British Commonwealth Inventions Quiz


By: Olivia Cantor

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The British Commonwealth, now known as the Commonwealth of Nations, is a gold mine of inventors, whose inventions have changed the world in more ways than one. Find out more about who made what in this Commonwealth Inventions Quiz!

Charles Babbage was a British mathematician and a scientist whose idea was to come up with something that could, well, do his job. Today we use the modern versions of his machine to buy things online, look at social media, and make spreadsheets. What was Babbage's baby?

Charles Babbage was the first to think of a programmable solving machine - a computer. It's a sure bet he never thought you could use one to order takeout.


When you're in the boxing ring, the boxer's corner can get slippery. What invention from the Bahamas gets rid of all that slippery stuff?

Bahamian inventor Moses Daxon came up with the idea that's similar to a bathroom mat. It's a boxing ring corner mat to prevent boxers from slipping.


CAT scans are relatively common hospital procedures, and they were developed by South African Allan Cormack and Brit Godfrey Hounsfield. What exactly do CAT scans do?

It's a high-tech version of an X-ray machine. CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan machines can see you in slices. It takes a lot of X-ray photographs, and then assembles them into a 3D image of your internal organs.


Everyone uses this online invention to find things on the Internet. What did Barbados native Alan Emtage create that started this multi-billion dollar industry?

Alan Emtage created Archie, which is considered the first search engine on the Internet. It was an archive search engine, from which companies like Google have made a lot of money.


Bungee jumping is a relatively new sport and hobby, taken from a traditional practice in Vanuatu. New Zealander AJ Hackett saw it being done ​and decided it was a great and scary thing to do. What are springy bungee cords made of?

Bungee jumping in its original form was about picking the right vine rope, and jumping off a wooden structure. These days, the elastic bungee cord makes sure you have an experience you can bounce away from.


Everyone loves customizing their phones. A man from Belize is credited with this audio invention that you can customize to know who is calling you. What was this invention?

Belizean inventor Andre Gray is credited with the invention of mobile ringtones and ringbacks. He is still a very active inventor.


What do you call the short-range versions of mobile communication that​ mall cops and policemen use?

Walkie talkies were first developed by Canadian Donald Hings. They are basically two-way radios.


Botswana has had its fair share of telephone scams. What is the Botswanan invention that helps prevent people from using phones without their consent?

Pule Mmolotsi, who is from Botswana, specializes in biometric studies. His specialty helped him to develop a fingerprint system for phone identification.


Clothes are an ancient invention, and some people argue that the best are made from cotton. In what Eastern country was cotton clothing invented?

India cultivated cotton in ancient times. Once they had the raw material, it was easy to make clothes.


Virgin coconut oil is now a multi-purpose product famous across the world. What Fijian invention helps us get more of it?

Jim Bandy helped develop a Fijian machine that can press 150 coconuts in 30 minutes. That's a lot of oil.


Computer memory is a status symbol, in that the more you have of it, the more your geek cred goes up. What sort of computer memory was developed in Malaysia that you can put in your pocket or key chain?

USB flash drives, or as some call them, pen drives, have a confusing history. Most people point to Malaysian Pua Khein -Seng as the father of the technology that lets us put our personal files in our pockets.


What Canadian invention made pants so easy to get into and out of?

Canadian electrical engineer Gideon Sundback was an unlikely inventor for the first modern-day zipper. Invented in 1913, it was an improvement from all others before it.


Inventions aren't just machines, they can also be animal breeds. Dr. Lecky of Jamaica created the Jamaica Hope. What invention of his made people jump over the moon?

Dr. Lecky bred a cow that was perfect for Jamaica. It was small, disease-resistant, and could produce a lot of milk.


The Internet is the single biggest cultural game-changer in history. We can communicate with it, find entertainment in it, or send each other funny selfies with it. What British invention is the spidery network that links all of it?

The World Wide Web was first conceived by British scientist Tm Berners-Lee. He didn't patent it, though.


When it comes to sci-fi, one of the favorite fantasies is being able to fly on your own, without an airplane. What did New Zealand inventor Glenn Martin blast out of science fiction into science fact?

Glenn Martin has developed a one-man jet pack, called, of course, the Martin Jetpack. It can be flown with or without a person in it.


Rumors make the world go 'round. What invention by a Scottish-born scientist first made rumors go long distance, from mouth to ear?

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. This invention is still a baseline technology, as landlines are now the ultimate backup.


What does the Singaporean motion-capture device Touch+ want to replace in your PC setup?

Singaporean company Ractiv's Touch+ is a brainchild of Darren Lim. The idea is to have a device that tracks movements on any surface to help you use your PC, rather than use a mouse.


Vacuum cleaners are a part of every household. What did Brit James Dyson do to his version of the vacuum cleaner?

