Sir John Harrington (1561-November 20, 1612) was an interesting minor figure in British history. A courtier in the service of Queen Elizabeth I, his godmother, he fell out of favor because of a bit of poetry he circulated at court. The poem in question was a section of Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso Harrington had translated from Italian into English. Unfortunately for Harrington, the selection he had chosen (and dedicated to the queen) was considered quite racy - and perhaps sexist by Queen Elizabeth. So the queen told Harrington not to come back until he had finished translating the whole thing; since Ariosto's poem is quite lengthy, it was an effective means of banishment. Harrington persevered, however, and completed his translation, one that is still read to this day.

To get back in the queen's favor, Harrington presented her with a device he had ingeniously invented: the first modern flush toilet. Unfortunately, Harrington pressed his luck again by writing a book entitled The Metamorphosis of Ajax about her toilet. (Ajax is a pun on jake - slang for chamber pot or privy.) Banished again, Harrington's invention was the object of ridicule and fell into disuse, despite its sophisticated design.

In 1599, he won his knighthood via an expedition in Ireland. His barbed epigrams and writings prevented him from gaining much favor in either the eyes of the queen or her successor, King James I.

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