Percy Shaw: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Percy Shaw.

  • Percy Shaw was a British businessman and inventor. He is best known for inventing the cat’s eye, the reflective block that is set into roads to make it easier for motorists to identify the division between lanes and the edges of the roads at night.

  • Shaw was born in Yorkshire in 1890 and worked in a local mill when he was 13. During World War 1 he started a business that repaired small machine tools.
  • Shaw learned to play the violin and flute at an early age.
  • As a youngster, he made extra money by selling vegetables from the family’s garden in the local village.
  • In the early 1920s, Shaw took his first ever holiday. He bought a bicycle, which at the time was a novelty, and cycled to London, a journey which took 3 days.
  • He came up with the idea for the cat’s eye when he was driving along a dark and winding road near his home. Shaw saw the eyes of a cat reflecting his headlights back to him.
  • In 1934, Shaw took a patent out on his device and created a company to manufacture it. The company was soon making over £1 million  a year, partly due to the World War 2 blackout.
  • Percy Shaw even designed the cat’s eye to clean itself. When a car ran over the device, any rain water collected would wash over the glass surface, like human tears washing over a human eye.
  • Although the cat’s eye saved many lives, there was also some concern that they could harm people with epilepsy.
  • In 1999, a cat’s eye became loose and flew through a windscreen, killing the driver.
  • Percy Shaw became quite eccentric in his old age. He removed the carpets and furniture from his home and kept 3 televisions constantly tuned to different channels.
  • Percy Shaw’s simple invention has been improved over the years. A recent development has been a solar powered LED device which remains bright all through the night.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous inventors.

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