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  2. In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated November 19 as World Toilet Day. World Toilet Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners. This week, though, is different. World Toilet Day is being celebrated on Saturday, November 18. It may sound silly, but the event is a very serious effort by the United Nations focusing on the fact that one-third of the world’s population have no toilet at home. A third of those people are children. They are vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and other major problems because there is no clean way of going to the bathroom where they live.


    Thinking about World Toilet Day got us thinking about the story behind toilets. Who invented them? When? (We know why.). How have toilets changed over the centuries? To find out, keep reading.


    A brief history of the toilet


    ·       People living in present-day Scotland and Pakistan built the first indoor toilets about 4,500 years ago. Pipes carried the waste outdoors. Knossos palace, built 3,700 years ago on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, had some of the first flush toilets. They used rainwater and water from nearby springs. A wooden seat kept users dry.


    ·       Medieval castles had toilets built high on an outside wall. There was a stone seat at the top, and gravity took care of the rest. Often the waste dropped into the castle moat. People living in towns, meanwhile, collected their waste in what were called chamber pots, and they emptied them by heaving the contents out a window. Public lavatories, which were not common at the time, were often just several toilet holes in a row built over a river.


    ·       In 1596, England’s Sir John Harington designed a flush toilet with a handle and a raised water tank. He said using it would leave rooms smelling sweet. He gave one to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, who didn’t like it. Instead, she used a chamber pot in a box covered in velvet and trimmed with lace. Also Harrington’s toilet did not live up to the hype of a “smelling sweet” room.  In fact, the only way to get the rooms to smell sweet was for the royal staff to use herbs and crushed flowers to try to cover up the inevitable smell of sewer gas.  The idea of an indoor flush toilet didn’t catch on until 200 years later when a man named Alexander Cummings developed the S-shaped pipe underneath the basin to keep out foul odors. At the end of the 18th century, the flushable toilet went mainstream.


    In the 1880s, England's Prince Edward (later to become King Edward VII) hired a prominent London plumber named Thomas Crapper to construct lavatories in several royal palaces. While Crapper patented a number of bathroom-related inventions, he did not -- as is often believed -- actually invent the modern toilet. He was, however, the first one to display his bathroom wares in a showroom, so that when customers needed a new fixture, they would immediately think of his name.


    ·       Across the Atlantic, Americans were still using chamber pots, but only in the event of an emergency such as illness or bad weather. Other than that, people used the outhouse, a small building constructed over an open pit with a bench inside into which several holes were fashioned. The flush toilet did not gain popularity in the United States until after World War I, when American troops came home from England full of talk about a "mighty slick invention called the crapper." The American slang term for the toilet, "the john," is said to be derived from the flushing water closets at Harvard university installed in 1735, and emblazoned with the manufacturer's name, Rev. Edward Johns.


    So join us in raising awareness and inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis – a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos. And keep in mind that today, 2.4 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future – all for the want of a toilet.