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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 May, 2005, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK
Bicycle chosen as best invention
Prof Heinz Wolff on a bicycle, BBC
Prof Wolff's praise for the bike won over listeners
The humble bicycle has won a UK national survey of people's favourite inventions.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme were invited to vote in an online poll looking at the most significant innovations since 1800.

It was an easy victory for the bicycle which won more than half of the vote.

The transistor came second with 8% of the vote, and the electro-magnetic induction ring - the means to harness electricity - came third.

Interplanetary travel

Despite their ubiquity, computers gained just 6% of the vote and the internet trailed behind with only 4% of all votes cast. There were more than 4,500 votes cast in total.

People chose the bicycle for its simplicity of design, universal use, and because it is an ecologically sound means of transport.

Bicycle - 59%
Transistor - 8%
Electro-magnetic induction ring - 8%
Computer - 6%
Germ theory of infection - 5%
Radio - 5%
Internet - 4%
Internal combustion engine - 3%
Nuclear power - 1%
Communications satellite - 1%
The survey also asked participants which innovation they would most like to disinvent.

GM foods came top of this poll with 26% of the vote, followed by nuclear power with 19%.

By contrast, the technology most would like to see invented was an Aids vaccine.

Alas, plans to ship long-suffering commuters to distant planets may need to be put on hold with only 15% voting for an interplanetary commuting transport system.

Half voted water treatment and supply systems as the technology to bring most benefit to society.

Another 23% thought that vaccinations deserved the honour.

Each of the technologies were nominated by a different expert, including writer Sir Arthur C Clarke, cloning expert Professor Ian Wilmut, and Professor Heinz Wolff.

Prof Wolff's praise of the bicycle held the most sway with voters which will come as a disappointment to Lord Alec Broers, this year's Reith lecturer.

His series of lectures - Triumph of Technology - prompted the vote.

In the first of his talks, he expressed surprise at the results of a similar survey.

It too ranked the bicycle above scientific breakthroughs such as electricity generation, the jet engine, the discovery of DNA and the invention of vaccinations.

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