Research on 19th and 20th century British inventors, undertaken by staff from US TV show MythBusters, has discovered that they weren't always the clever boffins that many people believe.
One of the most shocking findings was that the famous 'catseye' road studs were developed after Percy Shaw had an unpleasant tree-pruning accident with a chainsaw. 'I initially found myself to be somewhat distraught and embittered at my own foolishness,' says a recently discovered diary entry, 'but then, upon spying Tiddles' lifeless eyes glinting in the sunlight, I knew I was onto something pretty bloody handy.'
The hastily-formed research has found other surprising stories behind British innovation -- John Tyndall's plans for a respirator for firemen actually began life as a 'Nappy Smell Eradicator'; Stephen Perry, creator of the rubber band, merely had a craving for 'something painful' to shoot off his finger at his older brother across the room; and a young Alexander Graham Bell's new-fangled 'telephone' wouldn't work properly until his assistant pulled the string taut between the two disposable plastic cups that his Mum had given him, upon which he could clearly hear Bell saying 'come quick, I've made a den out of a couple of chairs and a blanket'.
One of the most recent discoveries, and now a threat to his knighthood, was apparently made whilst interviewing Sir Tim Berners-Lee under hypnosis. Investigators claim that Berners-Lee did not formulate the design of the World Wide Web, and that he discovered a pre-existing network whilst 'bored shitless' checking for critical faults at European nuclear research organisation, CERN.
'I started fiddling around with this new computer they'd bought and got lured in by something called Internet Explorer,' says a mumbled audio recording. 'I got the sack after I was caught looking at images of Sigourney Weaver instead of monitoring the temperature in the fission reaction chamber -- you know, that bit near the end of Alien where she's in those little pants. The lies became more exaggerated as I didn't dare tell anyone what really happened, so my association with the dawning age of the World Wide Web was sealed.'
Berners-Lee has refuted the claims made by the TV researchers and has released a statement saying that his work at CERN, including the development of hypertext and the internet, was 'well documented' and that 'the voice doesn't even sound much like mine'.
Close friends are more open-minded about the recording, however. 'It does sound a bit like Tim to be fair, and he does have a thing about Sigourney Weaver,' said one, anonymously, 'but the most revealing thing -- which anyone who knows him will attest to -- is that we've always thought he was a bit of a wanker.'