Hubert PHOTO

Google Doodle Honors British Engineer Hubert Cecil Booth

British engineer Hubert Cecil Booth, helped to revolutionise the way we clean our homes.

Celebrated in a Google Doodle on the 147th anniversary of his birth, Booth was the first to conceive a device that sucked up dirt instead of blowing it away.

A horse-drawn, petrol-powered machine too large to be used in buildings, his “Puffy Billy” looked little like the technology used on carpets in every household today.

But the way it operated was essentially the same as a modern vacuum cleaner.

Booth’s inspiration was an American inventor who demonstrated a device blowing dust off chairs at a theatre in London in 1901.

Booth later said he realised “if the system could be reversed, and a filter inserted between the suction apparatus and the outside air, whereby the dust would be retained in a receptacle, the real solution of the hygienic removal of dust would be obtained”.

He tested his theory by putting a handkerchief over his mouth and seeing how much dust he could suck up.

He found the technique worked – although what Booth’s dining companions thought of his behaviour is less clear – and the Puffing Billy was soon born.

Powered by an internal combustion engine, it used piston pumps and to draw air through flexible pipes fed through a building’s windows.

An electric-powered device soon followed, which Booth used to offer cleaning services to businesses through his British Vacuum Cleaner Company.

Despite drawing noise complaints, the machines received royal seal of approval and were enlisted to clean the carpets of Westminster Abbey before Edward VII’s coronation.

They were also used to clean naval barracks, as well as factories, theatres and shops.

The vacuum even led to Booth’s arrest after one of his inventions inadvertently sucked up silver dust from coins at the Royal Mint. However, he was soon released.

Booth later turned his focus to the domestic market after founding Goblin, a company which manufactured his vacuum cleaners for sale.

However, it was William Henry Hoover’s rival firm which would come to dominate that market and become synonymous with the modern-day vacuum.


GKN rejects £7.4bn hostile takeover bid from Melrose

Engineering firm GKN has rejected a second unsolicited takeover offer from Melrose of £7.4bn.

The latest bid put forward by Melrose, a Birmingham-based investment house that specialises in improving other companies’ performances, values GKN at 430.1 pence a share, up from a previous offer announced last week of 405 pence, or £7bn.

GKN said that the new offer remains “effectively unchanged” from the initial offer made on 8 January but made public last week. That offer was rejected because GKN considered that it “fundamentally” undervalued the company.

“We have already stated that the terms of Melrose’s offer fundamentally undervalue the company and we are actively engaging with shareholders to explain how our transformation plan will provide value,” said chief executive Anne Stevens, who was appointed to the role last week having served as acting CEO since November.

Under the terms of the latest offer, GKN shareholders would get a cash payout of 81 pence per share and 57 per cent of the enlarged.

Melrose said the new proposal represents a premium of 29 per cent on GKN’s closing share price on 11 January, the day before its initial approach was made public.

“Since our approach was announced, the Melrose share price has risen as the market digests the attractive opportunity our proposal represents,” said Melrose chief executive Simon Peckham.

“However, the real value uplift will come from merging the interests of the two sets of shareholders and creating a business valued at approximately £11bn today, of which GKN holders will own the majority, including Nortek, our US business which is trading strongly,” he added.

Melrose said a takeover would “re-energise” GKN’s operations to deliver “significantly greater benefits to the shareholders of GKN than GKN could otherwise achieve on its own”.

GKN employs 58,000 people across 30 countries.