History of the Toilet

From ancient Indian drainage channels to a three-pipe water closet, explore the history of the toilet.

| July/August 2004

2500 B.C. Many homes in the Harappa civilization of western India have toilets with waterborne drainage channels covered with fired brick.

1700 B.C. Rulers on the Isle of Crete have extravagant bathrooms with hot and cold water and a means to flush away human waste. Public latrines in ancient Rome use flowing water to remove waste.

1596 Sir John Harrington designs and builds the first flush toilet in England. He is so ridiculed by his peers that he gives up his career as an inventor.

1775 Alexander Cummings reinvents the “water closet” and introduces the first S-trap to keep sewer odors from escaping.

1885 Thomas Twyford revolutionizes toilet design by replacing the metal and wood contraptions with an all-porcelain design.

1870 John Randall Mann patents a three-pipe water closet, developing a method to utilize the suction force of a siphon to aid the flush.



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