This year’s Reith Lectures will be delivered by the President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Lord Alec Broers, chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
Lord Broers will announce the winner of the poll on You and Yours on May 5th. Voting starts today and runs until midnight on Friday 22nd April.
Five of the ten nominated innovations were chosen by experts. The bicycle was chosen by Professor Heinz Wolff, Emeritus Professor at the Institute for Bioengineering at Brunel University.
Sir Arthur C Clarke chose the communications satellite. The other nominations were for the computer, the electro-magnetic induction ring, the germ theory of infection, the internal combustion engine, the internet, nuclear power, transistors and radio.
Many Radio 4 listeners nominated the bicycle, a choice that has, in the past, infuriated the top brass at Radio 4. The claim then – and perhaps in the near future – is that cyclists rigged the vote with an "orchestrated campaign."
This claim was made when cycling won a Radio 4/Patent Office ‘best invention’ poll in 2002. It was made again when cycling won the transport category in a best inventions poll conducted by The Times newspaper.
What, train and car enthusiasts don’t vote for ‘their’ inventions?
In 2002, biking boffin Adam Hart-Davies said any vote rigging in the Radio 4 poll was proof that cyclists are clever and passionate about their activity.
You can see this love for cycling in the public nominations for cycling in the Reith Lecures poll.
Dr Douglas Carnall said:
"It was the bicycle that drove the development of modern smooth roads, and it was the late 19th century cyclists who so enthusiastically clamped engines to their road machines to found the evolutionary dead end of the motor vehicle. Orville and Wright were bicycle mechanics who wanted to fly, not only horizontally – they could already do that – but vertically too. The cyclist is the apotheosis of human-machine integration, the cause of many ills, and our hope for the future.
Graham Robson said cycling "ticks so many boxes" and "is staggeringly simple in concept, easy to maintain, amazingly efficient," and "provides exercise."
Peter Sedgwick believes the bicycles has "enduring simplicity, unceasing innovation."
200 years is not enough for David Arditti:
"The bicycle is the most easily underestimated invention of the past thousand years. The pedal cycle was crucial to the emancipation of women in Europe at the end of the 19th century and continues to be crucial to the emancipation of poor and underprivilaged people all over the world today.
"The technology developed for the bike led directly to the motorbike, automobile, aircraft and even spaceflight (the Wright brothers were bike mechanics). It was the first example of modern mass-production precision mechanical engineering, and furthermore remains the most sustainable, green and versatilfe form of transport, whose true day has surely not yet come."