Before today, when backed into a corner by an Englishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman, in a desperate attempt to justify Northern Ireland’s world contribution, most people will go down the Titanic and Van Morrison route of argument.

But fear not, because I’ve provided you with a new list of reference points when discussing NI’s global relevance.

Here are 7 inventions which you (probably) didn’t know have their roots in Northern Ireland…

1. Earthworm Jim

In the 90s there were two clans, either MegaDrive or Nintendo, and when your computer broke down blowing out the dust in the cartridge sorted everything out.  Instead of playing Call of Duty 23 or Tomb Raider ‘The Last One, We Promise’ there were actual original ideas for games.

One of my favorites was Earthworm Jim. This game centred on a normal earthworm who was given super powers when a suit fell on his head.

Invent Earthworm-Jim-Game-Cartoon

Earthworm Jim had to avoid flying cows to defeat enemies such as Professor-Monkey-For-a-Head and Bob, the Killer Goldfish in order to save Princess-What’s-Her-Name.

My favorite thing about this character is that the inventor, David Perry is from Lisburn!!! Nowadays he is one of the world’s top game developers with Shiny Entertainment but it all started with Earthworm Jim. Perhaps he got inspired for all these characters by a visit to Belfast Zoo or maybe he just hung around Belfast City Hall for half an hour…

2. Ejector Seats

Anyone who has watched the greatest movie ever, Independence Day, will be able to recall a key scene where Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is in a fighter jet and being chased into a canyon by an alien spacecraft. Will Smith eventually runs out of ammo and luck.

Just when it looks like he is about to become the Fresh Prince of Purgatory, Will Smith has a piece of quick thinking. Using his ejector seat to escape the jet, the chasing alien spacecraft gets caught in the emergency parachute and crashes into the wall of the canyon.

Eventually Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum (Legend… would trade him for Liam Neeson) save the day all thanks to the humble ejector seat.

Invent independence-day

Not many people know that Sir James Martin ,who revolutionised the ejector seat for fighter jets, in the 1930s and 40 was an engineer from Millisle County Down. The company which he co-founded (Martin-Baker Aircraft Co Ltd) is still one of the leading manufacturers of ejector seats and other pieces of flight safety equipment today.

3. Penalty Kicks

There is a man from County Armagh who influenced football far more than George Best or even Jackie Fullerton.

William McCrum was a goalkeeper for Millford FC in the 1880s and 90s who was fed up with defenders deliberately fouling strikers when they got close to scoring a goal. William was a member of the Irish Football Association and pitched the concept of a penalty kick to the organisation.


The penalty kick was soon adopted by the International Football Rules Board in June 1891. I hope the next time Ashley Young or Arjen Robben drop like a dying swan on ice skates they think of County Armagh and how much of their football careers they owe to a wee man from Millford FC.

4. Viagra

The little blue pill that has kept Hugh Hefner going well into his 80s owes a little bit of its development to a lad from Belfast.


Viagra was originally promoted as anti-angina medication but that all changed in 1999 when a key medical research paper was published highlighting the unusual side effects.

Dr Wallace Dinsmore was a key researcher in this project and is also from Belfast. So if the pensioners next door are keeping you awake at night you know who to blame.

5. Atomic Bombs

If, like me, you attended Methody Rugby Academy for seven years and couldn’t play rugby you may have thought your time at school was a complete waste.

So discouraged are many pupils who attend the ‘Eton of County Antrim’ and fail to make the First XV or achieve Grade 8 piano (Methody has music jocks as well!) that many former pupils disappear into mediocrity.

Some become bloggers for local pop culture internet sites and magazines while others achieve international fame playing billionaire playboys with abandonment issues.

However, the day the PE teachers at Methody told Ernest Walton to give up trying to be a scrum half and focus on physics turned out to be advice that changed the course of history.

Ernest, born in 1903, went on to become a maths and physics genius and contributed heavily to research and the eventual development of the atomic bomb.


Due to my lack of attention in Dr Brattle’s physics class I would struggle to describe the details of what he achieved (something to do with changing Lithium atoms to Helium atoms) but no one can deny the impact the atomic bomb has had over the world.

With all these sinking ships, atomic bombs and recent troubles we have faced I am beginning to notice a disturbing pattern to what makes Northern Ireland famous.

6. Air Conditioning

In 1906 when the Royal Victoria Hospital was completed it was the first public building to use an air-conditioning system.


From all over the world, air conditioning enthusiasts flock to the now sacred site where it all started. These same air conditioning enthusiasts then head to the Crown Bar in the city centre where no-one talks to them.

7. Defibrillators

If there is ever a scenario in the future where I meet Alesha Dixon from Britain’s Got Talent there is a high chance that my heart will stop beating. If this happens I really want it to be in a place where there is a portable defibrillator near by.


The device has saved countless lives all over the world and has transformed emergency medicine. The portable defibrillator has its origins in Northern Ireland as Professor Frank Pantridge from Hillsborough developed the device in the the early 60s.

Prof Pantridge was a Cardiologist in the RVH until his retirement in 1982. Globally he is known as ‘the Father of Emergency Medicine’ but has not achieved similar levels of fame in Northern Ireland, until now and the publication of this article!

In summary…

With a wealth of innovations coming from Northern Ireland the next time a pilot, who developed his hand-eye coordination playing Earthworm Jim on the Megadrive, is flying a jet fighter carrying an atomic bomb and suddenly has to eject out of his plane due to an emergency he will know who to thank.

Especially if he ends up in an air conditioned hospital and suffers a heart attack as a result of watching a penalty shoot-out on telly and then has long-term erectile disfunction after being defibrillated.


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