Sir John Harrington was a poet, although not a very good one. He is remembered for something much less romantic: inventing the first flushing lavatory. Harrington was a godson of Queen Elizabeth I who, upon building himself a house, devised and installed his invention, which he named Ajax. When the Queen tried it, she was so impressed she ordered one for herself. His water closet had a pan with an opening at the bottom, sealed with a leather-faced valve. A system of handles, levers and weights poured in water from a cistern and opened the valve. Despite the Queen's enthusiasm for the new invention, the public remained reliant on the chamber pot, and it wasn't until almost 200 years later that a flushing water closet was first patented, by Alexander Cummings in London in 1775.
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