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Trevor Baylis

Big Thinkers

A keen swimmer with a mind for engineering, Trevor Baylis started out swimming competitively for Britain aged 15, before training in mechanical and structural engineering at 16. After leaving the army Trevor combined his two interests by working in research and development for a swimming pool company. After building up years of experience, working as a stuntman escaping underwater and developing inventions to help the handicapped, Trevor identified the need for a form of communication that did not rely on electricity.

Relaxing in front of the TV, Baylis was about to invent the product that made his name. He was watching a programme about the spread of AIDS in Africa, which argued that a way to halt the spread of the disease would be by education and information using radio broadcasts. Within minutes he had started work on the wind-up radio.

Baylis retired to his workshop and went about experimenting with various items to develop a system that might work. By connecting a brace and an electric motor to a small radio he realised that the motion of the brace with the motor created a generator effect. The simple addition of a clockwork mechanism meant that the radio could effectively be wound-up and powered by hand.

This story shows just how the inventor’s mind works:


By using his natural talents and following his interests he gave himself the best possible advantage in life. By sticking with what he loved to do, at work and at home he built up years of experience and knowledge, allowing him to create something useful for millions across the world.

By identifying a need he found an invention that would help millions. By observing his surroundings and paying attention to news stories he found an area where he could help and an issue that could be solved. All he then had to do was find a way to make it.

Being naturally open to new concepts and prompted by some creative stimulus – the TV programme – he immediately started creating ideas, thanks to his existing knowledge and technical experience.

Baylis created his first prototype within minutes of his initial idea. Although his idea was strong and met a significant need, it took considerable time and persistence to get investors and distributors interested.


  • The clockwork radio was invented in 1993
  • In 1995 it finally reached Africa after featuring on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World in 1994
  • The radio was endorsed by Nelson Mandela.

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