Ernest Robert Godward is a name you probably don’t know, but this astonishing man is the mind behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic inventions.
We’ve all seen one. It was the egg beater in your grandmother’s kitchen. A handle at the top and a handle to turn the blades.
Designed as a non-slip egg beater, it was so common, I bet you can picture it. You may even still have one.
Well, that was Ernest Godward.
He was born in London, England, on April 7, 1869 to fireman Henry Robert Godward and Sarah Ann Pattison.
His parents sent him to a prep school at age 12, but Ernest ran away to sea reaching Japan where he was working on a cabling project before he was returned by the British Consul.
He ended up apprenticed to engineers although he went back to sea in 1884.
In 1886 he came to New Zealand arriving in Port Chalmers aboard the Nelson, where he jumped ship.
He was a man of many many talents. He played a number of instruments, including the banjo, was athletic, cycling for the Invercargill Cycling Club and was one of the founders of the Invercargill Amateur Swimming Club along with rowing and boxing.
On 28 January, 1896 he married Marguerita Florence Celena Treweek and the couple had 10 children. Nine of their own plus a niece of Marguerita's
But it was the numerous inventions he was most noted for, with more than 30 patents applied for. In 1907 he designed and patented that iconic egg beater.
Among his other inventions there was a new post-hole borer, a new hair curler, a burglar proof window and a hedge trimmer made from bicycle parts.
He also founded the Godward Spiral Pin and New Inventions Co Ltd - which was listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.
He sold the American rights to his spiral hairpin and was said to have made his first million dollars that way.
His most famous invention, in 1926, was an economizer for a fuel engine which was used by public transport systems in America, allowing them to use fuel oil instead of petrol. In all, Goddard created 72 different carburettors
Even that was not his only claim to fame - he was involved in Southland’s first hot air ballooning and built Rockhaven, his private residence in Invercargill, which is still standing and considered an historic building. The garage where he did a lot of inventing is still on the property.
He spent the last 20 years of his life in America, visiting New Zealand and his wife from time to time.
However, during the stock market crash of 1929 he lost heavily, making only a partial recovery.
He died of a heart attack on December 2, 1936 on board the SS Mongolia out of Gibraltar while returning home to Invercargill. True to form, he had won a skipping contest on board the day before. He was buried at sea.
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