autocar which the car was named after. Two prototypes of the Autocar were built and the Austral Otis Company was going to go into business with Henry to manufacture Henry’s car but the cost of the car was too preventative as it could not compete with the cost of imported cars. Henry built two of these cars.

1900: Henry designs and builds another car in Ballarat which has been fully restored and is privately owned. In 2009 it was on display at the White House Museum in Westbury Tasmania and in 2011 was part of the Henry Sutton exhibit at the Ballarat Heritage Weekend.

1901: Henry builds another two larger cars and participates in the Dunlop Warrnambool to Melbourne bicycle race with one of his cars.

1901: Henry’s wife Elizabeth dies.

1902: Henry marries Annie May Tatti and they have 2 sons Albert in 1903 and John in 1909.

1903: Henry was a co-founder of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. At a meeting at the Port Phillip Club on the 9 December 1903, 55 motorists which included car owners and motorcyclists agreed to form the Automobile Club of Victoria now known as the Royal Auto mobile Club of Victoria. Henry at the meeting wrote the motion at the meeting and it was voted on and so the club was born. Henry who was part of the provisional committee drew up the drew up the constitution the constitution and rules were approved by about 70 members at 2 meetings in January 1904 .The Automobile Club of Victoria gained royal charter in 1916. Henry served on the council of the RACV from 1903-1908, in 1903 there were 55 founding members and in 2014 there are over 2 million members.

1904: Henry goes into automobile production with the Austral Otis Company and builds a number of new cars, Henry also exhibits his engine and carburettor at the St Louis World’s Fair in America in 1904.

1904:  On the 3rd March 1904 Henry was part of the organising committee of the Automobile Club of Victoria which organised the first car races in Australia at Sandown.

1908: Post Master General of Victoria, grants Henry Sutton an Experimental Radio License. Sutton receives license number 2, which was issued on 7 October 1908.

1908: Invents the Sutton system of Australian wireless and offers it free of charge to The Australian Government for the benefit and protection of all Australian citizens. Henry makes a number of new wireless discoveries and inventions including the world’s first portable radio. Henry’s wireless inventions once again bring him world fame and in the decades that followed his wireless work and discoveries eventually led to the invention of the transistor.

1908: The American Navy visit Australia and are so impressed with Henry’s wireless inventions they pay him a visit at his home in Malvern. The wireless officers of the American navy correspond with Henry over the next two years. Numerous navies around the world arrange to use some of Henry’s wireless inventions including the Australian navy.

1910: Alexander Graham Bell and Frederick Walker (Casey) Baldwin who travelled with Bell on his world tour visits Henry Sutton in Australia and travels to Ballarat in August 1910 to view his telephone system and many inventions. Bell was truly astonished by Henry’s achievements.

1912: Henry Sutton dies of Chronic Nephritis and Heart Failure on the 28 July 1912.

1985:  A Model of Henry’s Telephane / Television was built and exhibited in the Australian Pavilion at the Japan Expo in Tsukuba in 1985.

2004: On the 20 January 2004 a street in the Canberra suburb of Dunlop is named in Henry Sutton’s honour, the street is called Henry Sutton Circuit.

2004:  On the 26th July 2004 a room is named after Henry Sutton at the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute it is called The Sutton Room.

2011: As part of the Ballarat Heritage Weekend, Henry Sutton’s inventions were the main exhibit in the Mining Exchange Building. The Henry Sutton timeline which was on display at the Heritage Weekend is now mounted on the wall of one of the buildings at the Ballarat School of Mines which is now part of Federation University.

2013: On the 26th January 2013 ABC Radio began a three part series on Science and innovation Henry Sutton was the main subject for the first hour long series in which Professor Mark Dodgson from the University of Queensland remarked that in his opinion Henry Sutton was most likely the world’s greatest inventor.

2014:  The new Industry and Skills Building at Federation University in Ballarat highlights Henry Sutton and his achievements as part of the buildings internal features to inspire it’s students.

2014: On the 14th May 2014, The Telecommunications Society of Australia adopts Henry Sutton as their Victorian Hero. The Inaugural Henry Sutton Oration with guest speaker Robyn Williams AO from the RN Science Show gave the first oration which has now become an annual event with various guest speakers.

2018:  Ballarat Technical School begins program titled Think like Henry Sutton for years 7-10. Curriculum focus Design Thinking / Technology – Design Solutions / STEAM / Visual Arts / Industry focus TBC with individual Partner Schools Capabilities / Critical & Creative Thinking / Personal & Social / Ethical / Skills focus Initiative / Collaboration / Innovation / Communication Year level Year 7 – 10, VCAL, VET

2018:  Federation University Ballarat awards Henry Sutton a Posthumous Distinguished Alumnus Award in the study of science. Te nomination categories are Outstanding Professional Achievement and Outstanding Academic or Research Achievement. The award ceremony was attended by many Sutton family members.

2018: Federation University Ballarat’s Science and Engineering Programs, announces in honour of Henry a Henry Sutton Student Award. This award is an annual award given to an outstanding student in the School of Science and Engineering.2019: Federation University Ballarat’s School of Science, Engineering and Information Technology, announces in honour of Henry a number of Henry Sutton PhD Scholarships for overseas students to study at Federation University. The scholarships are an annual award.