Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Percy Shaw

Today we honor Percy Shaw (1890-1976) for helping to make roads safer everywhere with his invention of Catseyes, also called road reflectors.

Shaw developed the idea for the road reflectors while driving on a dark and foggy night. Having trouble seeing in the weather, he noticed two small green lights ahead, the eyes of a cat sitting on a fence.

He began working on a simple and cheap device that would act similarly. His invention is two small metal marbles placed close to each other in a hard, protective rubber casing. The Catseyes are then placed on the road at intervals so that headlights will reflect the light back. The invention is cleaned by collecting rain water and then when a car drives over it, the reflector is depressed and the water is flushed out.

Shaw formed Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd in 1935 to manufacture Catseyes. His company remains in operation today. Shaw's invention received a boast in popularity when then junior minister James Callaghan ordered the purchase of millions of Catseyes for instillation on British roads. It is rumored Shaw received a farthing for each Catseye that was installed. It was also popularized by the black outs of WWII.

Shaw was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1965.

Shaw took a simple invention and successfully marketed it, increasing his own wealth and contributing greatly to road safety.

Wikipedia: Cat's eye

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