Dyson noticed that the vacuum cleaner he bought wasn't doing the "suck" part of its job very well, thanks to a clogged bag. So, he made one that didn't need to use a bag. Less really is more.


We know radar guns are used for finding out if highway drivers are being naughty. Competition-minded South African Henri Johnson figured it could be used to track other objects. What did his type of radar gun track?

Henri Johnson knew that sports fans would dearly love to know all the stats of their idols. He made a gun to measure the speed of balls and other similar objects used in sports.


A jet boat is one that doesn't use a naked propeller, making it safer to use in shallow water ​or places with a lot of aquatic life. From which Tolkien-loving country did the inventor, William Hamilton, hail?

William Hamilton dreamed of having a high-power boat that he could use in New Zealand rivers. So, he made the jet-propelled boat to address all the issues with river boating.


India is well known for many health practices, including one where people massage your head with oil to make you feel better. What modern product we use today to massage into our heads was created in India?

In India, it was first known as champo, a massage oil for use on the head. Now, it's shampoo, which is liquid soap for hair and the scalp.


Which northern Commonwealth country famous for its mix of English and French culture is the point of origin for the Wonderbra?

Canadian Moses Nadler, founder of the Canadian Lady Corset Company, was the one who made sure that perkiness would be prevalent for Wonderbra users.


When you're on the bike trail, it's a good idea to keep your phone powered up. What does Tanzanian Bernard Kiwia's invention do for bikers?

Bernard Kiwia has developed phone chargers that work off the bicycle's wheel.


What invention created in India can keep your sleeves and shirts closed, and your collars flat to your shirt?

Buttons were first used as ornaments. They later became a tool for fastening clothes.


3D printing can change the world, and now, here comes a 3D printing pen, so people can make their ideas literally solid. In what small, high-tech Commonwealth country was a UV light version of it developed?

Singapore company CreoPop has come out with a pen that can harden the plastic "paste" coming out of it with UV light. It's perfect for starting kids on 3D production.


Getting tickets for a concert or a sports event used to be a chore, as you had to physically go to the shop or venue to buy a ticket. And if they ran out, well, that was it. What did South African Percy Tucker invent that electronically changed the way we buy our front-row seats?

Computerized ticketing may not sound like a big invention, but think about it: it not only makes attending events easier, but it also works for travel bookings, and even shop sale reservations!


Fences are not only used for housing divisions or agricultural borders, but also for security. A New Zealander, Bill Gallagher, upped the ante of security by reinventing the ordinary fence. What did he invent?

Gallagher thought of inventing electrical fences to have an extra zap of security, whether to keep animals in or bad people out. It’s now a required installation in high-security prisons and other similar facilities.


Diabetes is one of the common lifestyle diseases today. Dr. Frederick Banting, a Canadian from Ontario, shared a Nobel for his work for a chemical drug that could control blood sugar? What drug was it?

Insulin is the drug that can help diabetics convert sugar properly in their system.


Clanasol, which was created in Jamaica, was developed to treat glaucoma, an eye disease. In what form can this medicine be administered?

Professor Manley West from Jamaica was concerned that people in his own country were going blind from glaucoma. He developed Canasol to give them a treatment option.


As long as working from home isn't normalized, and we still need people in service-oriented jobs, mass transport will have its place in our society. What transport vehicle that could follow only one path did British engineer Richard Trevithick invent?

Brit mining engineer Richard Trevithick invented the steam locomotive to carry cargo - originally meant for minerals such as iron. Of course, a steam locomotive can carry anything, really.


South Africa is probably in one of the sunnier places in the world. What type of power generation did Vivian Albert invent a cheaper version of?

South African physicist Vivian Albert was able to invent a cheaper solar power system that used really thin metal films, rather than the traditional solar cells. It's made solar power much  cheaper in South Africa.


What Canadian elastic plastic invention helps you keep your home clean as long as you're willing to put all your garbage in these, and take them out?

The modern garbage bag is designed to be disposable, and cheap. They were first used in places like hospitals. They were invented by Canadians Harry Wasylyk and Larry Hansen.


Fitness is now a part of modern culture. What fitness routine started out as a training technique for a Kiwi marathon runner?

Arthur Lydiard was a marathon runner and athletics coach who found out he wasn't as fit as he wanted to be. So, he invented jogging, and the world of fitness changed forever.


This spread, which goes well with jelly in a sandwich, was created in Canada. What is it?

Peanut butter was created by Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson. It was originally for people who had problems chewing.


When women travel, they usually have to carry shoes for all occasions. What Bahamian invention can put all the occasions in one?

Bahamian Gwendlyn Rolle learned from her years in fashion. It's simple: one shoe, and you can clothe it in different colors with slip-on covers.


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