Ernest Godward

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Ernest Godward (7 April 1869 - 2 December 1936) was an English inventor and engineer.

He was born in Marylebone, London on 7 April 1869. His working life began as an apprentice in London for a firm of hydraulic engineers and fire engine manufacturers. Here he trained as a mechanic.

In 1886 he arrived at Port Chalmers, New Zealand, aboard the Nelson. He settled in Dunedin for a time before shifting to Invercargill in 1893. He became a partner in the Southland Cycle Works.

In 1896 he married Marguerita Florence Celena Treweek and the couple had 10 children. The Southland Cycle Works was not stimulating enough for Godward's energetic mind so he began inventing by looking at everyday objects and thinking of ways to improve them.

By 1900 he had invented and patented an egg-beater that could prepare eggs for a sponge cake in three and a half minutes, previously it took 15. He also invented a new post-hole borer, a new type of hair curler, a burglar-proof window and a hedge trimmer made from bicycle parts.

Major success came in 1901 with the invention of the spiral hairpin. This was a predecessor of the hair clip. He left the bicycle business and established various invention and trading companies. The American rights to the spiral hairpin were sold for 20,000 pounds, a fortune in 1901.

From 1903-1906 Godward served on the Invercargill Borough Council, built an impressive new house, painted portraits and landscapes, played a variety of musical instruments and sang in local musical productions.

In 1908 he started a motorcycle business in Invercargill and fitted the imported bikes with his own invention – a petrol economiser. His economisers worked as well in cars as they did in motorcycles. He invented 72 models of the economiser and by the 1930s was recognised as the world’s leading authority on the internal combustion engine.

For much of this time he was based in New York. Marguerita continued to live in Invercargill.

In 1929 the city of Philadelphia, one of the largest public transport operators in the United States, adopted the invention. Some 580 buses and 3000 taxis were fitted with the vaporiser.

Godward died on 2 December 1936 on board the SS Mongolia returning home to Invercargill.

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