Trevor Baylis

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Trevor Baylis CBE
TrevorBaylis Jan2006.jpg
Trevor Baylis at the DIY and Garden Show in Earls Court, London, January 2006
Born Trevor Graham Baylis
(1937-05-13) May 13, 1937 (age 80)[1]
Kilburn, London
Nationality British
Known for Wind-up radio[2]

Trevor Graham Baylis CBE (born 13 May 1937) is an English inventor. He is best known for inventing the wind-up radio. Rather than using batteries or external electrical source, the radio is powered by the user winding a crank for several seconds. This stores energy in a spring which then drives an electrical generator to operate the radio receiver. He invented it in response to the need to communicate information about AIDS to the people of Africa.[3] He runs Trevor Baylis Brands plc, a company dedicated to helping inventors to develop and protect their ideas and to find a route to market.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Trevor Baylis was born on 13 May 1937 to Cecil Archibald Walter Baylis and Gladys Jane Brown[1] in Kilburn, London.[4][5] He grew up in Southall, Middlesex, and attended North Primary School and Dormers Wells Secondary Modern School.[1]


His first job was in a Soil Mechanics Laboratory in Southall where a day-release arrangement enabled him to study mechanical and structural engineering at a local technical college.

A keen swimmer, he swam for Great Britain at the age of 15;[5] he narrowly failed to qualify for the 1956 Summer Olympics.[6] When he was 20 he started his National Service as a physical training instructor and swam for the Army and Imperial Services during this time. When he left the army he took a job with Purley Pools, the company which made the first free-standing swimming pools. Initially he worked in a sales role but later in research and development. His swimming skills enabled him to demonstrate the pools and drew the crowds at shows, and this led to forming his own aquatic display company as professional swimmer, stunt performer and entertainer, performing high dives into a glass-sided tank. With money earned from performing as an underwater escape artiste in the Berlin Circus he set up Shotline Steel Swimming Pools, a company which supplies modular swimming pools to schools in the UK.


Baylis' work as a stunt man made him feel kinship with disabled people through friends whose injuries had ended their performing careers. In 1985 this involvement led him to invent and develop a range of products for the disabled called Orange Aids.

In 1991,[3] he saw a television programme about the spread of AIDS in Africa and that a way to halt the spread of the disease would be by education and information using radio broadcasts. Before the programme had finished he had adjourned to his workshop and assembled the first prototype of his most well-known invention, the wind-up radio. The original prototype included a small transistor radio, an electric motor from a toy car, and the clockwork mechanism from a music box. He patented the idea and then tried to get it into production, but was met with rejection from everyone he approached.

The turning point came when his prototype was featured on the BBC TV programme Tomorrow's World in April 1994. With money from investors he formed a company Freeplay Energy and in 1996 the Freeplay radio was awarded the BBC Design Award for Best Product and Best Design. In the same year Baylis met Queen Elizabeth II and Nelson Mandela at a state banquet, and also travelled to Africa with the Dutch Television Service to produce a documentary about his life. He was awarded the 1996 World Vision Award for Development Initiative that year.[7]

Baylis filed his first patent in 1992.[8] The original Baygen radios used the windup mainspring design which is no longer in production. The year 1997 saw the production in South Africa of the new generation Freeplay radio, a smaller and cheaper model designed for the Western consumer market which uses rechargeable cells with a generic crank generator.[9]

Numerous tours, interviews and television appearances have followed, and Baylis has been awarded many honours including the OBE in 1997, and eleven honorary degrees from UK universities (1998 to 2005) including the degree of Doctor of the University from the Open University in 2001.[citation needed] In 1999, he received the Pipe Smoker of the Year Award for his invention of the Freeplay radio from the British Pipesmokers' Council, which honoured famous pipesmokers. He continues to invent, and in 2001 he completed a 100-mile walk across the Namib Desert demonstrating his electric shoes and raising money for the Mines Advisory Group. The "electric shoes", developed in collaboration with the UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, use piezoelectric contacts in the heels to charge a small battery that can be used to operate a radio transceiver or cellular telephone.[citation needed]

Following his own experience of the difficulties faced by inventors, Baylis set up the Trevor Baylis Foundation to "promote the activity of Invention by encouraging and supporting Inventors and Engineers". This led to the formation of the company Trevor Baylis Brands PLC which provides inventors with professional partnership and services to enable them to establish the originality of their ideas, to patent or otherwise protect them, and to get their products to market. Their primary goal is to secure licence agreements for inventors, but they also consider starting up new companies around good ideas. The company is based in Richmond, London.[10][11]

Personal life[edit]

Baylis has lived on Eel Pie Island for many years;[12] he regularly attended jazz performances at the Eel Pie Island Hotel.[13] He is single and is well known for being a pipe smoker.[14] Baylis was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 1971; part of his small intestine has been surgically removed.[15] In March 2010, Baylis stated that he was sexually abused at age 5 by a Church of England curate.[16] This was also covered in his 1999 autobiography.

Awards and honours[edit]

Baylis was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1997 Birthday Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to intellectual property.[17][18] He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Leeds Metropolitan University in June 2005[citation needed].

Baylis also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2003 [19]


  1. ^ a b c BAYLIS, Trevor Graham. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  closed access publication – behind paywall (subscription required)
  2. ^ Wind-up radio inventor gets New Year Honour, 2014-12-31
  3. ^ a b "Trevor Baylis - The Biography of the Inventor of the Clockwork Radio Trevor Baylis CBE". 
  4. ^ a b "Trevor Baylis OBE, our President". Trevor Baylis Brands plc. company website. Retrieved 3 November 2007. 
  5. ^ a b "My Secret Life: Trevor Baylis, inventor", The Independent, magazine section p7, 3 November 2008
  6. ^ "My Secret Life", The Independent, ibid. Saying he had failed to qualify by 0.1 sections, he listed his as his "biggest regret"
  7. ^ Biography of Trevor Baylis, World Vision Award for Development Initiative, World Vision website, January 2006
  8. ^ IP Review Online, Interview with Trevor Baylis, January 2008
  9. ^ "About Us". Freeplay Energy. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  10. ^ Baylis, Trevor (1999). Clock This: My Life as an Inventor. ISBN 0-7472-6332-9. 
  11. ^ Baylis wrote the foreword for Kathleen Houston's You Want to Do What?!: 80 Alternative Career Options ISBN 0-85660-891-2
  12. ^ "Obituary of music promoter Arthur Chisnall". The Independent. 4 January 2007. Retrieved 3 November 2007. 
  13. ^ Peter Watts (26 April 2006). "Eel Pie Island Records". Time Out London. Retrieved 3 November 2007. 
  14. ^ "How We Met: Bob Flowerdew & Trevor Baylis". 25 October 2009. 
  15. ^ "Trevor Baylis thought he was dying. But it was just an old enemy coming back to haunt him". 
  16. ^ "Trevor Baylis sexually abused at church". BBC News. 28 March 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  17. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N8. 
  18. ^ 2015 New Year Honours List
  19. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh & Scottish Borders: Annual Review 2003". Retrieved 2016-03-30. 

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